The university will honor the actor and doctor of Tla’amin

Dr. Evan Adams to be recognized by Vancouver Island University

Dr Evan Tlesla II Adams, who grew up in the Tla’amin Nation, receives an honorary doctorate from Vancouver Island University (VIU) on June 24.

According to a press release from VIU, if there’s one thing in his story that Adams hopes VIU graduates take to heart, it’s that it’s never too late to change direction and pursue a passion. different in life.

Adams, who is now the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Public Health in the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Indigenous Services Canada, is responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples through the Canada. It’s a very different role from his first career in his twenties – as an award-winning actor of international renown, the statement said.

“What I want for VIU students is to inspire them to be brave enough to achieve the things they think they want,” Adams said. “Reaching your own goals is so much better than reaching the goals of others, so take time for the things you love. And also, be a good person. There are a lot of brilliant students, but you also have to do proof of ethics I admire bravery, conviction and the desire to do what is right.

The statement said Adams’s mother, a teacher’s aide, and his father, a tugboat captain, still wanted him to do well in school, and he did. At the age of 14 he left home to attend St. Michaels University School in Victoria on a scholarship, then to Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific, also in Victoria.

After graduation, Adams began a biochemistry degree at McGill University in Montreal, where he was spotted by an arts agency. When he landed the second leading role in a film, he suspended his studies to continue acting for 12 years.

The acting career led to many roles

“I loved being an actor – for me it was like playing a sport, like playing football,” Adams said. “I loved all the ups and downs – there were times when I was on set thinking there were so many people who would love to be in my shoes right now, and then there were d ‘other times we were touring the north in the winter, with six people in the audience. I always loved everything, so that’s when I knew I was doing the right thing. .

Over the course of his acting career, Adams has taken on many roles in film and television. The release says he is known for his iconic role as Thomas Builds-The-Fire in the award-winning film Smoke signals, for which he won the Best Actor Award from the American Indian Film Festival and First Americans in the Arts, and a 1999 Independent Spirit Award for Best First Performance.

“I have been able to travel the world and visit many places; it was quite an experience, ”said Adams. “I rode this wave for a year, touring film festivals, meeting movie stars and directors and having fun. It was pretty awesome.

A friend inspires a second career

When Adams was 30, he made the decision to go back to school, inspired by his best friend, who is a doctor. She told him that she thought he could do it too.

“When I was a kid I was aware of the suffering of my own family history and that they needed people with real skills,” Adams said. “I just wanted to help people. I was afraid of losing to them both – being a failed actor and a failed medical student, but I did it anyway. I thought if I was lucky I could win one of them, and if I was really lucky I could keep them both.

Adams received his MD from the University of Calgary, an Indigenous Family Medicine residency in Vancouver, and a Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He was Deputy Provincial Medical Officer of Health for British Columbia from 2012 to 2014, then Chief Medical Officer of the First Nations Health Authority from 2014 to 2020. During this period, he was also an Honorary Witness for the Commission. of Truth and Reconciliation of Canada and was part of the film Indian horse, which exposes some of the horrors of residential schools.

“As an honorary witness, I have sworn to tell the story of residential schools, no matter how difficult it is,” Adams said. “I was happy to be part of an attempt to capture what residential schools were. On a personal level, it is reasserting to be able to say that my parents went to residential school and that they deserved better.

His current role as Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Public Health with Indigenous Services Canada has been both challenging and exciting during COVID-19, the statement said.

“We had to collaborate and cooperate more, and I’m proud to have been part of this huge effort,” Adams said.

VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Deborah Saucier has known Adams since they went to high school together at Pearson College.

“I’ve known Dr. Adams since we were both teenagers, and given his big smile, caring nature and lifelong exuberance, it might be easy to overlook his intelligence, his commitment to helping others. and its work in defending indigenous truths on the international stage, ”said Saucier. “This is why I am so happy to recognize Evan for these contributions. He is an exemplary role model for Indigenous peoples and communities, demonstrating that the cultural values ​​of kindness and generosity are the keys to a good life.

“His intelligence and staunch commitment to challenging the status quo means that his work, as an actor, storyteller and physician who has held many leadership positions in Canada, has had a profound impact on Indigenous peoples and, in fact, the world. I am proud to call Evan a friend and look forward to celebrating his many accomplishments.

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