Canada’s first self-identified Aboriginal Doctor of Pharmacy received a high honour from the Saskatoon Tribal Council March 26.

Jaris P. Swidrovich, BSP, PharmD, the Clinical Pharmacy Co-ordinator for Adult Internal and Emergency Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon Health Region, was presented with a Star Blanket by Tribal Chief Felix Thomas and Vice-Chief Mark Arcand.

A Star Blanket is presented

Chief Felix Thomas and Vice Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council present Saskatoon Health Region employee Dr. Jaris Swidrovich with a Star Blanket.

The presentation was to honour his accomplishment of becoming Canada’s first self-identified Aboriginal person to achieve a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Jaris is from Yellow Quill First Nation and completed his studies at the University of Toronto in 2013.

“I was beside myself to receive my first Star Blanket,” Swidrovich stated. “I am very familiar with the honour it is to receive a Star Blanket and had to pinch myself upon receiving it. I couldn’t help but think of the generations before me and how important my family has been in overcoming their own challenges to allow me to be where I am today.”

In First Nations culture, to give a Star Blanket is to demonstrate great respect, honour and admiration for an individual. It shows the giver holds the individual in high regard for their generosity and accomplishments. Also, it is believed that receiving a blanket will bring good dreams and prosperity.

“When a blanket is placed on an individual, it is like wrapping the respect and admiration of everyone in the community around them, physically and spiritually,” Swidrovich said.

The fact that Swidrovich, who graduated from the University of Toronto program in the spring of 2013, is the first self-identified Aboriginal Canadian to achieve a doctor of pharmacy degree is a source of great pride for Swidrovich, his family and his entire band.

Prior to attending the U of T, Swidrovich graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. He also worked with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan to develop teaching materials for kids about traditional use of tobacco, and taught health care workers on and off Saskatchewan reserves about the sacredness of the use of tobacco in Aboriginal culture.

Professionally, he serves as President on the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists Saskatchewan Branch, spends clinical hours working with inpatients with HIV/AIDS and addictions, and has recently helped to found a medication assessment clinic out of the Westside Clinic where he works once a week on Wednesday evenings.

Swidrovich has stayed close to his Aboriginal roots.  While at the U of T, he completed one of his rotations at the northern Saskatchewan community of Ile-a-la-Crosse, and in his off hours, he volunteers his time with a number of organizations, such as the City of Saskatoon’s Cultural Diversity and Race Relations Committee, and he has been back to Yellow Quill to speak at the band’s career day, and frequently speaks at numerous events about Aboriginal history, health, and the need for cultural safety in the health care system.