07/12/2013 03:26 EDT | Updated 09/11/2013 05:12 EDT

Psychologist to lead research into aboriginal early childhood development

KAMLOOPS, B.C. - The B.C. government has appointed a psychologist to lead university researchers studying early childhood development among First Nations in Kamloops.

Rod McCormick will head research teams at Thompson Rivers University, where a search committee recruited him to partner with area native bands.

McCormick has worked with the Canadian Institutes of Mental Health, and his projects have included aboriginal mental health and youth suicide.

Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said McCormick's expertise in First Nations mental health will help improve culturally appropriate programs that strengthen the prospects for aboriginal children.

Alan Shaver, president and vice chancellor of the university, said support from the region's aboriginal bands helped attract McCormick to the facility.

McCormick is from the Mohawk First Nations and about 10 per cent of students at the facility are aboriginal, said university spokesman Christopher Seguin.

He said Thomson Rivers offers a community mentorship program and also employs three elders who work at the campus.

"They're a social resource, a connection to their nation," Seguin said.

McCormick's project involves $2.5 million in funding that's already been announced by the government.

Half the money came from a 2007 early childhood development grant from the Children's Ministry and the rest was from a $56-million endowment fund created in 2002 with the private sector. Cash has been awarded to 29 post-secondary facilities around the province.