Cody Forssell, CAT(C), CSEP-CEP is a recipient of one of two $10,000 Indigenous Student Awards awarded in 2017.

Part of his award application helps to explain why:

Growing up in northern British Columbia, I witnessed gross inequity in health and health care services provided to Indigenous communities in British Columbia. In Annette Browne’s article, "Issues Affecting Access to Health Services in Northern, Rural and Remote Regions of Canada", she states that a lack in range of services, geographic distance, cultural differences, and hospital downsizing have possible outcomes of barriers to accessing health services (1). Through my personal experience, I hold a strong belief in Browne’s research, as some of the features she highlights I have seen firsthand.

I was born and raised in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, a remote northern city known for having the highest Indigenous population of any municipality over 5,000 in Canada. My town is rich in Indigenous culture and many Nations call this part of the world home. The main method of transportation used to access health services, as well as between many of these communities, is by ferry. Many Indigenous communities near Prince Rupert are severely underserved or non-served in health care services.

I am from the Tsimshian Nation, part of the Killer Whale clan, and a member of the Metlakatla Band. While many of my adolescent and adult years were spent away from Prince Rupert to pursue golf and attend university in Victoria, BC, Metlakatla and Prince Rupert have always been home to me.

Upon completion of my studies, I hope to return to Prince Rupert to serve my community as well as more remote communities who have little to no access to physical therapy treatment.


Creating a movement

I began my university education in 2009 in Victoria, BC. I received my bachelor degree in Athletic Therapy and Exercise Physiology in the year 2013. Upon completion of my degree, I returned to Prince Rupert, where I worked as an athletic therapist and exercise physiologist for three years.

Aside from working in a clinic, I began volunteering as a mentor to Indigenous youth in Northern BC. One memorable volunteer experience took place when I chaperoned 40 Indigenous youth on a trip from Prince Rupert to Vancouver. Our trip aim was to show at-risk youth the consequences of making poor choices and the benefits of choosing a positive path. One of the many activities included taking them to the downtown eastside (Hastings Street) of Vancouver and then to the University of British Columbia. I still maintain a mentorship relationship with many of these youth to this day.

My goals of serving my hometown are governed…by my belief that any and every individual has the capacity to help others, even in small ways.

I also volunteered with the annual All Native Basketball Tournament. I was a Certified First Responder and Athletic Therapist helping the athletes stay in the game and perform at their highest level. I look forward to continuing my involvement in this tournament following physical therapy training.

One of my goals is to not only to take part as a volunteer in these events, but create a movement to help improve the health of Indigenous people all over Canada, by continuing where I left off in the region of Prince Rupert.

I also traveled to remote communities such as Lax Kw'alaams and Metlakatla many times a month for three years to service the health needs of these communities. As an athletic therapist, I would typically work 10 hours at a time and see upwards of 20 patients per day, most of whom had gone years without receiving needed therapy interventions. Many were unable to work due to injuries that are easily treatable, resulting in chronic pain symptoms that caused dependency on pain medications.

While I could help within my scope of practice, I wanted to further my skills to treat more complicated cases. This is another reason why I chose to continue my education and pursue physical therapy.


Cody helping at the All Native Basketball Tournament as a Certified First Responder and Athletic Therapist


The future

My goal is to utilize my future skills as a physical therapist and to increase the access to health-care services for the Indigenous communities in northern BC, which includes tens of thousands of underserviced Indigenous people with varying health needs. My goal of serving my hometown and community is not governed by my professional title alone, but rather by my belief that any and every individual has the capacity to help others, even in small ways.

As someone who is privileged enough to receive an education from one of the top physical therapy programs in Canada, I believe that I have an obligation to give back to my community as my reserve and my town have helped me become who I am today.

I want to inspire the youth from my community to pursue their dreams through mentorship. Our Indigenous communities of Northern BC are drastically underserviced in health care services. Upon completion of my Masters in Physical Therapy, I hope to return to Prince Rupert and open my own clinic, where I will dedicate a large portion of my time to helping provide access to therapy to the Indigenous people of Prince Rupert, as well as surrounding communities. Before I left, I was able to create many positive connections with community leaders, chiefs, council and community members of many bands, as well as many health care professionals.

My long-term goal is to create a complete network of health care practitioners that will service Indigenous peoples in Northern BC with adequate health care services such traditional healing, physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, support and education services, and other health care services.

I believe that my education has and will continue to equip me with tools and skills to help improve the lives of Indigenous peoples in Northern BC.


Please join us in congratulating Cody Forssell!




The Indigenous Student Award

Since 2016, the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) and the Physiotherapy Foundation of Canada (PFC) have offered two $10,000 Indigenous Student Awards to “help address the significant gaps that exist between the health status of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and that of other Canadians, as well as the unmet rehabilitation and mobility needs in rural, remote and Northern communities in Canada.”

Selection is based on academic performance, merit of the application and letters of reference.

The Award is open to all Canadian Indigenous students who are First Nation (status or non-status), Inuit or Métis and who are enrolled in any year of a full-time accredited Canadian post-secondary physiotherapy program.

Please visit the Indigenous Student Award page to learn more.