Indigenous Circle, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada


Dr. Bernice Downey is a woman of Ojibwe and Celtic heritage, a mother and a grandmother. She is a medical anthropologist with research interests in health, health literacy and Indigenous Traditional knowledge and health/research system reform for Indigenous populations. An experienced administrator, facilitator and health educator, Dr. Bernice Downey has been appointed as the Acting Director, McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI) for a term of four months, effective 1 May 2019.

Bernice is currently cross appointed to the School of Nursing and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and is the Indigenous Health Lead for the Faculty of Health Science at McMaster University. Most recently, she was awarded the Heart & Stroke Foundation – Canadian Institute of Health Research – Chair in Indigenous Women’s Heart and Brain Health.

Bernice’s professional experience includes Sole Proprietor of her consulting company; ‘Minoayawin – Good Health Consulting’; Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Health Organization, Executive Director of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada.

She was one of two Indigenous leads for the WHO Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, Canadian Reference Group. Director and Research Associate of the Well Living House – Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. She was a member of the Canadian Institute of Health Research – Institute of Aboriginal Health, Advisory Board for six years. Bernice also successfully led the development of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute.

She is an experienced administrator, facilitator, and an organizational and systemic change agent. She is also a life – long advocate in the work towards addressing the serious health inequities among Indigenous populations in Canada.

RESEARCH FOCUS: Indigenous Health, Mental Health, Nursing, Health Literacy, Medical Anthropology, Health Research, Health Policy, Education, Administrator, Consultant


Title: Understanding & Mending ‘Broken’ Hearts: Linking European Colonization, Indigenous Women’s Heart Health, and resiliency-focused approaches to heart literacy (2018 – 2023)

Funding: Heart & Stroke/CIHR/NBHRF – Research Chair in Women’s Heart and Brain Health  -$1,090,000

In the news:


Title: Understanding Indigenous perception of heart health (2018 – 2019)

Funding: CIHR – Catalyst Grant – $111,000

Summary: Using photo-voice to foster transformational outcomes in the development of culturally relevant approaches to cardiovascular care for Indigenous people

In the News:


Title: Juddah’s Place – An Indigenous Evaluation Project

Funding: CIHR – Catalyst Grant – $128,600

In the News:




  • Partnership Liaison, Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association


  • Research Chair in Women’s Hearth and Brain Health, Lead of Indigenous Health Initiative



  • Valedictorian PhD Graduate • Faculty of Social Sciences, McMaster University (2014)
  • National Graduate Scholarship • Environment Indigenous Health Research, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2013)