2024 Royal College Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award


The Royal College Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award was founded in 2014 in honour of the late Thomas Dignan, CM, OOnt, MD, co-chair of the Indigenous Health Committee of the Royal College. Dr. Dignan of Thunder Bay, Ontario, a Mohawk from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, was a tireless advocate for eradicating disparities in health outcomes and inequities in the quality of health care facing Indigenous People. He received his medical degree from McMaster University. Dr. Dignan was a former Royal College council member, co-founder of the Native Physicians Association of Canada and first president of the Native Nurses Association of Canada. Dr. Dignan dedicated his life to improving the health of Indigenous people in Canada, particularly drawing attention to issues of institutional racism. Dr. Dignan was invested as a member of the Order of Canada on September 4, 2019, for his dedication to the health and well-being of Indigenous communities as a primary care physician. Dr. Dignan passed away on January 17, 2021; he will be greatly missed.

General Policies

  • The purpose of the Royal College Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award is to acknowledge and celebrate Canadian Indigenous physicians or physicians-in-training, Elders or Knowledge Keepers who epitomize a zeal and devotion to Indigenous rights in Canada and the dogged pursuit of justice for Indigenous people in Canada.
  • The Awards Committee of the Royal College, who selects the recipient annually at their fall meeting, may add to the list of nominations. Adjudication of the award includes Indigenous input.
  • The Awards Committee may also conduct its own research regarding the proposed nominees.
  • Worthy nominees will have a complete understanding of the debilitating effects of institutionalized racism and oppression and will have taken action against them.
  • Nominees for this award will practise beyond medicine; they will embrace cultural safety and fully understand the importance of the social determinants of health so that all Indigenous people, wherever they live, enjoy full expression of Indigenous identity, prosperity, health and wellbeing.
  • Nominees will recognize and respect Indigenous knowledge and practices and espouse the Indigenous health values and principles purported by the Royal College.


  • The award may be bestowed upon physicians, residents or medical students who self-identify as Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit or Métis and are Canadian residents (International applicants are not eligible).
  • The award may be bestowed upon Elders and Knowledge Keepers who self-identify as Indigenous, Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit or Métis and are Canadian residents (International applicants are not eligible).
  • Nominators will be asked to describe the nominee’s exceptional contribution, as well as to provide a curriculum vitae for the nominee and at least two letters of support.
  • Self-applications are ineligible.

Nomination Process

  • Nominations will be widely solicited and may be submitted by both Fellows and non-Fellows of the Royal College.

Nomination Requirements

  • A letter summarizing the reasons for your nomination.
  • Two to four support letters (minimum) (it is strongly preferred but not essential that at least one of the letters be from a Fellow of the Royal College).
  • Reference letters:
    • should be clear, succinct, intentional and one page in length (Calibri or Open Sans font, size 10 if possible but not mandatory). 
    • Furthermore, letters shouldn’t be provided by friends, relatives, or close relationships.
    • Letters shouldn’t have institutional logos.
    • Letters shouldn’t be endorsed or submitted by Royal College staff.
  • Curriculum vitae, maximum 20 pages, without profile photo.


  • The recipient will receive an award of $1,000 and will be presented with an engraved memento at a Royal College event or other suitable event of significance to the recipient where Indigenous culture is recognized.
  • Travel and related expenses of the award winner and a companion will be paid in accordance with Royal College guidelines.

Please submit your application via our online platform – Dr. Thomas Dignan Indigenous Health Award

Submission deadline: September 6, 2023 — late submissions will not be considered.

Questions about this award, please contact us via email awards@royalcollege.ca

Past Recipients