Senator Mary Jane McCallum, D.M.D.
Three weeks after the passing of her mother, Mary Jane McCullum was sent to residential school outside of The Pas. She was five years old and spent 11 years of her life there, leaving Guy Hill Indian Residential School at the age of 16, completing her high school in Portage La Prairie.
As a young woman, she worked at a variety of jobs that didn’t require training: nurse’s aide, sewing at a sewing factory, chambermaid, at a fish plant and as a cashier at the northern store until her sister asked her why she didn’t go for further education.
In the early 1970s, McCallum worked in northern Manitoba as a dental assistant, and trained on the job, then graduated from the Wescana Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences (WIAAS) in Regina with her dental nursing diploma. In 1979, she received her dental therapy diploma from the National School of Dental Therapy. In 1990, she graduated with her DMD – Doctor of Dental Medicine – from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba.
McCallum began as an assistant professor for the Faculty of Dentistry in Churchill, Manitoba supervising fourth-year dental students, after which she provided treatment to First Nations people in northern communities, including her own reserve of Brochet, Manitoba.
From 1996 to 2000, she worked as the Regional Dental Officer for the province of Manitoba delivering dental care and treatment to First Nations. During her term as regional director, she realized more needed to be done at the government level to help improve the health of people in the north.
In 2002, she accepted a position as an assistant professor at the Faculty of Dentistry, and continued to work as a general dentist providing treatment in her home community of Brochet. She volunteered as a member of the local school committee and conducted monthly meetings with the Elders and community members, shedding light on their strengths and finding solutions to issues and problems plaguing the community. She also held prenatal and diabetes programs.
McCallum provided a children’s dental program and came into the classrooms three times a year and presented on traditional healthy living, goal setting, safety and gangs. She got students to do projects, presenting their findings to the Elders, their family and their community members.
McCallum was sworn in as a Canadian Senator on Dec. 13, 2017.