Dr. Sangita Sharma

Sangita Sharma, PhD
Alberta Health Services Chair in Indigenous Health 
Professor in Indigenous and Global Health Research

University of Alberta

Dr. Sangita Sharma is the Alberta Health Services Chair in Indigenous Health in the Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, College of Health Sciences at the University of Alberta and has almost 30 years of experience working with Indigenous (Inuit, Inuvialuit and First Nations in Alberta, Ontario, Northwest Territories (NT) and Nunavut (NU) and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiian Apache, Navajo, Pima, and Zuni in the USA) and multiethnic populations focusing on chronic disease, diabetes, and cancer prevention research and health and wellness program development, delivery, and evaluation.

Dr. Sharma obtained her PhD from the University of Manchester Medical School in 1996 and since then she has worked with numerous populations in over 20 countries. Since moving to Canada in 2010, she has been leading the multi-disciplinary Indigenous and Global Health Research Group (IGHRG) examining the risk factors for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity among Indigenous and new Canadian populations. As a Principal Investigator, Dr. Sharma has been awarded research funding for over 60 projects and was awarded the Silver Medal by the British Nutrition Society in 2010 in part for her health intervention program “Healthy Foods North” which was implemented in six communities in the NT and NU, in partnership with Inuit and Inuvialuit communities. Dr. Sharma has over 157 peer-reviewed scientific publications, including research published by The Lancet Oncology from a project looking at cancer incidence with NT Indigenous populations. Funded by Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions funded project “Cancer ACCESS”, she worked with communities to improve access to cancer screening services for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer. Recently, she also led the Caring and Responding Edmonton (CARE) project, funded by the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, that worked with multiple community organizations in Edmonton to identify barriers to accessing health care services, as well as opportunities for improving utilization, overall patient experience, and self-advocacy. Other projects have included the “WHY ACT NOW” program in Edmonton to improve nutrition and physical activity in Indigenous and new Canadian youth, and the CIHR-funded Maternal and Infant Health Project identifying factors affecting pre- and post-natal maternal health, along with the health of infants and experiences with maternal health services, in Northern Canada.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Dr. Sharma and the IGHRG have begun a broad program of research that is focusing on capturing information on the diverse impacts COVID-19 and COVID-19 prevention strategies are having within Arctic Indigenous communities on all aspects of health. Working in partnership with a large Community Advisory Board that includes Indigenous community members, Indigenous Governments and organizations, the Department of Health and Social Services, Government of NT, and researchers from other national and international institutions, they are collecting essential evidence that will be shared with all levels of government and public health stakeholders to inform culturally safe policy and practice as the pandemic continues. This work is being co-led by the Hotıì ts’eeda NT SPOR SUPPORT Unit and consists of five fully-funded (Canadian Institutes of Health Research/Hoffman-La Roche Ltd./Public Health Agency of Canada) projects that include looking at COVID-19 vaccine side effects, vaccine hesitancy, access to and experience with healthcare during COVID-19, and confidence in science and public health messaging. 

The work of Dr. Sharma and the IGHRG to improve health and wellness of vulnerable populations in Alberta and Canada has been highlighted through the conferral of two regional awards. In December 2016, Dr. Sharma was very honoured and humbled to be named a Global Edmonton Woman of Vision with eleven other accomplished women in the city during 2016-2017. In September 2017, Dr. Sharma also received the Medal of Honor from the Alberta Medical Association. This award is given to a “non-physician who has made an outstanding personal contribution to the people in Alberta and also has contributed to the advancement of medical research, medical education, health care organization, health education and/or health promotion to the public and raised the standards of health care in Alberta.” Dr. Sharma is very grateful for this recognition of the work of the IGHRG team. To listen to Dr. Sharma’s acceptance speech during the Alberta Medical Association award ceremony on September 15, 2017, please see the video here. In September 2019 Dr. Sharma was inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in recognition of her internationally recognized leadership, academic performance, scientific creativity, and willingness to serve.

For further details on current projects led by Dr. Sharma, please see our projects page.