Rural Doctors’ Chair in Rural Health recruits three Rural Scholars

Submitted by Dr. Dave Snadden, Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health

Rural Scholars, left to right: Dr. Marisa Collins; Dr. Dietrich Furstenburg; Dr. Tandi Wilkinson

While there are many research questions in rural practice, and a lot of interest from rural practitioners in pursuing rurally relevant research, the pressures of clinical care result in little time spent thinking about and developing research ideas. Yet rural research is becoming increasingly important as our health systems evolve – there is a need to obtain relevant evidence for rural practice in rural areas, as policies and protocols based on urban research frequently don¹t translate well to rural practice.

The aim of the Rural Scholars Program is to allow rural clinicians to develop their research interests by creating time for research activities, and by providing supports such as: specific research training; mentorship and research support to develop relevant projects; and, implementation and dissemination. The term research within the context of the Rural Scholars Program is broad, and takes into consideration the scholarship of education, integration, engagement and policy as relevant to rural practice, along with the traditional scholarship of discovery.

In addition to engaging in research activities, Rural Scholars will work with UBC undergraduates and postgraduates to increase exposure of rural practice to students and residents, and to act as rural role models.

Following a selection process this summer, three Rural Scholars have been appointed. We are proud to announce that Dr. Marisa Collins, Dr. Dietrich Furstenburg, and Dr. Tandi Wilkinson will be the first Rural Scholars in the program. The three clinicians will shortly begin in their positions – please look out for them at UBC and RCCbc conferences and presentations.

The Rural Scholars Program is supported through the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC) as part of the distributed infrastructure supports for the Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health.


Dr. Marisa Collins – recently moved after providing sexual health care in Whistler for almost 20 years.

Marisa is a rural family physician and the Provincial Medical Director for Options for Sexual Health [LINK TO:].

In addition to a practice focus in sexual and reproductive health, Marisa teaches mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT). Her current research explorations are the barriers to provider delivery of and patient access to medical abortion in rural settings.

Marisa’s previous scholarly activities include development and evaluation of an outreach Chlamydia screening program, development of UBC CPD’s Guidelines For Support of Accredited and Certified Activities, and supporting UBC residents in the publication of their residency research projects. She enjoys creating new CPD programs, and both spearheaded and chaired UBC CPD’s Sexual Health Conference in 2015 and 2017.

When she isn’t working, Marisa likes to bake sourdough bread, walk her dogs and meditate. She is challenging herself (and her neighbours) by learning to play the piano. Marisa and her husband recently transitioned from operating a hazelnut farm in Pemberton to a tiny apartment on Vancouver Island.

Dr. Dietrich Furstenburg – Quesnel, BC

Dietrich is a rural family physician with interests in emergency medicine, obstetrics, medical administration, and rural medical teaching and assessment.

He is interested in exploring: the difference in operative outcomes between Enhanced Surgical Skills (ESS) family physicians and specialist providers; whether family physician residents are being provided with “fit for purpose ER training”; and, physician engagement – specifically with health authorities and local facilities.

Dietrich is hoping that the Rural Scholars Program will help develop his research career and support his work as he undertakes his International Master of Health Leadership at McGill. He is also interested in excelling as a preceptor, and in promoting rural medicine.

During his spare time, he enjoys spending quality time with his young family in tropical places, as well as reading new academic articles and enjoying high quality CME courses. He confesses to listening to Taylor Swift on the way to work, and Coldplay on the way home, and still assiduously avoids stepping on cracks or lines on the hospital floor.

Dr. Tandi Wilkinson – Nelson, BC

Tandi is a rural family physician and a Medical Director for UBC Rural CPD who is interested in rural family practice, emergency medicine, point of care ultrasound (POCUS), and medical education. Her research interest is in the area of physician wellness.

Tandi is the medical lead for the UBC CPD HOUSE course, and also led the UBC Rural CPD team that produced the UBC Rural Emergency Medicine Needs Assessment.  A paper from this work was published this month in Rural and Remote Health.

Tandi enjoys wilderness and/or adventure travel, skiing, art, and great food. She’s recently relocated to BC after some years in Yellowknife, where she lived in a floating house on Great Slave Lake. She loves remote medicine and has worked in Inuit communities and served as an MD on an Arctic ship.