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Governor General presents role models with awards.

At just 30 years old, Dr. Stanley Vollant has managed to cram more achievements into his short life than do many people twice his age. He overcame incredible barriers to become the first Montagnais surgeon in Canada and later returned home to help the people in his small village.

On Feb. 23, Vollant was honored as one of nine recipients of the 1996 Native Role Models Award.

"I'd like to travel across Canada to speak to youth about my experiences and my goals," Vollant said. "Especially to encourage them to go as far as they can in university... and to come back to their homes to construct our (Native) nation."

Governor General Romeo LeBlanc presented the awards in a colorful ceremony at Rideau Hall.

"Today we honor nine persons as role models for Canada's Native communities," LeBlanc said. "All have won recognition from their own communities as models of commitment, dedication and hard work."

Two hundred Aboriginal people from across Canada were nominated for the award. Besides Vollant, the other recipients were: Metis youth worker Gerald L. Auger (Alberta); Ojibway athlete Sara Beaudry (Ontario); Vuntut Gwitchin athlete Pauline Frost (Yukon); Cree/Metis community worker Jarvis Gray (B.C.); Plains Cree youth leader Stewart Greyeyes (Saskatchewan); Inuit youth and cultural educator Brenda Kanayuk (N.W.T.); Ojibway artist Dorothy Sinclair (Manitoba); and Micmac educator Mary Jane Ward (New Brunswick).

Vollant grew up in the Montagnais region of Betsiamites on the Quebec north shore. His first language is Montagnais Innu, but he overcame language barriers by learning French at school in Quebec City and picking up English later "from books."

He started university at age 18 and spent a total of 10 years in medical and surgical school. He later became chief resident at Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal, the largest hospital in Quebec. In 1994 he became a general surgeon and one of only 44 Native doctors in Canada.

Vollant now practises surgery in Baie Comeau, but remains dedicated to providing the Montagnais of his village with health care tailored to their special needs. He turned down the chance to study thoracic surgery in the U.S. so he could continue to help his community. He returns there once a week to perform surgery, see patients and run a diabetes clinic for Native residents. He is the first doctor in the region to speak the same language as his patients.

"When I came back, people in my village were amazed that for the first time in their lives, (a doctor) understood them." Before Vollant became a doctor, patients in the village had to use an interpreter to communicate their needs to the non-Native doctors.

"Ninety per cent of the feelings they wanted to communicate to the doctor were lost," Vollant explains. He understands the culture his patients come from, simply because it is also his own.

"It's very important because they trust me more than another doctor," he said.

Vollant, who says his only role models as a kid were hockey players, is already inspiring other young Native Canadians by his example. He visits Native communities to encourage youth to continue their education, avoid substance abuse and believe in their dreams.

After a celebration held in Vollant's honor by his community last year, a young man approached him.

"He said `Wait for me. In 10 years,I'm going to work beside you as a surgeon,"' Vollant recalls. "He's in college now and he'll probably go into medicine next year."
COPYRIGHT 1996 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Christine Wong
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Apr 1, 1996
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