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Remembering Keegan



In October 2023, I had the opportunity to attend a conference wherein the key focus was integrating Indigenous Cultural Safety into health and governance practices. I was anticipating a session related to the Health Professions and Occupations Act (HPOA), and as I waited in my seat, I noticed a woman sit down in the chair next to me.

With a few minutes before the session starting, I turned to introduce myself to her - this was the day I met my new friend, Rhianna Millman. Funny enough, I had followed Rhianna's work for a while, and she followed mine too. It was one of those instant connections - immediately our professional masks were dropped and we quickly engaged in hilarious and inappropriate banter. These are my most favourite kinds of friendships.

I had first heard of Rhianna before, when ​Remembering Keegan, A First Nations Case Study Reflection​​ was gifted in ceremony to the BC Healthcare system on February 21, 2022, Keegan’s birthday. Keegan Combes was a 29 year-old First Nations man, from Skwah First Nation, who died as a result of delayed diagnosis and treatment following an accidental poisoning. Rhianna, his family advocate and caregiver, has taken on the responsibility of ensuring that the system and those working within it use Keegan's tragic loss as an opportunity to learn how to improve the cultural safety of the healthcare system. Sharing Keegan's story is one of the ways she pursues this commitment, a promise she made to Keegan.

So, on the day Rhianna and I connected, we quieted our chatter to pay attention to the session that we were both anticipating. As the speakers presented, I listened intently, feverishly taking notes. Several times, Rhianna and I would share eye contact, telepathically sharing thoughts, and my note-taking would continue. At the end of the presentation, I had questions about how Indigenous cultural safety was going to be integrated into the act, but as I looked around the extremely full room, I felt my anxiety like a boulder in my stomach. I was terrified to speak. Then, I sensed Rhianna lean towards me.

"Put your hand up."

Oh god.

"Put your hand up, Kim."

I knew I had to. It was my responsibility. Shaking, I raised my hand. A runner put a microphone In front of my face. And, voice trembling, I spoke.

Today, as I reread the case study and reflect on that interaction with Rhianna, I am reminded of my responsibility to pay attention to the things that are happening around me, and to speak up when something doesn't feel right. We all have the ability to act as witnesses in our collective roles, and inspire change within our circles of influence...but only if we find the courage to use our voice.

Rhianna, thank you for your tireless work in sharing Keegan's story, and for your willingness to share about him within our Culturally Committed Community. We will do our very best to ensure your words reach as many ears as possible.


“It is imperative for the entire healthcare ecosystem to hear Keegan's story, to read the case study reflection and embrace the teachings within the document; as they are vital to providing culturally safe care. It will be their call to action to actively commit themselves and their respective institutions to dismantling and eradicating systemic racism, with a lens of intersectionality so that systems of oppression that continue to be embedded into the beliefs, behaviours, and practices within our healthcare system are not an obstacle to anyone receiving care. Keegan's identity and life experiences made him who he was, and should have never prevented him from getting timely care. The onus is on the health system to grow and transform, to make sure what happened to Keegan, never happens to anyone else.”

Rhianna Millman, Métis, Keegan’s family advocate and caregiver

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