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A Healthier You April 2012

Presented by Northern Health and The Prince George Citizen

the measure

of success

the Northern Medical Program at UNBC with dr. geoff payne and NMP graduate dan crompton Cancer Clinic staff already working with northern patients

Health benefits Physical activity guidelines for all ages Published By April ‘12



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Welcome to A Healthier You Cathy Ulrich, Northern Health president and chief executive officer


News from around the Region

finding the right person for the job

18 30

cover feature

Dan Crompton & Dr. Geoff Payne


Getting to know Vanessa Swanson

A Healthier You

Presented by and Publisher: Managing Editor: Advertising: Design, Layout: April ‘12

Colleen Sparrow Mick Kearns Lu Verticchio Colleen McComb

Cover photo by Brent Braaten


Opening Remarks

elcome to the second edition of A Healthier You. I enjoyed the first edition, which focused on men’s health, and I hope you did too. (If you missed it, it’s available at healthier_you2012-final-b/1). I’m excited about this edition because it focuses on Northern Health’s greatest asset: our employees. There are more than 7,000 of them spread out across the north from Quesnel to Atlin, and from Haida Gwaii to Dawson Creek. Each one of them plays an important role in delivering exceptional health services to northerners. When you think of Northern Health, a doctor or nurse may be the first person who comes to mind. These frontline medical staff are certainly vital, but there are also thousands of important Northern Health employees behind the scenes. For example, our wonderful medical lab technologists, laundry staff, business developers, housekeepers, accountants, food service workers, recruiters, and so many more. Without clean sheets, hot meals, and balanced budgets, health care in the north would not be possible. In tribute to our staff, I’m proud to say that this edition of A Healthier You highlights some of our employees. Encouraging the education of health-care professionals in the North is another important focus for Northern Health. Working with the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC), the College of New Caledonia (CNC), the University of BC (UBC), and others, we’ve helped develop programs to train doctors, nurses, medical lab technologists, and radiation technologists in the north. This edition of A Healthier Cathy Ulrich has been the You profiles CNC’s lab CEO of Northern Health since technologist and radiation 2007. From 2002 to 2007, she technologist programs, UNBC’s nursing program, was the organization’s vice and the Northern Medical president, clinical cervices, and Program (the program to chief nursing officer. Before the train doctors in the north). formation of Northern Health, Dr. Geoff Payne and his team Ulrich worked in a variety at UNBC work diligently in of nursing and management conjunction with UBC and positions in northern BC, Northern Health to ensure Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of the Northern Medical her career has been in rural and Program operates at a high northern communities, giving level. her a solid understanding of Dr. Dan Crompton is a product of that program. their unique health needs. He graduated from UNBC in 2008 and is currently working in the emergency room of UHNBC in Prince George. You can read more about Dr. Crampton in our cover story. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who works so hard to produce A Healthier You, including our partners at The Prince George Citizen. Future editions of A Healthier You will cover the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North (opening this year in Prince George), and the new Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa Residential Care. A HEALTHIER YOU — 3

Around the Region

New Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa Residential Care facility continues on time and on budget

Submitted photo


the Fort St. John Hospital and Peace Villa Residential Care facility nears its projected completion date, the project is still on time and on budget. The $301.2-million facility includes state-ofthe-art equipment and a design created in part by the


staff who will be working in the new facilities. As the largest hospital replacement project in northern B.C., the new facility also has room to expand if needed due to the rapidly-growing population of Fort St. John and area.

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Around the Region

Submitted photos

UPDATE: B.C. Cancer Agency

Centre for the North


preparation for an opening in late 2012, work is ongoing at the B.C. Cancer Agency Centre for the North site in Prince George. The construction of the new cancer centre continues to be on time, on scope and on budget. A key equipment milestone was reached in March with the arrival of the centre’s two linear accelerators. The machines will be used to deliver radiation therapy in cancer treatment, ushering in new services for northern B.C. residents. Hiring for the centre is also on track with core medical and leadership positions already in place.

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Around the Region

Men’s health screenings across the north well attended


the past four months, more than 450 people have participated in men’s health screenings at public venues such as hockey games or the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert, bringing the total number of people screened since October 2011 to well over 600. A typical screening includes tests for glucose levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. However, some screenings are more comprehensive, including one held at UNBC in February which gave participants the chance to be tested for sexually transmitted infections and mental health issues. The screenings are a result of community consultations about how to better engage men in their health which took place in 2011, in which men said having the care come to them would be best due to their busy lifestyles. The number of people who have attended so far proves this is a model that is effective.


Northern Health Connections bus service sets ridership record


2011 the Northern Health Connections bus service transported more than 12,000 patients to medical appointments across the north and the Lower Mainland. These numbers show a 14 per cent growth over 2010, and an increase of 100 per cent since the first full year of operation in 2007, in which 6,100 people used the service. Northern Health Connections is operated in partnership with Diversified Transportation to provide non-emergency transportation for clients travelling outside their home communities and is open to anyone who needs to travel to an out-of-town medical appointment, regardless of their age or income. Fares range from $20 to $80. For more information, visit NHConnectionsmedicaltravelservice.aspx.

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Medical Programs

Submitted photos

CNC medical programs see overwhelming number of applicants

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t has become an annual tradition at the College of New Caledonia: staff analyzing the hundreds of applications for only a few places in the college’s Medical Radiography Technology and Medical Lab Technology Science programs. Cont’d on page 10


Medical Programs

Cont’d from page 9

rams have become very popular due to programs The two prog the hands-on nature of the instruction, the expertise of the instructors, and the high percentage of graduates who find jobs immediately after graduation. Each year the medical laboratory technologist program has about 60 applicants for 20 seats. 2012 marks the graduation of the third class of medical laboratory technologists and with 20 grads this year taking the total to 36. About 50 per cent of those grads have found work in northern B.C. in communities such as PrincWe George and Terrace after completing the 30-month program. The program teaches students how to collect and prepare


specimens for analysis, including blood, bodily fluids and tissue samples; how to test the samples; and how to interpret the results. This allows the new medical laboratory technologists to help doctors diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. The Medical Radiography Technology program’s first class of 16 students just finished their first year of instruction and are set to graduate in April 2013. CNC is confident that all 16 of these students will be able to find jobs in northern B.C. They’re an elite group, as more than 230 people applied to take this program. Cont’d on page 11

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Medical Programs

Cont’d from page 10

The program teaches students how to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses through the use of X-rays. The technologist produces the X-rays in either digital or film form and the radiologist interprets them to aid in medical diagnosis. With applications for next school year starting to roll in, CNC is seeing a similar level of interest. “CNC received 62 applications before the March 31 deadline for the September 2012 intake of students,” said LeeAnne Evanow, Medical Radiography Technology program co-ordinator at CNC. An interesting trend for both programs is the number

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of applicants who have already have a bachelor’s degree. Evanow believes this is due to the skill set that the program offers. “CNC instructors care about our students and want them to succeed,” said Randall Heidt, CNC Director of Communications and Development. “With small class sizes, instructors know each student by their name and are always accessible and approachable outside of the classroom if students have any questions or need any extra help.” Heidt said that those who are not accepted the first time they apply to either program are encouraged to reapply for the following year.



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Northern Health’s Recruitment Team:

Finding the right person for the job is all about

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orthern Health’s recruitment team knows how important it is to find and keep top talent in all our health-care professions.

Cont’d on page 14



Cont’d from page 13

To create strong health-care teams, we look for people with good team-work skills such as collaboration, conflict resolution, and communication Other important skills are flexibility, the ability to manage change, and selfBirgit LeBlanc is the regional awareness. manager, recruitment, Recruiting successfully organization development and for Northern Health engagement. Her career with means attracting Northern Health began people who are truly in 2003 in the role of project management office coordinator in enthusiastic about providing exceptional information technology services (ITS) and transitioned to manager health services for of ITS corporate services in 2005. northerners. We don’t Birgit received her master’s degree always focus on hiring in leadership from Royal Roads the smartest, most University in 2009; she is qualified available or most to facilitate specialized leadership experienced person; seminars and workshops, including instead, we focus on Strength Deployment Inventory hiring the right person and Coaching With a Twist. for our organizational needs. It’s all about fit: does the person fit Northern Health’s personality and culture? Fit means having the right people with the right attitude and the right skills in the right place at the right time.


Attracting and keeping the best people calls for innovative strategies. Through social media such as Facebook and LinkedIn and online job boards like TalentEgg and, Northern Health builds relationships with a wide network of candidates. Establishing contact and keeping in touch with them is a deliberate process: we want to be that person’s first thought when they decide to look for a new job. This involves educating and communicating with potential candidates so we have a good knowledge and appreciation of each other. These relationships have to be continually nurtured, and would not be very effective if we reached out only when we had a vacancy. We’re striving to create and maintain a community of talent. Given the vast geographical area we cover and the scarcity of skilled labour, recruiting for Northern Health is a challenge. Northern Health’s recruitment team views this as an opportunity to contribute to organizational performance. Recruitment is not simply filling vacancies. It can also help create organizational change, build employee commitment and foster excellent performance. Recruiting for Northern Health is also a privilege, and as the first point of contact for the majority of candidates, the recruitment team takes this honour to heart. Are you interested in a career with Northern Health? Would you like to find out more about the Northern Health recruitment team? Visit, or contact us at 1-877-905-1155 or

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UNBC to offer


physiotherapy training

hysiotherapy students who begin their training at UBC will have the chance to finish their two-year programs in Prince George. A joint UBC-UNBC program will allow up to 20 physiotherapy students to complete the majority of their clinical placements in northern B.C. following completion of their first-year studies, beginning with the 2012-13 school year. The program at UNBC is open to 80 students who enter the UBC physiotherapy program each year, and all will have the option of applying for placements to serve their five-week clinical rotations in the spring at northern B.C. locations. UNBC was also granted provincial government funding to build a new physiotherapy lab that will be linked through a video feed to three other similar labs located at UBC. “We’d like to thank our partners who made this possible,” said UNBC president George Iwama. “We also want to thank especially our MLAs for strongly supporting UNBC’s shared desire to increase health-care professionals in the north.” The announcement came as encouraging news to Dr. Gavin Stuart, dean of medicine and vice-provost health at UBC. “This announcement is another major step towards advancing our vision for distribution of healthprofessional education to better meet the needs of northern and rural British Columbians and builds on the successful expansion of the distributed medical education program at UNBC,” said Stuart, in a prepared release.

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Physiotherapy Program

“Health professional graduates are influenced in their choice of future employment by positive clinical experiences during their training, and we are confident that with our northern and rural clinical educator partners we will establish an excellent northern and rural clinical training program for physical therapy students.” UNBC is already the educational base for training doctors through the Northern Medical Program and Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, says adding a physiotherapy component is another example of UNBC expanding opportunities for aspiring health-care professionals. “It is critical that we continue to add health care training opportunities in northern British Columbia,” Bond said. “The addition of physical therapy will continue the expansion of post-secondary training programs and allow students from the north to stay closer to home as they pursue their chosen careers.”



X-games being played in CNC radiography lab


ho says there’s no money to be made being a video game enthusiast? Certainly not the 16 students now learning their trade in the College of Caledonia’s medical radiography technology program (RTP). Their state-of-the-art $2.7 million teaching laboratory on the third floor of the CNC campus comes equipped with a virtual reality system that allows the students to learn how to perform X-ray imaging, much like an airline pilot learns how to fly with a flight simulator.


The software gives students control of a virtual patient, called an avatar, in a simulated X-ray room, without the danger associated with exposure to ionizing radiation. By changing the body position of the avatar or moving the instrument that produces the virtual X-ray beam, students can simulate what they will encounter once they start working on live patients in a clinical medical lab or hospital. Cont’d on page 17

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Cont’d from page 16

Students can manipulate the controls to change their point of view of the room and they can move the examining table. The simulator can be assessed at two stations and is available to the students after hours without instructor supervision. The simulator produces an image that looks exactly like that of a real X-ray. “It works really well as an educational tool because students are able to turn this avatar five degrees and they can understand what the difference is and what’s happening with the anatomy,” said CNC clinical supervisor/instructor Mira Rosche. “They can X-ray any part of the avatar’s body and obtain a comparable image. Oftentimes, with this younger generation, the students can really interact with these video simulations. It’s pretty exciting.” The CNC radiography lab opened in September with three X-ray suites. Two of them use computer radiography that requires cassettes to produce the images. One is equipped with a state-of-the-art digital radiography unit that uses built-in sensors to produce the image electronically. The lab has a new developing system for computer radiography as well as older equipment donated to the college from Northern Health, which will familiarize the students with the types of equipment they are most likely to encounter when they join the workforce. Graduates of the two-year program will be nationally-certified and qualified to work as radiographers anywhere in Canada. “This is the latest technology,” said Leeanne Evanow the RTP program co-ordinator, “The students will have a well-rounded education. They will get to see quite a lot before we send them out into clinical sites.” Students use body phantoms – life-sized models of parts of the body or full-body replicas of a real person that weighs 100 pounds. The students practice body positioning on themselves, but use the phantoms when taking X-rays. X-rays produced by the students are projected on

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two large-screen monitors so they can learn from the mistakes of their classmates as they wait for their own images to be developed. Instructor work stations provide access to a teaching video library produced by CNC’s information technology department, which helps students learn how to position patients for X-ray imaging. The province will provide $591,000 in annual funding to support the program. The program is pricey for students, with tuition fees running close to $18,000 for the two years (24 consecutive months) of study. To help defray those costs through scholarships and bursaries, CNC helped launch the Dr. Chong Lim Endowment Fund, named after Lim, who has worked as a radiologist in Prince George for 46 years. CNC hosted a fundraiser for the fund on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011, which resulted in $21,000 in donations to go along with the $50,000 worth of stocks Lim donated. The goal is to reach $100,000. Donors can go to www.cnc. for more information. – Ted Clarke Citizen staff



Northern Medical Program graduate Dan Crompton has put his schooling to work as an emergency room doctor at UHNBC.


t takes a hands-on approach to learn how to heal the sick and treat the injured. After the long grind of training as medical students in the Northern Medical Program (NMP) at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), there’s no better place than a real-life work situation to put into practice their desire as doctors to improve the lives of patients. For NMP graduate Dan Crompton, the door of opportunity he opened as a UNBC medical student led to a labyrinth of career choices that were all within his grasp as a doctor. He thought about becoming a general surgeon but instead chose emergency medicine. His return to his Prince George roots last September at University Hospital of Northern B.C.(UHNBC) is proof the grassroots movement that gave rise to the province’s northernmost medical school 12 years ago was well worth the effort. “If you’re a self-motivated medical student, there are so many opportunities here in Prince George,” said Crompton. “You will see students who are in obstetric service who end up in emergency relocating a shoulder. I’ve helped out as the [WHL] Cougars’ doctor, I’m on call for trauma, I’m teaching medical students. “I’ve been across Western Canada, and seeing the amount of direct patient contact and hands-on experience the students get here is better than most places I’ve seen.” Crompton, a native of Kelowna, was part of the original NMP graduating class of 23 in 2008. His residency started at a rural practice near Red Deer, Alta. That led to stints as a resident in emergency departments in Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina, and his eventual return to UHNBC last year in September. Crompton has high praise for UHNBC staff and how accommodating they are while turning students into doctors. There’s a spirit of co-operation in the local health care community toward medical students that also goes out to UNBC’s nursing and social work programs. Similar 18 — A HEALTHIER YOU

Photo by Brent Braaten

Th mea of su

partnerships will help establish the clinical physiotherapy program at UNBC, announced in November. The birth of the NMP in 2004 spurred an influx of doctors wanting to relocate to UHNBC to take advantage of teaching opportunities. The doctor-to-student ratio in clinical situations is often one-to-one, and that allows doctors to get to know the students well. “It’s been a great place for me to spend my first year,” said Crompton. “The other emergency doctors are super helpful to talk to and all the specialists are happy to help out, too.” There are now 10 NMP graduates working in Prince George and a few others who have set up family practices in Fort Fraser, Mackenzie, and Fort St. John. Across Canada, the number of medical school graduates going into family medicine averages between 20 and 30 per cent, while the NMP average for general practitioners is approximately 55 per cent. None of those family doctors has had any trouble finding residency positions. “Our students are viewed very well here and I think that speaks very well to the education they get at the Northern Medical Program,” said Dr. Geoff Payne, the NMP interim regional associate dean. “It’s been shown you can come to the NMP and differentiate into whatever type of physician you would like to be. We have them in all of the specialties and these students have [been accepted at] competitive residency programs across the country.” One of the program’s goals is to encourage students to become generalists, which would set them up well to work in northern B.C., where doctors are often few and far between. “We want them to come back to northern B.C., but if they’re practicing in rural and under-served areas across the country, we’re just as happy about that,” Payne said. “Recruitment is always going to be a challenge. It’s not something that you ever say, ‘We’re done.’” Crompton’s girlfriend, Stephanie Bennett, is a UBC grad who completed her residency in family medicine at UHNBC. April ‘12

he asure uccess

Photo by Brent Braaten

Long before the medical school opened, the residency program was in place in Prince George and Crompton says its popularity with young doctors plays a key role in convincing them to permanently set up practice in the city. “Usually, medical students end up staying in the community where they get their residency, then go right into practice,” said Crompton. “I think there were 11 in [Bennett’s] residency group and the majority of them are still here for their first year of practice. A lot of the doctors here in our community went through family residency programs here.” With only 288 spots available each year, UBC’s medical school receives between 1,600 and 1,800 applications from students, most of whom already have an undergraduate degree. Marks in prerequisite courses, as well as non-academic qualities such as volunteer activities, are used to select 640 students who make it to the interview stage. From that group, the final list of 288 is selected. Most of the successful candidates will attend UBC, but 32 will be picked to fill medical school seats in Kelowna, Victoria and Prince George. First-year NMP students study with the entire group for the first semester at UBC in Vancouver, then move on to UNBC at the start of the new year. After two years of medical school, they begin clinical training at hospitals in Prince George, Terrace or Fort. St. John. That leads to an elective fourth year of study, where students choose an aspect of medicine that best suits their career path. After graduation, doctors have one more step to take before they receive their full credentials, serving either two-year residency terms for general family practice or five-year terms for specialties such as general surgery, oncology or obstetrics. “In the Northern Medical Program, we look for students who have a rural affinity and rural values, which are very important to us,” said Payne. “A number of the people who have come in and graduated have come through UNBC as well and that shows you can come to UNBC and get an education and get into medical school.” Payne wasn’t living in Prince George on June 22, 2000, when April ‘12

Dr. Geoff Payne, the NMP interim regional associate dean. 7,000 people packed into the Prince George Multiplex (now CN Centre), and made a passionate plea that convinced the province to set up a medical school to the city. Four years later, it became a reality. “You always hear about the northern way and the northern passion and how we just get on and do things and that spirit resonates through so many different things,” said Payne. “The government recognized the need, otherwise we wouldn’t have a medical school, and I think they continue to see the successes of the medical school with our graduates coming back into the region. “Here, because of the way we evolved, the community said ‘We want a medical school, let’s bring people here,’ and that drive from the people, the university and the health authority has really created something special here.” The B.C. Cancer Agency Centre for the North is slated to open late this year at UHNBC, creating research and teaching opportunities as well as enhanced treatment for patients – another example of how far the city has come in its own medical advances over the past decade. UNBC will graduate its fifth batch of medical students in May. Payne says the NMP is fulfilling its promise of turning out competent physicians. UNBC takes a group photo of its medical students when they gather for the first time each January. The pictures are mounted on a wall in the Bob Ewert Lounge and Payne uses them to chart the progress of our homegrown doctors. “I can look at those photos and say, ‘You’re now practicing in Fraser Lake, you’re now an ER physician in Prince George,’ and that is so cool to watch that evolution,” Payne said. “Next year I can start to do that when the first set of specialty doctors begin to move out. “You almost feel like a parent. That’s the measure of success.” – Ted Clarke Prince George Citizen A HEALTHIER YOU — 19


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Health Tip

Make time to move! For stress control, every move helps



Ronald Chapman is a physician with a fellowship in community id you know that if you include physimedicine, and extensive experience in the leadership and cal activity in your personal schedule management of health services with a focus on community health. every day, you can bank your capacity Dr. Chapman joined the Northern Health team in 2007 as Regional to respond to stress under pressure? Director of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. Dr. Chapman It’s a familiar scenario: someone in your work assumed the role of the Chief Medical Health Officer of Northern life or personal life needs something from you, Health on June 1st, 2011 in addition to his Regional Director role. and they need it… yesterday! What’s the best response? Plan ahead to include exercise in your Ours is a society of quick messaging, quick responses life, and your system will be able to deal more and quick fixes. But you deserve more and need more. easily with pressure like this. If we leave health and wellness on a back burner until – Dr. Ronald Chapman, after we’ve dealt with everything else, we won’t get to it Chief Medical Health Officer and we’ll pay the price for not making time to move. As the saying goes, “If you think you don’t have The best evidence is found in the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines: time for activity, you’d Age 5 – 11 years 12 – 17 years 18 – 64 years 65 years and older better make time for Group Children should accumulate at Youth should accumulate at Adults should accumulate at Adults aged 65 years and older illness!” least 60 minutes of moderate- least 60 minutes of moderleast 150 minutes of modershould accumulate at least 150 to vigorous-intensity physical ate- to vigorous-intensity ate- to vigorous-intensity minutes of moderate- to vigorTo reduce your activity daily. physical activity daily. aerobic physical activity per ous-intensity aerobic physical week, in bouts of 10 minutes activity per week, in bouts of 10 physical response to or more. minutes or more. stress, work on buildThis should include: This should include: It is also beneficial to add It is also beneficial to add muscle muscle and bone strengthen- and bone strengthening activities ing and maintaining • Vigorous-intensity activities • Vigorous-intensity activities ing activities using major using major muscle groups, at your good health and at least 3 days per week. at least 3 days per week. muscle groups, at least 2 days least 2 days per week. per week. don’t forget to move • Activities that strengthen • Activities that strengthen Those with poor mobility should muscle and bone at least 3 muscle and bone at least 3 More physical activity properform physical activities to throughout your day. days per week. days per week. vides greater health benefits. enhance balance and prevent falls. Every move counts, • More daily physical • More daily physical activity provides greater activity provides greater More physical activity provides and more movement health benefits. health benefits. greater health benefits is better than less. *** The new guidelines for ages 0-4 for both physical activity and sedentary behaviour will be released on March 27, 2012. More movement leads to better balance through improved health and well-being. We can develop balance not only as individuals, but as families, schools, workplaces and communities. Movement throughout your day should be as important as brushing your teeth. Choosing to move all day, builds health every day. Health improvement comes from all types of physical activity, and is not limited to gyms, sports and structured fitness. While these are all important opportunities to become more active, real health improvements will come from reducing sedentary activities and increasing physical activity. Try to reduce your overall sedentary activities, such as television viewing, computer/ screen time and driving. Walk to work, climb the stairs, or ride a bike. If you have a work meeting, take your meeting for a walk.

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Health Care Foundations

Health care foundations are active throughout the north Throughout northern B.C., hospital foundations play an important role in supporting health care. They work with communities and donors to create and support fundraising programs such as: • Radiothons (e.g., Dawson Creek’s Have a Heart radiothon) • Special fundraising events (e.g., Prince George’s Festival of Trees) • Charity dinners and silent auctions • Fundraising golf tournaments and other sporting events • Individual donations and bequests This section outlines the activities of some of northern B.C.’s health-care foundations.

Kitimat Health Centre

Submitted photo

Kitimat enthusiastically supports its hospital foundation The newest hospital foundation in the Northern Health region, the Kitimat General Hospital Foundation (KGHF) recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. KGHF received a certificate of incorporation on Feb. 14, 2011, and will hold its first annual general meeting in April. The foundation has already gained generous financial support from business and community organizations in Kitimat and the surrounding area.

Cont’d on page 23


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Panda baby warmers in Dawson Creek Submitted photo

Dawson Creek and District Hospital Foundation makes life a little cozier for newborns The Dawson Creek and District Hospital Foundation has been able to raise $430,000 so far for equipment and renovations in the maternity ward at the Dawson Creek hospital. This money has gone towards items such as radian warmers, also known as panda baby warmers, which are designed to help stabilize a newborn’s body temperature following birth, in addition to providing a number of diagnostic readouts. The money has been raised through various events including mailouts, barbeques, and charity dinners over the last 18 months.

North Coast Health Improvement Society working to provide a bone mass density machine Cont’d from page 22

Recently the foundation received the good news that it will again be the chief beneficiary of Kitimat’s annual rodeo in June. It will also receive a second donation from the local Kinsmen Club. Local industry has also provided generous donations, and the foundation looks forward to their continued support. In the near future, the KGHF will be making their first donation to the Kitimat General Hospital and Health Care Centre. This will provide an excellent opportunity to show the community that the work of the foundation is bearing fruit. The foundation is looking forward to a successful working relationship with Northern Health, and sends their best wishes to all of our foundation cousins across northern B.C.

The North Coast Health Improvement Society was formed in 2001 for the purpose of supporting programs and purchasing equipment that will benefit the health and wellness of the citizens of the north coast of B.C. They are currently fundraising for a bone mass density machine for Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. These machines help identify people who are at risk for osteoporosis or factures.

NH staff lottery raises funds for the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation The Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation encourages staff of Northern Health to play in a staff lottery that benefits the foundation, and also gives each employee an opportunity to win part of the pool. For each $5 entry, half goes to the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, and half is awarded to a lucky winner. The money that goes to the foundation helps them purchase enhanced equipment for hospitals and medical facilities. In 2011, more than $250,000 was re-invested into health-care enhancements via the staff lottery. “We’re committed to re-investing the money back into the communities in Northern Health where the staff are playing,” said Debie Hamilton, fund development officer with the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation. “With this lottery, we all win.” April ‘12



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Dawson Creek

Northern Health celebrates 10 years in Dawson Creek


t was 10 years ago that the South Peace Health Council was amalgamated into Northern Health, as the provincial government looked to streamline and standardize health services by creating regional health authorities across the province. Northern Health marked a decade of serving the communities of Dawson Creek and Pouce Coupe with a celebration at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery on Tuesday, Jan. 31. “I think a 10 year celebration is really about a comingof-age, turning corners and getting to a place where we are able to have conversations about consistent healthcare, so that a person in a catchment area similar to Dawson Creek can assume to get the same care that somebody in Dawson Creek would get,” said Jaret Clay, health services administrator in the South Peace for Northern Health, who was the master of ceremonies for the celebration. “That kind of consistency is the advantage of having a

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region all covered by a single health authority.” Northern Health can certainly point to some significant achievements over the last decade. For example, the health authority worked with the Peace River Regional District to purchase a new computed tomography (CT) scanner for the Dawson Creek and District Hospital in late 2009. At around the same time, the health authority and regional hospital district celebrated the opening of a new wing at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek that added 71 new residential care beds to the facility, including 24 special care beds for residents living with dementia, two rooms for palliative care and two new respite care beds. Also, with the support of the community and through the efforts of the Dawson Creek and District Hospital Foundation, the hospital boasts a renovated cancer treatment centre completed in early 2010, as well as countless pieces of vital equipment throughout the facility. – Matthew Bains Staff Writer


Cancer Centre Recruits

Cancer centre


medical staff


o climate adjustment was necessary for Dr. Christian Fibich when he came to Prince George to begin his new job as a medical oncologist. He’s been living the past six years in Saskatoon, where winter and its icy grip rarely takes a season off. “It’s warm here,” said Fibich. Fibich, hired to work in the B.C. Cancer Agency Centre for the North, now under construction, is impressed with his new work environment after 10 days on the job and is looking forward to the cancer centre’s opening later this year. “I’ve found a very motivated dedicated crew in the community at Northern Health that have put an extremely valuable and effective effort into getting this


cancer centre off the ground and to improve cancer care for northern B.C.,” said Fibich, a native of Germany who is also certified in internal medicine and hematology. “There has been a chemotherapy and oncology department working here for more than 30 years, so we are trying to follow the footsteps and widen the path, and I’ve enjoyed it so far. Obviously, not everything is there yet in terms of infrastructure, but things are expanding rapidly, and think we will have a next-to-perfect setting in the next nine to 12 months.” As a medical oncologist, Fibich is diagnosing and treating patients using chemotherapy drugs and hormone therapy. He joins Dr. Suresh Katakkar, the first medical oncologist hired by the new cancer centre. One of the attractions of the Prince George posting for Fibich is UHNBC’s role as a teaching hospital working in conjunction with the Northern Medical Program at UNBC, and the fact his job will involve cancer research. “It’s a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility and I hope we get it right in terms of planning and putting everything up so that we are going to be happy in there for a long time,” said Fibich. The cancer centre has also recruited medical physicist Piotr Dubrowski, who will be in Prince George when the new centre opens in late 2012. Dubrowski received his medical training in B.C. and has performing clinical work with the B.C. Cancer Agency in Surrey. Having conducted post-graduate cancer research at UBC, he has a background in biomedical optics, cancer genetics, and radiation oncology physics. He is currently working in Surrey with Dr. Narinder Sidhu, the medical physics leader for the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North. Dubrowski’s duties will be to oversee the radiation therapy equipment, working with physicians and radiation therapists to develop treatment plans for patients. Radiation therapy is currently unavailable in northern B.C. and northern patients are forced to travel to Vancouver or Kelowna for treatments. “Dr. Christian Fibich and Piotr Dubrowski are very important additions to our regional oncology team in the North,” said Karim Karmali, B.C. Cancer Agency’s chief operating officer. “We look forward to providing enhanced cancer services for northern cancer patients when the Centre for the north opens.” When it becomes operational, the new cancer centre will create new positions for about 100 full and parttime staff. The centre will continue to try to recruit one more medical oncologist, radiation therapists, nurses, pharmacists, social workers and clerks. – Ted Clarke Citizen staff April ‘12

Cancer Clinic

Cancer clinic staff already working with northern patients


he B.C. Cancer Agency Centre for the North is still a year away from opening its doors to patients in Prince George, but Andrea Wolowski has already taken ownership. Having grown up in Tumbler Ridge, where her parents still reside, she’s anxious to return to the region to begin her new job as the director of clinical operations for radiation therapy. “If we can offer our patients what I think we’ll be able to offer them, which is quality treatments close to home, we’re filling a gap that hasn’t been an option before,” said Wolowski. “As soon as you start bringing treatments closer to home it brings in that connection with their care providers. You don’t feel like you’re going down to the Lower Mainland and then people just forget about you. People know each other in small communities and you get that more personal support.” For the past 13 years she’s worked as a radiation therapist in Kelowna at the B.C. Cancer Agency Centre for the Southern Interior since 2009. She’s been involved in the planning stage of the cancer clinic that is being built in Prince George. “I’ve been able to identify things I like and don’t like and you see that piece of you already in real life,” said Wolowski. “It’s a beautiful facility and it’s quaint at the same time. It’s cozy, it’s warm, it’s exactly what we need.” The new clinic will take advantage of the latest technology and will come equipped with top-of-the-line linear accelerators and patient-positioning beds. Radiation oncologist Matthew Follwell has spent the past week at the UHNBC clinic, where he’s been visiting patients who have received radiation treatments at the Vancouver cancer clinic, where he’s currently based. Follwell, a 34-year-old native of Bellevue, Ont., will be moving to Prince George next summer to work at the new cancer clinic when it opens late in 2012. He’ll join staff that includes radiation oncologists Dilip Panjwani and Rob Olson; medical physics leader Narinder Sidhu; and radiation therapy service technician Nathan Smela. By the time the cancer clinic is in full operation it will have a staff of about 100.

April ‘12

“There’s nowhere else in Canada where I would have the opportunity to be able to build a centre that’s brand new, that has a young staff,” said Follwell. “It gives us a chance to have an impact on the new centre in terms of the nursing model and how we want the clinic to actually run, involving medical and radiation oncology teams at the same time.” Olson, 31, was recruited from Vancouver to the Prince George clinic 14 months ago and has been coming to the city twice a month for follow-up visits with his patients. The research opportunities he will have as part of the Northern Medical Program at UNBC clinched his decision to move to Prince George. “There are a lot of different things that Prince George is starting to offer, and if there wasn’t this academic hospital that’s now emerging, it wouldn’t be near as interesting a place to go,” Olson said. “We’ve decided this is going to be an academic centre where we do a lot or research and we also treat everything as a full-service cancer centre we can be proud of. That really attracts good oncologists because they don’t feel they are doing something that’s inferior than someone in a big city.” Olson especially likes the centralized team approach the northern clinic will take, with medical oncologists who handle chemotherapy working side-by-side with radiation oncologists who oversee radiation treatments. That, he said, lends itself to easily-arranged consultations with doctors, surgeons, nurses and support staff. “Where we work right now in Vancouver it’s very segregated, it’s very difficult for me to go find a medical oncologist and I never talk to their nurses, and I don’t think that’s the healthiest way to do things,” Olson said. “I think having a very integrated approach is innovative, something you can uniquely do in a smaller centre.” – Ted Clarke Citizen staff


Ride for Dad

Raising awareness “If I had gotten checked this time last year, I wouldn’t be planning my own funeral today,” said Charlie Pester, Kingston, Ontario educator and role model, to Garry Janz, president of the Motorcycle Ride for Dad. When Garry first heard the words of Charlie Pester in 2000, he was moved to do something to raise awareness and funds for the fight against prostate cancer. Along with Byron Smith, Janz organized the Motorcycle Ride for Dad in Ottawa. That first ride involved 80 motorcyclists and raised more than $20,000 for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center. From its humble beginnings, the Ride for Dad has grown to 30 rides across Canada including the northern B.C. chapter that was formed in 2011. Based out of Prince


George, the northern B.C. chapter held its first ride last spring. More than 100 riders came together to raise more than $10,000 for local prostate cancer research and awareness initiatives. The ride is a day of fun for a serious cause. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed men’s cancer. Astonishingly, one in seven Canadian men will be affected in their lifetime, making prostate cancer the second leading cause of cancer death amongst men in Canada. This need not be the case – 90 per cent of prostate cancer cases can be successfully treated if caught early. Men over 50 need to talk to their doctor about getting checked. Cont’d on page 29

April ‘12

Submitted photos

Cont’d from page 28

“This ride attracts motorcycle enthusiasts from our region that want to give back to their community and help fight prostate cancer, and non-riders have gotten involved by becoming champions, making donations, or by volunteering,” says Deryl Truman, co-chair of the northern B.C. chapter located in Prince George. “With the support of our community we raised more than $10,000 in 2011. We can’t wait to do it again this year so we can raise even more.” Come out and support Motorcycle Ride for Dad on June 16 at the Kinsman Hall on 5th Avenue in Prince George Get involved in the fight against prostate cancer – ride, volunteer, donate or sponsor. For more information on the Motorcycle Ride For Dad, visit: or visit us on Facebook at Northernbc Ridefordad.

April ‘12


Staff Profile

Vanessa Swanson

What is your job title? Fort St. John lead for Primary Health Care Integration and North Peace Community Care program manager (programs include home care nursing, home support, social work, occupational therapy, Supported Independent Living Program, long term care case management, and assisted living). Describe your family life. I have been married for

15 years and have four children, aged 10 to 14. We are a very busy family, with all four kids playing hockey, and my husband coaching two of our kids plus playing on his own team. Our daughter is also in Irish dance and one of our sons is in cadets, and the three boys play lacrosse in the off season. My hobbies include picking up and dropping off, plus cooking and cleaning. Just kidding. My husband and I are both actually quite busy as well finishing off our master’s degrees.

Where did you grow up? I grew up in the Cowichan

Submitted photo

Valley on Vancouver Island.

Where do you currently live? I currently live in Fort

north, and as a nurse I am lucky to be able to find work almost anywhere.

What brought you to your community? As my

What’s the most rewarding part about living where you do? The people are the best part of living in

St. John.

husband is a forester, you can imagine that we had to move around quite a bit in our early years to find employment in a declining forest industry. The Peace region’s natural resources is what originally brought us

the north. Friendly faces, people who look you in the eye and smile as you walk down the street are things that you will find in the north that you may not find elsewhere.

What adjustments did you face once you settled into your community? I have to admit that I was homesick at first for my friends and family. However, the many wonderful people I have met living here has certainly helped ease the transition.

What made you want to enter your field?

A passion for providing care for people.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

As a manager, I see my role as one of service. I am serving both the people who need high-quality health care, and serving the staff members who are providing that care. Cont’d on page 31 30 — A HEALTHIER YOU

April ‘12

Submitted photo

Cont’d from page 30

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I wish I could keep all people happy all of the time. As this is mathematically impossible, the challenge is keeping the delicate balance going with human resources, client demands, and fiscal responsibility.

What do you do to cope with stress?

Time with friends and family keeps me balanced.

What is your favourite hobby/activity?

Not that I have a lot of free time, but I like to walk my dog and cheer on my kids at hockey.

Who has been the most influential person in your life? My mom. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself still living in the north, providing exceptional health services for northerners.

What are your ultimate life goals? My professional goals are to contribute to making our community as healthy as possible. My personal goals include raising my children to be healthy and responsible adults, and to continue working in a satisfying career, until it is time for a retirement filled with travel, family time, and leisure activities. April ‘12




pays off

for nursing grads


uture nursing graduates at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) will have a boost thanks to collaboration and open lines of communication between UNBC and Northern Health. In December 2011, it was identified that a number of nursing graduates from UNBC would have liked more hands-on training in medical/surgery departments to make them more job-ready. In medical/surgical departments, students can strengthen their clinical judgment and skills in assessing patients and setting priorities. They can also further develop hands-on skills such as wound care and using nasogastric tubes. Therefore, in January 2012 it was decided that all third-year UNBC nursing students would complete their summer practicums in communities with medical/


surgery departments. This will apply to students in 2012 and potentially beyond. Dr. Martha MacLeod, chair of UNBC’s School of Nursing, says students receive medical/surgical training in their first two years, and it was originally planned that students would complete their third-year practicums in medical/surgical departments. However, due to student requests for third-year practicums and a lack of preceptorships (clinical mentoring arrangements) in medical/ surgical areas, about 60 per cent of students had their third-year practicums in non-medical/surgical areas or rural hospitals. “In medical/surgical areas students can learn to get themselves organized and hone their confidence, so it’s an integration of all of the skills they have learned,” said Dr. MacLeod, “We saw a need for more graduates to be prepared to work in medical/surgical areas, so the change was made.” MacLeod is impressed with the manner in which Northern Health was forthcoming with the need for these skills to be strengthened, and the fact that the relationship is strong enough to have open and honest dialogue. Cont’d on page 33

April ‘12

have worked together and responded to She also recogtheir needs.” nizes the hard work Fourth-year nursfrom both UNBC and ing student Daniel Northern Health to Polysou feels he’s ensure these placewell-prepared for ments could be medical/surgical made. work due to his “For a nursing Daniel Polysou, third-year practicum education program fourth year nursing student, placement in Terto change on a dime Karen Smith, UNBC nursing lab race, coupled with like this is highly instructor, and Gwen Keeler, UNBC an employed student unusual,” she said. nursing local placement coordinator nurse position in “And we had no Submitted photo with a patient simulation manikin at UNBC. Prince George. qualms about it; we “I thought it was important to get a small-town aphave data from both sides – from the school of nursing proach to it because it seems to be less formal, especially and from Northern Health – and we could do the planthe Terrace emergency department, as it is small, with ning together.” “It’s important to maintain a collaborative relationship seven beds. I split my time between the ICU too,” said Polysou. between the health authority and the academic instituThe UNBC nursing program and Northern Health tions, especially when areas for change are identified,” have a long-standing history of collaboration, leading to said Andrea Starck, Northern Health’s lead professional approximately 80 per cent of graduates from the UNBC practice (Nursing). “Past and future nursing graduates nursing program remaining to work in the north. will be excited to learn that UNBC and Northern Health Cont’d from page 32

April ‘12


Medical Imaging

The Importance of

Medical Imaging


uclear medicine, X-rays, CT scans, MRI imaging, ultrasounds – if you’re a patient, the world of medical radiation imaging is often confusing and misunderstood. For doctors, the information these tests reveal is critical in patient care and in many cases, lifesaving. Each is a diagnostic tool that requires not only specialized equipment, but the services of a well-trained technologist. The people who take those images aren’t doctors, and they aren’t nurses or lab technologists. But they are an essential part of the medical team at the University Hospital of Northern B.C. (UHNBC) and all health-care systems in the north. “We have a wide variety of people who are skilled and specialized in what they do and it’s important to highlight what they do and what a contribution they are to the health team,” said Lorraine Guillet, the chief technologist at UHNBC. “Across Canada, what we find is patients don’t realize how specialized technologists are and what we do. They are just such a crucial part of the running of a hospital. That CT scan gives definitive diagnosis in treating the patient, it’s so heavily relied on by physicians, but the patients don’t really understand that.” What patients do understand is that some diagnostic tests take a long time to schedule. Part of the reason for


the backlog of patients, Guillet said, is the time it actually takes for some scans. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, for example can last up to two hours for one patient. It all depends on how many different views of body structure are required. Guillet said UHNBC averages about 18 MRI scans per day. “There are only so many we can do in a day, and our technologists try very hard to get as many patients as they can during the day,” said Guillet. “There are only three MRI technologists in all of Northern Health. It’s such a specialty, and it’s the same with nuclear medicine, there are three full-time people but now we have the benefit of having a casual nuclear medicine tech in town. UHNBC, Terrace and Fort St. John are the only nuclear medicine departments in all of Northern Health.” Because they are few in number, when they aren’t at work, medical radiation technologists are never far from their pagers. It’s not that unusual for them to be called to the hospital in the middle of the night to deal with an emergency. In the case of an orthopedic surgeon inserting a rod into a leg bone or pins to repair a hip, those doctors rely on an X-ray technologist to provide live images during surgery. “It’s such a broad spectrum of the things we do,” said Guillet. “An X-ray technologist is in the emergency room, they’re in the operating room, the nursery and the ICU. It’s an interesting job and it constantly changes with technology.”

April ‘12

Types of medical imaging MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Utilizes a strong magnet and radio waves to produce the image, usually to look at soft tissue. Can help diagnose tumours, diseases, irregularities in the spine and soft tissue abnormalities. Especially helpful for examining knees, shoulders, hips elbows and wrists. UHNBC has the province’s only MRI unit north of Kamloops.

CT or CAT (Computerized Axial Tomography) scan

Used for vascular studies to find blood clots and to help doctors plan surgery. Live images guide surgeons when taking tissue samples. Effective in imaging of very young patients, whose inability to keep still would blur an X-ray. Provides an alternate means of testing if a colonoscopy is inconclusive. Also helpful in cardiac studies. UHNBC has two CT scanners.

X-ray technologists are on the front-line in trauma cases involving injuries to the chest, pelvis and neck areas to check for soft tissue damage, bleeding and fractures. They also assist doctors in surgery to help show them where to insert screws in broken femurs, to help guide lasers used to dissolve kidney stones, or to show where to place a pacemaker to cure an irregular heartbeat. The technologist also uses portable X-ray machines to treat babies or people who are too sick to be sent to the radiography lab.

Special procedures technology

Technologists perform joint injections, remove body fluids using suction (aspiration) and provide images that help doctors insert catheters into a patient’s cardiovascular system. They also help find the target area for angioplasty, a technique in which a tiny balloon is inserted into a blocked artery and inflated to remove plaque or fatty deposits, causing the obstruction and improve blood flow. – Ted Clarke Citizen staff

Nuclear medicine

Patients are given a radioactive tracer, either through injection, swallowing or inhalation, to determine the cause of a medical problem, based on how it affects the function of a specific organ, tissue or bone. The test can detect if a heart is pumping normally or if brain cells are functioning. It can also determine blood volume, kidney and lung function, bone density, vitamin absorption and can detect small bone fractures and tissue lesions. It can also identify sites of seizures, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. After the injection, the patient is positioned in front of a gamma-ray detector camera which produces a diagnostic image. The radioactive element involved is designed with a short half-life and decays rapidly so no radiation is left behind in the body. The camera can produce a cross-section of affected areas and threedimensional images.

X-ray imaging

X-ray machines emit electromagnetic radiation and where body structures are dense, like bone material, and the images are recorded digitally or on film. Bone appears and metal structures appear white in the image. Structures that contain air appear black and soft tissues (muscle, fat and fluid) appear gray. Body organs are visible and doctors use X-rays to diagnose a wide variety of diseases. Dyes injected in specific areas make blood vessels visible. X-rays can also be administered through the mouth or bowel to test for gastrointestinal disorders. April ‘12



April ‘12

Healthier You - April, 2012  
Healthier You - April, 2012  

Northern BC’s health information magazine