BC Rural Health Awards recognize physician innovation, collaboration to save Fort St John healthcare

RCCbc representatives with 2017 BC Rural Health Award recipients, left to right: Dr. Stuart Johnston (RCCbc); Rural BC Community Award recipients Dr. Danette Dawkins, Mary Severson-Augustine, and Dr. Martin Nobar; Dr. Dave Snadden (Rural Doctors’ UBC Founding Chair in Rural Health); Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Dr. Nicole Ebert; Dr. Kirstie Overhill (RCCbc); Dr. Granger Avery (CMA, RCCbc); Dr. Alan Ruddiman (Doctors of BC, RCCbc). Not shown: Rural Innovation Award recipient Dr. Leta Burechailo.

The Rural Coordination Centre of BC recognized and feted two British Columbia rural physicians and three organizations in the community of Fort St. John for their accomplishments and contributions to rural medical practice on May 13 at the BC Rural Health Conference held in Prince George, BC.

Dr. Leta Burechailo received the Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine: Innovation for her work with youth in Powell River. Burechailo, a long-time family practitioner, transitioned to preventative and primary care work in adolescent medicine. As physician lead at Powell River’s Youth Clinic, she developed an interest in sexual health promotion and team-based care models for at-risk youth. She became a certified sexual health educator, with a focus on youth and parents, and led a multi-partner project – supported by the Powell River Division of Family Practice and funded by a provincial Innnovation Fund Grant – that aimed to enrich and connect community-based conversations about adolescent sexual health. The project offered youth focus groups, interdisciplinary education sessions, and resources to assist parents, schools, and youth-serving organizations to provide sexual health education to youth, and additionally supported physicians and nurse practitioners to provide comprehensive adolescent care.

Dr. Nicole Ebert received the Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine: Lifetime Achievement for her contributions to care in Vanderhoof and northern BC over the past 20 years. Her medical practice includes office, emergency, hospital, obstetrics, and surgery, and she also serves as a preceptor for the rural residency program within the UBC Department of Family Practice. She has held multiple leadership and administrative roles both locally and regionally including a recent three year term as the Medical Lead of the Northern Health Elder Services Program. Ebert has a passion to improve the care of rural patients and has dedicated many hours towards collaborative and integrative system changes locally, regionally and provincially. She is actively involved in the Rural Physician Mentoring Program, and  combines her passion for travel and medicine through service provision during medical/surgical missions.

Outside of practice, Ebert works on community health and wellness projects, teaching ‘Ask Your Doctor’ health sessions at the high school, facilitating Advanced Care Planning sessions and working with the municipality on senior housing issues. She helped establish a local speed skating club and has served as a club coach for the past 12 years, winning the Via Sport Grassroots Coach of the Year Award in 2014.

The Rural BC Community Award recognized the North Peace Division of Family Practice/Northern Health/City of Fort St. John as joint recipients for their collaborative handling of the 2013 primary care crisis in Fort St. John. The North Peace Division of Family Practice reached out to collaborate with local physicians, Northern Health, the City of Fort St. John, surrounding municipality representatives, the Fort St. John health care action group, local MLA Pat Pimm, and the Ministry of Health. This group brought ideas, resources, and a shared vision in order to develop both short- and long-term innovative strategies that aligned with two key priority themes:

  • Recruitment and Retention Strategies – several strategies were used to make Fort St. John more attractive and welcoming to permanent physicians and rural locums, including development of a recruitment video; attendance at medical conferences; development and support for a housing subsidy for Residents by the local municipality; red carpet site visits for prospective GPs and specialists; and, provision of accommodation for locums providing  respite relief for local physicians.
  • Development of New Models of Service Delivery – development and implementation of a new prenatal clinic and a population-based physician compensation model that is expected to enhance recruitment and retention of physicians to the community.

2017 marks the fourth year that RCCbc has recognized BC physicians and communities for their contribution and dedication to rural medical practice with the BC Rural Health Awards (formerly the Awards of Excellence in Rural Medicine). Each year, RCCbc recognizes rural physicians within a themed category (e.g., Rural Opinion Leaders in 2015, Outstanding Mentors in 2014) as well as acknowledging long-term practitioners who – for more than 15 years – have shaped and served their communities. In 2016, RCCbc began honouring the valuable work of interprofessional health care teams in sustaining and/or retaining rural community health services in British Columbia.

The 2017 recipients were selected by a committee consisting of representatives from RCCbc and the University of British Columbia. All honourees received a physical plaque and/or award, along with a $2,500 grant to be used for hosting a community celebration. Monies not spent on the celebration will be used to support local health care and/or medical education in the recipient’s community.

The BC Rural Health Awards are made possible through the generous funding provided by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC).  The JSC is a joint collaboration between the BC government and the Doctors of BC that provides policy oversight as well as funding for rural physician programs to increase recruitment and retention of doctors in British Columbia.

If  you are interested in nominating a physician or a BC rural community for a BC Rural Health Award, please download the 2018 award criteria and nomination form here. All award nominations must be accompanied by a letter of support. The theme for 2018 is Indigenous Health. If you have any questions about the 2018 award, please contact Sharon Mah at smah@rccbc.ca.