Patty Wellborn

Email: patty-wellborn@news.ok.ubc.ca


 

Alexander (Sandy) Wright graduates this week as the first UBC medical student to complete their MD/PhD at one of the Faculty of Medicine’s distributed medical programs.

Alexander (Sandy) Wright graduates this week as the first UBC medical student to complete their MD/PhD at one of the Faculty of Medicine’s distributed medical programs.

UBC student earns medical degree and PhD at the same time

Alexander (Sandy) Wright, a newly graduated doctor from the Southern Medical Program (SMP), has seen his share of ‘firsts’ while attending UBC.

Wright was one of the first 32 students admitted as part of the SMP’s inaugural class—a group that began their studies at UBC Okanagan in January 2012.

“Showing up in Kelowna as part of the first class—the faculty, staff and community embraced us whole-heartedly,” says Wright. “It has been a real privilege to participate in the new program. The opportunities and experiences provided to us were unparalleled.”

It was during his first year of medical school that Wright’s passion and background in research led him to pursue enrolment with the Faculty of Medicine’s combined MD/PhD program. The seven-year intensive program offers students the opportunity to combine their medical education with demanding scientific training.

Wright graduates this week as the first UBC medical student to complete their MD/PhD at one of the Faculty of Medicine’s distributed medical programs.

For his PhD work, Wright teamed up with School of Health and Exercise Sciences Professor Paul van Donkelaar. Together the pair explored the effects of sports-related concussions on various aspects of brain physiology, including control of brain blood flow. Wright worked extensively with UBC Okanagan's Heat Athletics program and local junior athletic teams for data collection. Their work has shaped the latest international guidelines for concussion management.

Coincidentally, it was while studying concussions that Wright suffered a severe concussion playing in a recreational hockey game in Kelowna. His post-concussion symptoms sidelined him from his research and studies for nearly seven months.

Ultimately, he views the experience of this injury as a pivotal learning experience for both his research and his future medical career.

“Going through such a complicated recovery process not only gave me new perspectives into post-concussion syndrome, but also a better understanding of mental health in general,” says Wright. “My physical symptoms eventually settled, but the emotional symptoms took much longer to subside. Having this experience has genuinely helped me better understand and communicate with my patients and contribute to research.”

After nearly eight years in Kelowna, the newly minted doctor now heads off to Saskatoon and the University of Saskatchewan for residency training in ophthalmology. He heads to the Land of the Living Skies with his wife and two young daughters for the next five years—parenthood was another first during his time at UBC.

“Ophthalmology is such a beautiful intersection between medicine and surgery,” says Wright. “Amongst other things, the eye-based manifestations of systemic disease and nuances of the eye-brain axis provide great intellectual stimulation, while the procedures are delicate and precise. Above all, I look forward to the immense impact we can have on patients’ quality of life. The discipline is the perfect blend of all facets of my personality and interests.”

Similar to what drew him to the smaller class size at the SMP, Wright joins the Saskatchewan program that welcomes only one new ophthalmology resident each year.

“There will be no shortage of hands-on opportunities,” says Wright. “Ultimately, there is no substitute for experience in learning how to be excellent at your craft.”

As for his long-term plans, a return to Kelowna might be in the future.

“I like to set goalposts off in the distance at 10-to 20-year intervals and aim towards them,” adds Wright. “A lot can change over the next five-to-seven years of training, but I would really value the opportunity to return to the Okanagan to practice and to contribute to medical education at the SMP.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.

Students at Revelstoke Secondary School learn about the field of midwifery during the 2018 roadshow.

Students at Revelstoke Secondary School learn about the field of midwifery during the 2018 roadshow.

Students in nursing, medicine, pharmacy, dental hygiene talk about career options

With a focus on inspiring the next generation of healthcare professionals, the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is visiting rural communities across BC and the Yukon.

Each spring, the roadshow brings together a multidisciplinary group of healthcare students from post-secondary institutions from across BC to showcase their careers to rural high school students. Led by UBC medical students with the Island, Southern and Northern Medical Programs, the roadshow visits the following communities later this month:

  • Kootenay Roadshow (Cranbrook, Invermere, Golden) – May 5 to 11
  • Island Roadshow (Port Hardy, Port McNeill) – May 5 to 11
  • Northern Roadshow (Chetwynd, Mackenzie, Vanderhoof, Fort St. James) – May 12 to 18
  • Yukon Roadshow (Whitehorse, Dawson City, Atlin) – May 26 to June 1

At each high school visit, post-secondary students representing medicine, nursing, physical therapy, midwifery, pharmacy, dental hygiene, respiratory therapy and cardiology technology will present hands-on demonstrations and answer questions about their chosen careers.

The roadshow is a provincial initiative with trips taking place annually across the province. This year marks the introduction of a Vancouver Island-based trip.

“The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was born at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) a decade ago. It has grown from a small pilot project into a significant provincial initiative to address the rural healthcare workforce,” says Dr. Sean Maurice, senior lab instructor with UNBC’s Northern Medical Program.

“The Roadshow team collaborates broadly with many different provincial partners to run this innovative project. This year, we are for the first time running four different week-long trips, involving 50 healthcare students visiting over 2,000 youth in numerous rural communities. We strive to put healthcare careers into the minds of rural youth, and put rural practice into the minds of healthcare students.”

To learn more, visit: www.unbc.ca/healthcare-travelling-roadshow.

Background

  • The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived at UNBC as a grassroots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. The provincial initiative has grown to include four regional trips. Since its inception in 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8,500 high school students in 43 communities throughout BC.
  • The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is delivered in partnership with the UNBC, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Northern Medical Programs Trust, Rural Education Action Plan, Interior Health Authority, and Vancouver Island Health Authority.
UBC medical student Maegan Stuart.

UBC medical student Maegan Stuart.

UBC medical student helps address food security in Kimberley

A UBC medical student has helped tackle the problem of food security in a rural BC town.

Access to healthy foods is a common challenge for vulnerable populations in small communities like Kimberley, explains Dr. Ilona Hale, clinical assistant professor with the Southern Medical Program (SMP).

Hale, who is also chair of the Healthy Kimberley Society, says people often rely on food banks and other community programs to subsidize their household needs. But food options at those places can be limited. Food banks in smaller communities typically need to balance limited financial resources with a lack of commercial-scale refrigerated space to house fresh produce, she explains.

“Most food bank items are non-perishable, canned and dry foods,” says Hale. “Certain groups don’t have the financial means to regularly access healthy, fresh foods.”

This past spring, SMP student Maegan Stuart reached out to Hale to see how she could help address this problem as part of her training to become a doctor.

“A substantial amount of food thrown out at grocery stores is fresh fruit and vegetables that don’t look nice,” says Stuart. “The idea of a food rescue project is to divert perfectly-edible food from the landfill to programs that feed the community.”

At the time, Stuart was in Kimberley consulting with potential user groups including the food bank, school lunch programs, churches and seniors’ organizations. Following a similar model of food recovery projects in other small communities in BC and the United Kingdom, Stuart helped kick-start the process of securing suitable storage space, coordinating refrigeration equipment and recruiting volunteers. The final stop was the local Save-On-Foods grocery store where the local manager eagerly offered to donate all of their excess produce, dairy and other perishables.

“Liability is the most commonly cited reason for grocery stores declining to participate,” says Stuart. “Fortunately, the Food Donor Encouragement Act in BC protects companies from product liability when donating food. Once we explained how they are protected and could potentially save thousands of dollars in disposal costs, they were fully on board.”

At the end of August, the Healthy Kimberley Society secured a $95,000 grant from the Columbia Basin Trust to hire a part-time coordinator and launch the project in the fall.

“Maegan worked really hard to pull all the necessary stakeholders together and build a successful business case,” adds Hale. “Although we have been thinking about this kind of project for some time, Maegan’s work really helped us get it going.”

Now into her third year of medical school, Stuart is currently training at Kelowna General Hospital.

“I have a strong interest in preventative medicine and supporting long-lasting change,” says Stuart. “This project will help improve lives on a long-term basis and that means everything to me.”

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Experts have created an evidence-based tool that can help coaches be sure they are offering quality programs to parasport athletes. Photo credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee

Experts have created an evidence-based tool that can help coaches be sure they are offering quality programs to parasport athletes. Photo credit: Canadian Paralympic Committee

Quality, not just quantity, important for building parasport programs

While blueprints are essential for any construction project, a team of researchers—working hand in hand with the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC)—say a clear blueprint is vital when it comes to establishing sporting programs including people with disabilities.

University of British Columbia researcher Kathleen Martin Ginis, along with a team of scientists from several universities and disability sport leaders from across North America, has been examining the quality of sport-related activities for people with disabilities.

The opportunity for someone with a disability to participate in an organized sport continues to grow each year in Canada, says Martin Ginis, who runs the Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP) from UBC’s Okanagan campus. However, she says, not all programs are created equal.

“While it is important to support sporting organizations in their quest to offer people with disabilities opportunities to participate in sport, it may also be time to start looking at the quality of these opportunities,” says Martin Ginis.

Research has proven that it’s vital for people with disabilities to be active, says fellow researcher Amy Latimer-Cheung, a Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity Promotion and Disability at Queen’s University.

“Sport is proven to promote physical activity among individuals with disabilities and has the potential to empower people, create a sense of community and redefine personal identities.”

To increase the likelihood of realizing these benefits, the quality of parasport is now being addressed.

“Quality experience should stand at the core of all sport,” explains Latimer-Cheung. “Participants should feel that they belong and have a choice. They should feel challenged, successful and focused. At the same time, they should find their activities meaningful.”

The research team suggests that positive experiences like these will help people stick with sport and achieve a range of personal and performance benefits. Further effects of more people active in sport also include a stronger system across Canada to develop more high-performance athletes.

Along these lines, the team has introduced an evidence-informed tool called the Blueprint for Building Quality Participation in Sport for Children, Youth, and Adults with a Disability that can help sport organizations determine if they are offering quality opportunities.

The blueprint uses up-to-date research to provide tools for building quality participation in sport programs specifically for people with a disability.

“Sport administrators, coaches and policy-makers who focus on sport for people with a disability must make quality of their programs a priority,” says Martin Ginis. “They now have an evidence-informed tool to help them in their quest.”

CPC’s CEO Karen O’Neill says the organization, alongside its sport partners, will look for the best ways to incorporate the blueprint to advance the quality of opportunities available for all para-athletes.

“This is important work and we applaud and support Kathleen Martin Ginis and the entire team of researchers for their efforts in improving parasport development,” O’Neill adds. “We know the incredible positive impact sport participation can have on the lives of people with disabilities. Offering quality experiences increases the chance of creating both lifelong and high-performance athletes, which ultimately supports the development of a strong and sustainable Paralympic sport system in Canada.”

The research introduces the Quality Parasport Participation Framework, which centres on six experiential elements that act as the ‘building blocks’ of quality parasport experiences. Under those building blocks, the team identified 25 conditions covering issues like physical environments, social environments, and activities that promote quality experiences. The ultimate goal is to provide the best experience for all involved.

“Our research, and the accompanying blueprint, emphasize that a multi-pronged approach is required to ensure a quality experience for all participants,” adds Martin Ginis.

This research, partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Disability Participation Project, was recently published in the journal Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Group of seniors walking in park

Study finds those with hearing loss, much more isolated than their peers

A pilot program encouraging older adults to get walking to improve their health has revealed unexpected details to researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Charlotte Jones, a professor with the Southern Medical Program based at UBC Okanagan, introduced a program called Walk and Talk for your Life four years ago. The program was developed at the request of, and in collaboration with, more than 300 low-income older adults. The community-based program, offered to seniors at a variety of residences, introduced walking and exercising programs that encouraged companionship.

While established to help keep seniors active, the primary goal was to combat loneliness and isolation and to improve fitness among older adults, explains Jones.

“Multiple studies have demonstrated that people who are lonely and socially isolated are at higher risk for a number of psychosocial and physical disorders including dementia, depression, physical decline, falls, hospitalization and premature mortality,” says Jones.

As Canada’s population ages, the issue of isolated seniors has mushroomed. Jones says each year more seniors are living alone, and this has inspired caregivers to solve the issue of secluded seniors. Jones has since held several different Walk and Talk programs, with different themes, involving more than 200 elderly people. Free to all participants, the program emphasises socialization and maintaining or improving functional fitness.

While the programs have been successful with many participants reporting feeling healthier, the researchers became aware of a new dimension.

“We sought to confirm our suspicions about an important subgroup of our participants, realizing that the quantitative data we had wasn’t telling the whole story,” Jones says. “It dawned on us that for those people with hearing loss in the Walk and Talk program, their loneliness didn’t decrease at all. Clearly, we needed to find out from them what to do to address their needs.”

According to a 2015 Canadian Health Measures Survey, 78 per cent of adults aged 60 to 79 years have measured hearing loss, and more than 77 per cent of those have undiagnosed hearing loss. While hearing aids and auditory rehabilitation may help combat isolation, Jones says it does not address declines in functional fitness like gait speed, musculoskeletal decline and increased risk for falls.

This opened another avenue of research for Jones and her team. Students from the Southern Medical Program, the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, School of Social Work, and psychology, biology and microbiology departments held a series of one-on-one interviews with seniors who had a self-reported hearing loss.  These participants identified several aspects of the program that could be adapted so the program would address their hearing-loss needs. The next step was the Walk, Talk and Listen study that included exercise, socialization and auditory rehabilitation in a more conducive acoustic setting.

This second pilot project involved seniors with self-identified hearing loss who participated in group exercise classes at the local YMCA along with auditory rehabilitation which included education about hearing loss, hearing technology and improved communication skills.

“Most of our participants said they enjoyed making new social connections and felt improved feelings of belonging and an increased motivation to improve their health and well-being,” says Jones. “By far, they felt the group socialization, student interactions and physical activity aspects were the most gratifying and beneficial parts of the program.”

The big takeaway, says Jones, is to remember to tailor all physical activity interactions for the target audience, in this case, people with hearing loss.

“There is a definite need for sustained programming in order to decrease loneliness and social isolation and its downstream negative influence on psychosocial and the physical well-being and mortality of our rapidly growing population of older adults.”

Jones’s research was recently published in the Aging and Mental Health journal.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Recruiting the next generation of rural healthcare professionals

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow brings a multidisciplinary group of healthcare students and graduates from a number of provincial post-secondary institutions to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students.

Led by Southern Medical Program students based at UBC Okanagan, the 2018 roadshow visits Sicamous, Revelstoke and Nakusp from May 6 to 12.

Students and graduates representing medicine, nursing, physical therapy, midwifery, pharmacy, dental hygiene, respiratory therapy and cardiology technology will present hands-on demonstrations at the following high schools:

  • Eagle River Secondary School (Sicamous): Monday, May 7
    Presentations times are 10:40 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., 12:45 to 2:05 p.m. and 2:10 to 3:30 p.m.
  • Revelstoke Secondary School: Wednesday, May 9
    Presentation times are 10:15 to 11:35 a.m., 12:25 to 1:45 p.m. and 1:55 to 3:10 p.m.
  • Nakusp Secondary School: Friday, May 11
    Presentation times are 10:25 to 11:40 a.m., 12:20 to 1:40 p.m. and 1:45 to 3 p.m.
Students at JL Crowe Secondary in Trail listen to each other’s heartbeat with portable ultrasound devices during the 2017 roadshow.

Students at JL Crowe Secondary in Trail listen to each other’s heartbeat with portable ultrasound devices during the 2017 roadshow.

Background

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow was conceived as a grassroots initiative to address rural healthcare workforce shortages. The provincial initiative has grown to include three regional trips each year in Northern and Interior BC. Since its inception in 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 7,000 high school students in 32 communities throughout BC.

The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow is delivered in partnership with the University of Northern BC, Southern Medical Program based at UBC Okanagan, Northern Medical Programs Trust, Rural Education Action Plan and Interior Health.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Focus will be on how cannabis may affect campus communities

What: Curious about Cannabis: Panel discussion about the impact of the new legislation
Who: UBC Okanagan professors, students and staff
When: Wednesday, February 21, from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Where: UNC 200 Ballroom, University Centre, 3272 University Way, UBC Okanagan

As the legalization of recreational cannabis comes closer to reality, conversations have begun to focus on the implications for campus communities.

UBC is hosting a panel discussion with students, faculty and staff about the pending changes; and how the new legislation will affect many different groups of people. The panel will share different perspectives and seek direction for future sessions on this topic.

Panelists include:

  • Nursing students Janine Mintz and Daniella Mitchell. Mintz is also a member of the Voice Campus Health Project
  • Graduate student Michelle Thiessen, chair of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • Ian Mitchell, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Southern Medical Program, UBC
  • Zachary Walsh, associate professor of psychology, Irving K Barber School of Arts and Sciences, UBC Okanagan
  • Shelley Kayfish, director of Campus Operations and Risk Management and a member of UBC’s Marijuana Policy Development Committee
  • Michael Serebriakov, Office of the University Counsel and member of UBC’s Marijuana Policy Development Committee

While this panel discussion will highlight what the implications may have on the campus community, this event is open to the public. It is free to attend, but pay parking is in effect.

To attend in person or via webinar, please register at: curiouscannabis.eventbrite.ca

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.

Community-based prevention and management are key goals

The UBC Faculty of Medicine Southern Medical Program is launching a new research program aimed at progressing the research front when it comes to the prevention and management of chronic diseases.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, three in five Canadians over the age of 20 live with a chronic illness and four in five are at risk. In Canada, 67 per cent of all deaths each year are caused by four major chronic conditions: cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic respiratory disease.

Based at UBC Okanagan, the newly-introduced Chronic Disease Prevention Program (CDPP) will harness the strengths of researchers from both Okanagan and Vancouver campuses and Interior Health (IH) to support new discoveries and knowledge translation in this ever-pressing domain. Kathleen Martin Ginis, a professor with UBC Faculty of Medicine and UBC Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development, is the founding CDPP director.

“Our end goal is to foster research excellence that’s responsive to the healthcare needs of our region’s communities both urban and rural, and advances the international research field,” says Martin Ginis.

The first step, she explains, is to recruit an interdisciplinary team of clinical and implementation scientists and community health researchers who will work under the CDPP umbrella. Martin Ginis also plans to establish new partnerships with health professionals and community-health organizations throughout the IH region.

“Our collective efforts will focus on new investigations in the areas of physical activity and nutrition/healthy eating, and diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurotrauma and neurodegenerative diseases, and implementing those research findings into the community,” she adds.

To bolster the program’s development, Martin Ginis will serve as the inaugural Reichwald Family UBC Southern Medical Program Chair in Preventive Medicine. Established by the Reichwald family, the endowed chair will accelerate the development of an academic research program that advances our understanding of chronic disease and establishes new community-based prevention programs.

“The growing prevalence of chronic diseases within our region’s health populations has brought prevention and management to the front lines of healthcare delivery,” says Dr. Allan Jones, regional associate dean, Interior, UBC Faculty of Medicine. “We are deeply committed to contributing to this research arena and directly benefiting the communities where our students, faculty, and researchers train and serve.”

UBC Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis.

UBC Professor Kathleen Martin Ginis.

About Kathleen Martin Ginis

Kathleen Martin Ginis is a professor with UBC Faculty of Medicine Department of Medicine, Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the UBC Okanagan Faculty of Health and Social Development, School of Health and Exercise Sciences. She is the founding director of the Southern Medical Program’s Chronic Disease Prevention Program and inaugural Reichwald Family UBC Southern Medical Program Chair in Preventive Medicine.

Martin Ginis is the founding director of Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Action Canada, a national alliance of community-based organizations and university-based researchers working together to advance physical activity participation in people with spinal cord injury. She is also the principal investigator of the Canadian Disability Participation Project and an ICORD (International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries) principal investigator. Her research studies are some of the first to outline the psychosocial benefits and strategies for increasing physical activity in adults with spinal cord injury.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world. For more visit ok.ubc.ca.