SASKATOON -- Dr. Ron Siemens has dedicated much of his professional career to travels to Mozambique.

He’s from Saskatoon, working in pediatric emergency medicine at the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital and is a maternal child health researcher.

Thirteen years working with Indigenous people in Mozambique and taking students from Saskatchewan there to learn, led him to make links to Saskatchewan’s First Nations people.

“There so many connections of how things are done here how things are done in Africa. Things that are the same. Problems that are the same. Issues that are the same. People have dealt with it in many different ways. It gives us a great perspective,” Siemens told CTV News.

That perspective is all part of a new way of thinking about healthcare delivery, according to Siemens. Gone are the days of telling people or communities what they need, but rather asking them what their needs are.

He’s collaborated with an Indigenous elder from Dillon in the hopes of bridging the gap between those living in the north and the healthcare system and they traveled to Africa together.

“They can see some of the links that are there and get a better perspective on what other Indigenous groups are doing. The elder who came with us sat down with elders there and they talked for hours.”

Siemens says one of the beneficial ideas he’s learned is how medical students in Africa like nurses and doctors are sent to live with a community family as part of their training. They are immersed in their daily lives and get to know them. It helps students gain empathy and has already been put into place here in Saskatchewan.

“I got involved with the medical students, making the links in 2006. Ever since then I’ve hosted students here in Dillon, showing them how we do our traditions like sweat lodges and picking medicine from the Mother Earth,” Elder James Sylvestre told CTV News.

Sylvestre says he even taught one of the medical students how to speak the traditional Dene language which helped him when treating patients who speak it. Getting to know people in the north helps create a sense of familiarity, Sylvestre says.

“When you go to the hospital, it’s nice to see somebody that you have been around with or met. Getting to know the medical students, it’s nice to see that.”

Siemens is hosting a virtual conference Oct. 15 in Saskatoon.

Siemens will share details of his work in Mozambique and emphasize the importance of community connections with the ultimate goal of better health care delivery in pediatrics and maternal care in Saskatchewan.

It’s open to the medical community and to the public.