Before Wellness Wheel had a name, the concept was sparked to life when Dr. Stuart Skinner began travelling to First Nations on-reserve communities to address the challenge of travelling to access HIV and Hepatitis C in urban healthcare centres. Stuart and physician partner, Dr. Bonnie Richardson, had the opportunity to collaborate with Val Desjarlais, the Health Director for Touchwood Agency Tribal Council (TATC). Val’s network of Peers, who had lived experience with Hepatitis C, preferred to access care in their home communities rather than travelling to urban centres for care.
In response, Stuart and Bonnie, together with Val and the TATC communities, created an accessible and culturally responsive model of mobile care. Ceremony hosted by Elders from TATC guided a Band Council Resolution to allow for the innovative care model to be delivered to the communities. To keep all confidential health information stored in a central location, the Virtual Clinic of Wellness Wheel was officially launched. Since 2016, this partnership has provided a unique model of care to the four communities in TATC and was awarded a 5 year Canadian Institute of Health Research Grant to extend this model to 8 more on-reserve communities throughout Saskatchewan.
In 2018 Wellness Wheel Clinical Team merged with the Health Advocacy and Research Training team headed by Dr. JoLee Sasakamoose (Ojibway). This created a powerful collaboration of Indigenous community-led research, healthcare, and policy advocacy. Wellness Wheel continues to grow, expand, and respond to community need with a support network of over 50 research and clinical staff, partners, and trainees.