Jay Wortman

Jay Wortman is a modern-day warrior. But he is armed not with a musket, bow or knife. His weapons — science and education — are much more effective. This Métis doctor has been on the frontlines in the war against AIDS for more than a decade. Right out of his family medicine residency, he developed a teaching module on HIV testing for general practitioners that became a model for family doctors across Canada. In government he developed the first HIV prevention program in Canada that targeted the Aboriginal population. “Aboriginals are being active, not passive about this disease,” he says. Dr. Wortman has also traveled overseas and brought AIDS education to the Indigenous world. In British Columbia he was behind an AIDS public awareness project that is now part of AIDS prevention history. When a young gay physician in Vancouver, Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, told Dr. Wortman of his own struggles with AIDS, the pair sprang into action. Dr. Wortman suggested the doctor go on television to talk about life with the illness that so many fear. The Dr. Peter AIDS Diary series on CBC Television was born. Weekly until Dr. Jepson-Young’s death in 1992 — after more than 100 episodes — millions listened and witnessed as he put a face to AIDS. Later, CBC turned it into a documentary that was broadcast here and in the United States and the show was nominated for an Academy Award. A founding board member of the Native Physicians Association, he used his position to mentor and inspire Aboriginal students wishing to pursue careers in medicine. Dr. Wortman, who remains on the cutting edge of so many Aboriginal health issues, now serves as the Pacific Regional Director for the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch of Health Canada. His work is far from over.