Rady faculty win community outreach award for COVID response

The 2020 Dr. and Mrs. Ralph Campbell Outreach Award was presented earlier this month to Jason Kindrachuk, an assistant professor in viral pathogenesis with the department of medical microbiology, and Melanie MacKinnon, executive director, Indigenous Health Services for Ongomiizwin health services.

The award, issued annually since 1982, is usually presented each fall to a University of Manitoba staff member who has been nominated by their peers, university alumni or members of the community for showing “particularly meritorious service in outreach activities” through their academic positions. This year, it was presented to two members of the Rady faculty of health sciences for their work supporting the COVID-19 public health response.

Kindrachuk also holds the position of Canada Research Chair for molecular pathogenesis of emerging and re-emerging viruses. There, Kindrachuk studies the biological mechanisms by which viruses infect the body with the goal of developing new treatment strategies.

He has provided reliable insight into the public health response for Manitobans through his media appearances, delivering scientific expertise to the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Melanie MacKinnon is a highly influential health advocate who has served many roles across Canada where she has helped craft regional and national program mandates for over 20 years.

She has served as the executive director of Ongomiizwin health services — formerly the J. A. Hildes Northern Medical Unit — since 2011. Before her directorship, MacKinnon worked as the president of the Aboriginal Nurses Manitoba Inc., sat on the board of directors for Palliative Manitoba and the board of the Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre.

MacKinnon accepted a part-time position as senior health advisor to the Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in 2017, where she negotiates matters of self government related to health for communities throughout Manitoba.

MacKinnon has led the charge in developing and implementing a network of rapid response teams for Indigenous communities throughout Manitoba to combat the spread of COVID-19. Using surveillance data, the rapid response teams can identify and respond to outbreaks in Manitoba First Nation communities. The teams, coordinated by MacKinnon through Ongomiizwin health services, deliver a local pandemic response that can manage outbreaks in a culturally respectful manner tailored to the communities they serve.