Janet Smylie


Director, Well Living House


Dr. Smylie is a respected international leader in the field of Indigenous health. One of Canada’s first Métis physicians, her 25 year career has been focused on addressing inequities in the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada by bridging gaps in health knowledge and practice. Trained in medicine at Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, and the University of Toronto, Dr. Smylie has practiced and taught family medicine in diverse Indigenous communities – urban, rural and remote. She has extra training in women’s health and mental health/therapy. She has also completed a Master of Public Health at John Hopkins University. She currently holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Applied Public Health Research Chair in Indigenous Health Knowledge and Information at St. Michael’s Hospital where she directs the Well Living House Action Research Centre for Indigenous Infant, Child and Family Health and Wellbeing and is an active staff physician. Her primary academic appointment is at the University of Toronto, Dalla Lana School of Public Health with a cross-appointment to Family and Community Medicine. She continues part time clinical work as a consulting family physician at Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto.

Dr. Smylie’s foundational contributions in Indigenous health have included the development of guidelines for health professionals working with Indigenous peoples; improving population based Indigenous health assessment and response, particularly for infants and children; and Indigenizing of knowledge translation theory and practice. Recent innovations have included the application of respondent driven sampling to produce previously unavailable population based health needs assessment data for urban Indigenous populations in Canada; identification of best practices in Indigenous maternal, infant and child health; and the development and testing of new approaches to address racism among health professionals and health services serving Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Smylie aims in all aspects of her work to meet the dual criteria of scientific excellence and Indigenous community relevance. She has acquired over $10 million of peer-reviewed funding as a principal investigator ($6.5 million over the past 4 years) and has current applied health research partnership agreements with more than 20 Indigenous organizations/communities.

Dr. Smylie has published over 100 peer-reviewed publications (with more than 50 as first author) on the topic of Indigenous health and has one of the highest index factors in this field. Her recent discussion paper “First Peoples, Second Class Treatment: the Role of Racism in the Health and Wellbeing of Indigenous Peoples” was featured on CBC’s the National and downloaded more than 4500 times the week of release. In the past 5 years, she has presented over 75 times as an invited speaker regionally, nationally, and internationally to diverse audiences. She currently sits on the National Statistics Council of Canada, where she advised Canada’s chief statistician. Additionally, she has presented to parliamentary roundtables and subcommittees and at two provincial/territorial inquests as expert witness.

Tangible Indigenous community impacts of Dr. Smylie’s work include: contributing to the development of the Toronto Birth Centre which incorporates Indigenous knowledge and practice into its day to day operations; substantive funding increases for Dedwadadehsnye’s Health Access Centre following the release of the Our Health Counts health assessment report; and preservation and application of Indigenous oral history knowledge in the area of reproductive, child, and family health (ie. first Métis baby book; nine documentary films).

Dr. Smylie has recruited a world class cadre of Indigenous health researchers, seconded health practitioners, students and staff to St. Michael’s Hospital and developed a highly productive Indigenous health research unit – the Well Living House which is uniquely co-governed by a counsel of Indigenous grandparents and St Michael’s Hospital. She has formally supervised over 50 trainees including medical students, residents, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows – many of whom are now leaders in Indigenous health research, education, practice and policy.

Dr. Smylie’s outstanding accomplishments were recognized in 2012 with a National Aboriginal Achievement/Indspire Award and in 2015 when she was named a Top 20 Pioneer of Family Medicine Research by the Canadian College of Family Physicians.

  • Please note that Dr. Smylie is no longer accepting summer student applications for the 2018 calendar year.

Recent Publications

  1. Smylie, J, Firestone, M, Spiller, MW, Tungasuvvingat Inuit. Our health counts: population-based measures of urban Inuit health determinants, health status, and health care access. Can J Public Health. 2018;109 (5-6):662-670. doi: 10.17269/s41997-018-0111-0. PubMed PMID:30302729 PubMed Central PMC6267637.
  2. Smylie, J, O'Brien, K, Xavier, CG, Anderson, M, McKnight, C, Downey, B et al.. Primary care intervention to address cardiovascular disease medication health literacy among Indigenous peoples: Canadian results of a pre-post-design study. Can J Public Health. 2018;109 (1):117-127. doi: 10.17269/s41997-018-0034-9. PubMed PMID:29981069 PubMed Central PMC5904243.
  3. Jones, R, Thurber, KA, Chapman, J, D'Este, C, Dunbar, T, Wenitong, M et al.. Study protocol: Our Cultures Count, the Mayi Kuwayu Study, a national longitudinal study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing. BMJ Open. 2018;8 (6):e023861. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023861. PubMed PMID:29950481 PubMed Central PMC6020975.
  4. Crengle, S, Luke, JN, Lambert, M, Smylie, JK, Reid, S, Harré-Hindmarsh, J et al.. Effect of a health literacy intervention trial on knowledge about cardiovascular disease medications among Indigenous peoples in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. BMJ Open. 2018;8 (1):e018569. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018569. PubMed PMID:29371275 PubMed Central PMC5786120.
  5. Beckett, M, Firestone, MA, McKnight, CD, Smylie, J, Rotondi, MA. A cross-sectional analysis of the relationship between diabetes and health access barriers in an urban First Nations population in Canada. BMJ Open. 2018;8 (1):e018272. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018272. PubMed PMID:29358430 PubMed Central PMC5781064.
  6. Rotondi, MA, O'Campo, P, O'Brien, K, Firestone, M, Wolfe, SH, Bourgeois, C et al.. Our Health Counts Toronto: using respondent-driven sampling to unmask census undercounts of an urban indigenous population in Toronto, Canada. BMJ Open. 2017;7 (12):e018936. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-018936. PubMed PMID:29282272 PubMed Central PMC5770955.
  7. Morton Ninomiya, ME, Atkinson, D, Brascoupé, S, Firestone, M, Robinson, N, Reading, J et al.. Effective knowledge translation approaches and practices in Indigenous health research: a systematic review protocol. Syst Rev. 2017;6 (1):34. doi: 10.1186/s13643-017-0430-x. PubMed PMID:28219446 PubMed Central PMC5319191.
  8. Smylie, J, Cywink, M. Missing and murdered Indigenous women: Working with families to prepare for the National Inquiry. Can J Public Health. 2016;107 (4-5):e342-e346. doi: 10.17269/cjph.107.5969. PubMed PMID:28026695 .
  9. Smylie, J, Firestone, M. Back to the basics: Identifying and addressing underlying challenges in achieving high quality and relevant health statistics for indigenous populations in Canada. Stat J IAOS. ;31 (1):67-87. doi: 10.3233/SJI-150864. PubMed PMID:26793283 PubMed Central PMC4716822.
  10. Minichiello, A, Lefkowitz, AR, Firestone, M, Smylie, JK, Schwartz, R. Effective strategies to reduce commercial tobacco use in Indigenous communities globally: A systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2016;16 :21. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-2645-x. PubMed PMID:26754922 PubMed Central PMC4710008.
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Affiliations & Other Activities

  • Scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Staff Physician, Family and Community Medicine, St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Associate Professor, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto
  • Associated Professor (cross-appointed), Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto
  • Applied Public Health Research Chair, Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Adjunct Scientist, Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences
  • Consulting Family Physician, Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto