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Dr. Downey is a woman of Ojibwe and Celtic heritage, a mother and a grandmother. She is a medical anthropologist and joined the School of Nursing at McMaster in March of 2017. She is cross-appointed with the Department of Psychiatry and Neuro-Behavioural Sciences and is appointed as the Indigenous Health Lead for the Faculty of Health Science at McMaster. She has retained the Regional Aboriginal Cancer Lead for Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto – Central Region and has held this appointment for 5 years.


  • Dr. Downey was the 2014 Faculty of Social Science Valedictorian.  
  • She has received the YWCA - Woman of Distinction - Lifetime Recognition award in 2014.


  • Downey, B., Gabel, C., & Michele Parent-Bergeron. Understanding Indigenous perception of heart health; using photovoice to foster transformational outcomes in the development of culturally relevant approaches to cardiovascular care for Indigenous people. Grant, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Catalyst Grant. $111,640. 2018-2019
  • Downey, B. (Co-PI),  Hill, K (NPI). Juddah’s Place - An Indigenous Evaluation Project.   A CIHR Institute of Aboriginal Health (IAPH) and Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) funded project.

  • Downey, B. (Co-PI), Preston, J. (co-PI). Authentic Indigenous Research Partnerships -  A McMaster University Inter-disciplinary Fund project.
  • Dunn, J., Hwang, S. (co-PIs), Downey, B. Basic Income Pilot Project - Co-PI  A Ministry of Community and Social Services funded project.
  • Downey, B. (PI) Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada and Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded Women’s Heart and Brain Health Chair, Indigenous Early Career - $1,090,246 (2018). Understanding & Mending ‘Broken’ Hearts: Linking European Colonization, Indigenous Women’s Heart Health, and resiliency-focused approaches to heart literacy.
  • Downey, B. (PI), Gabel, C. (Co-PI), Parent, M. (co-PI), Hill, K. (Co-Knowledge), Strachan, P. (Co-Knowledge), McKnight, C. (Co-Knowledge). Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Catalyst Research Grant – Indigenous Approaches to Wellness - $111,640. (2017) Understanding Indigenous perception of heart health: using photovoice to foster transformational outcomes in the development of culturally relevant approaches to cardiovascular care for Indigenous people.

  • Hill, K. (PI), Downey, B. (Co-I), Jamieson, E. (Co-I). Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Catalyst Grant – Indigenous Approaches to Wellness - $128,600. (2017). Juddah’s Place – An Indigenous Evaluation Project – Research Protocol. To undertake an Indigenous - centric evaluation that will inform the collaborative practice of Juddah’s inter-disciplinary team with respect to the cancer care journey. Secondly, to inform a broader understanding of Indigenous health and research stakeholders regarding Indigenous evaluation frameworks that facilitate both the amelioration of systemic barriers and the inclusion of metrics and methods that support the assessment of resilience and other wellness-based concepts among Indigenous populations.

Featured Publications

Smylie, J., O’Brien, K., Xavier, C. G., Anderson, M., McKnight, C., Downey, B., & Kelaher, M. (2018). Primary care intervention to address cardiovascular disease medication health literacy among Indigenous peoples: Canadian results of a pre-post-design study. Canadian Journal of Public Health, 109(1), 117-127.

Lambert, M., Luke, J., Downey, B., Crengle, S., Kelaher, M., Reid, S., & Smylie, J. (2014). Health literacy: health professionals’ understandings and their perceptions of barriers that Indigenous patients encounter. BMC health services research, 14(1), 614.

Research Areas

Current research interests include Indigenous health, health literacy and Indigenous Traditional knowledge and health/research system reform for Indigenous populations. 

Dr. Downey is currently affiliated as an Associate Researcher with the Well Living House at St. Michael’s Hospital. The Well Living House is an action research centre that is focused on Indigenous* infant, child and family health and well-being.

 Dr. Downey has participated on multiple, national and international Indigenous research policy initiatives including: 

  •  Two-term member of the Canadian Institute of Health Research- Institute of Aboriginal Health, Institute Advisory Board 
  • Planner and participant to the International Network of Indigenous Health Knowledge Development (INIHKD)
  • Chief Executive Officer of the National Aboriginal Health Organization whose mandate included a strong research-knowledge translation focus
  • ​As part of her Post-doctoral role with the Department of Graduate Studies at McMaster, Dr. Downey led the development of the innovative Indigenous Undergraduate Summer Research Scholars Program (IUSRS) and the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI).

Faculty of Health Sciences - Indigenous Health Initiative

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