Warren Brock

Communications Manager

Southern Medical Program
Office: Reichwald Health Sciences Centre
Phone: 250.807.8601
Email: warren.brock@ubc.ca


Name: Dr. Joshua Nero, SMP 2015

Tell us about your current practice:

I currently have a busy gastroenterology practice in Kamloops, BC. I see a wide range of patients, ranging from those with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis to those with inflammatory bowel disease or functional GI disorders. I also respond to emergencies in the hospital on call including acute GI bleeds and removal of foreign bodies.

Fondest memory with the SMP:

Singing and doing a skit in our Halloween costumes at the Kelowna Medical Society party, and then seeing my family medicine preceptor play in a rock band right after us.

Best words of advice you received during your training:

If you always put the patient first, it is difficult to be in the wrong.

SMP Student Janine Olsen

Student Name: Janine Olsen, SMP Class of 2021

Supervisor Name: Dr. Christine Voss, investigator, Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management

Funder: Southern Medical Program

Tell us about your research project:

The overall project aims to determine the quality of current pediatric diabetes care in the Interior Health region by evaluating key indicators in patient data, characterizing the volume and distribution of pediatric type 1 diabetes patients in the IH catchment area in addition to addressing the patient experience and satisfaction. This is a collaborative project undertaken by Interior Health, Child Health BC (CHBC), and the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management through its Clinical Research and Quality Improvement Incubator. The project is utilizing the CHBC Diabetes Tiers of Service report as a foundation for the project goals. During my funding period, I conducted a literature search and wrote a background literature review to provide an overview of the evidence around the multi-factoral determinants of well-managed type 1 diabetes in children and youth. The purpose of my literature review was to inform the next steps of the larger project. I also recently had the opportunity to present my literature review, as well as the larger project goals at the virtual Vancouver Diabetes Research Day. As the larger project enters its next phase, I will be working closely with the IH research department to lead an extensive chart review over the course of the next few months.

What are the results and potential impact?

There is a complex interplay between clinical, environmental, psychosocial, and behavioural factors and their influence on glycemic control. My literature review helped identify how some of these factors relate to each other and affect glycemic control in. In our study, we are specifically planning to evaluate the effects of geography and clinic structures in the IH region on glycemic control and overall disease management by collecting data on specific metrics for diabetes management related to glycemic control, comorbidities, and complications of diabetes. We plan to analyze this data in relation to distance to care, and the various clinic models. The details of this study will contribute to how diabetes care in the IH regon and help identify areas that may need to be enhanced to provide optimal care. This project will inform further provincial work through CHBC regarding the development of quality measures for children with diabetes.

Dr. Marjorie Docherty has been appointed the new Year 1 and 2 Family Practice Lead for the Southern Medical Program (SMP). Dr. Docherty is a Kelowna-based family physician and a Clinical Professor with the UBC Department of Family Practice. Over the past five years, she has served as the SMP’s Rural Family Practice Site Lead and greatly expanded rural education opportunities across the Interior Health region.

Throughout her career, Dr. Docherty has been passionate about supporting preceptors, students, and residents in their family medicine experience. She is a previous longstanding faculty member with the Kelowna Family Practice Residency Program, a past President with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia, and current President of the British Columbia College of Family Physicians. Dr. Docherty has been recognized extensively for her work as a physician and educator including the Rural Family Practice Teaching award, Dr. Peter Grantham award for postgraduate teaching excellence, 2011 BC Family Physician of the Year award from the CCFP, and the inaugural BCCFP Coin of Excellence in Family Medicine for her contributions to family medicine in B.C. In 2019, she was awarded the David M. Bachop Gold Medal for Distinguished Medical Service from the Doctors of BC.

In addition to continuing her role as Rural Family Practice Site Lead, Dr. Docherty will work closely with MEDD 411/412/421/422 Course Directors, the Family Practice Leads for the Vancouver-Fraser Medical Program, Island Medical Program, and Northern Medical Program, and SMP faculty and staff to ensure the goals and objectives of the Year 1 and 2 Family Practice courses are met. /


Rural family physician Dr. Shaun Van Zyl has been recognized by the UBC Faculty of Medicine as a 2020 recipient of the Clinical Faculty Award for Excellence in Community Practice. Dr. Van Zyl, a Clinical Instructor with the Southern Medical Program, was acknowledged for his 14 years of clinical teaching excellence for medical students and residents in the community of Kimberley and at East Kootenay Regional Hospital.

Dr. Van Zyl is a strong advocate of medical education in the region and has inspired numerous students to pursue rural family medicine for their future careers. Dr. Van Zyl is highly regarded as an excellent preceptor, role model, and rural family physician providing patient-centered care. Past students and residents noted his ability to foster a welcoming and supportive learning environment and never missing an opportunity to harness a teachable moment.

“Teaching medical students is real privilege and has been a highlight  of my career,“ says Van Zyl.

Spinal cord injury research at UBC receives $48M grant

An international research team, co-led by researchers at the University of British Columbia, has received a $48 million grant (US$36.5M) for research that aims to improve long-term outcomes for patients with spinal cord injury (SCI).

The five-year project—made possible through a grant from the United States Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)—will revolutionize SCI treatments using innovative, implantable technologies.

Dr. Chris West, associate professor in UBC’s department of cellular and physiological sciences, and Dr. Babak Shadgan, assistant professor in UBC’s department of orthopaedics, are part of the UBC team, led by Dr. Brian Kwon, Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury and professor in the UBC faculty of medicine’s department of orthopaedics

“The innovation potential from combining leading technologies in the field is truly exciting,” says West, an investigator with the Faculty of Medicine’s Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management based at UBC Okanagan. “Collectively, we have the ability to dramatically improve the health outcomes of people living with a spinal cord injury.”

The research team is tackling the entire continuum of care, beginning with the stabilization of acute injury using revolutionary biologic and engineering techniques. They will also address the challenges of chronic paralysis by regenerating lost connections between the patient’s brain and spinal cord through the delivery of neural stem cells to the injury site through a 3D-printed biodegradable scaffold.

With the aim of restoring lost function in people living with SCI, the researchers will also use implantable technologies to electrically stimulate the spinal cord and record signals from the brain to drive voluntary movements.

“There is an enormous need to advance treatment options for people living with spinal cord injury here in Canada and around the world,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of UBC’s faculty of Medicine and Vice President, Health at UBC. “This award represents an unprecedented opportunity to embrace cutting-edge technologies to accelerate the translation of research to patient care.”

The UBC team will lead the project’s acute injury stabilization efforts, developing fully implantable technologies to monitor the status of the injured spinal cord. This information will then be fed into an electrical stimulation system that will control a patient’s blood pressure to optimize delivery of blood and oxygen to the damaged spinal cord tissue.

Their aim is to see this technology implanted into an acutely injured patient with SCI at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) by the final year of the DARPA grant.

“Thanks to the rich multi-disciplinary research and clinical environment at UBC and VGH, we have a unique opportunity to bring scientific discovery to human application,” said Kwon, a spine surgeon at VGH and associate director of clinical research at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD). “We have our sights set high on making a real difference in the lives of those who have been severely affected by spinal cord injury.”

The international research group is being led by Dr. Karen Moxon at the University of California, Davis, in conjunction with the UBC team, Dr. Gregoire Courtine at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and Dr. Mark Tuszynski at the University of California, San Diego.

The project team is comprised of 12 institutions: UBC, UCDavis, UCSD, EPFL, UC San Francisco, University of Calgary, biotech startups Pathonix Innovation Inc., GTX Medical, and Teliatry, non-profit institutions Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering, and Battelle Memorial Institute and a regulatory consultant firm NetValue BioConsulting Inc.

An original version of the story appeared on the Faculty of Medicine website.


Dr. Chris West

New research from the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD) challenges the current standard for managing blood pressure in people with spinal cord injury (SCI).

The findings, published today in Nature Communications, could lead to a change in the way newly injured patients have their blood pressure managed, potentially improving their chances of retaining more function in the long term.

This study, led by ICORD principal investigators Dr. Christopher West and Dr. Brian Kwon, demonstrated that following high-thoracic SCI, the heart’s ability to contract is impaired, leading to reduced spinal cord blood flow. High-thoracic SCI generally refers to injuries that affect the abdominal and lower back muscles and the legs, typically resulting in paraplegia, while arm and hand function may not be affected.

Currently, a patient being treated for acute SCI—a traumatic injury that bruises, partially or fully tears the spinal cord—has their blood pressure managed using drugs that cause their blood vessels to constrict in order to increase blood pressure.

In this study, the research team tested an experimental treatment targeting the heart to beat more powerfully, which increased the amount of blood ejected and also increased blood pressure.

“The key difference is that by targeting the heart, we increase blood pressure by increasing blood flow instead of by causing the blood vessels to narrow,” said West, an investigator with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. “This is important because by increasing blood flow we can deliver more blood and oxygen to the spinal cord which is expected to minimize the damage at the epicentre of the injury, and therefore reduce injury severity and bleeding in the cord, both of which are expected to improve the chances of people with SCI retaining more function.”

This could mean in the future that an individual who is newly admitted to the hospital may receive a different drug during their initial period of post-injury management. If proven to be effective in humans with SCI, it could improve their chances of retaining more function in the long-term.

“It is important to point out that one of the only things we can currently do for acute SCI patients is to try to optimize the supply of blood and oxygen to the injured spinal cord to prevent further secondary injury,” said Kwon. “We need to seek ways of delivering this care in the most effective manner possible, as any bit of spinal cord function that could be improved upon by novel approaches such as this would potentially be very impactful to a patient.”

ICORD is supported by the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

The original version of this story appeared on the ICORD website.

The Southern Medical Program is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Diana Fort as Assistant Dean for the Southern Medical Program (SMP). Dr. Fort is an emergency medicine physician at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and Clinical Assistant Professor with the UBC Department of Emergency Medicine. She has also served as a tremendous leader and preceptor for the SMP over the past four years.

Dr. Fort completed her medical degree at Queen’s University and emergency medicine residency with the University of Southern California and the University of Toronto. Throughout her career, she has advocated and supported medical education and served in numerous key leadership positions for the SMP including Site Education Lead, Undergraduate Education at KGH and Portfolio Site Lead, Student Assessment. Dr. Fort has been an excellent preceptor for SMP students and UBC residents and assisted with numerous OSCE examinations at the Clinical Academic Campus. Currently, she is in the process of completing a Clinical Educator Fellowship with the UBC Centre for Health Education Scholarship (CHES) and Master of Health Professions Education (MHPE) with Maastricht University in the Netherlands.

As Assistant Dean for the SMP, Dr. Fort will work collaboratively with the Regional Associate Dean, Interior, Assistant Deans from across the Faculty of Medicine’s MDUP distributed education sites, and SMP clinical faculty leadership and staff to ensure the efficient and sustainable delivery of undergraduate medical education in the region.

UBCO researcher launches virtual health coaching project for seniors

Finding the time to exercise and achieve a healthy lifestyle can be challenging under normal circumstances. Add in physical distancing measures and heightened stress levels during a pandemic, and the challenge can seem more like an impossibility.

With the rapid demand for innovative healthcare solutions, UBC Okanagan assistant professor Dr. Brodie Sakakabira has launched a new virtual health coaching project with the assistance of student volunteers from UBC’s distributed MD Undergraduate Program.

“Social isolation, especially for seniors, can lead to an elevated risk of heart disease, stroke and poor mental health,” says Sakakibara, an investigator with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management based at UBC Okanagan. “People need help managing their own health and maintaining a lifestyle that reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases.”

Recent figures from Statistics Canada show 60 per cent of Canadians, 65 years and older, are ‘very’ concerned about their healthdue to social and economic consequences of COVID-19 while 80 per cent feel ‘very’ anxious about overloading the healthcare system.

Sakakibara notes that while the speed of specialized health resources has risen dramatically, they will only work if people feel comfortable enough to access the healthcare system and seek proper care. Additionally, only a few new resources focus on health promotion or disease prevention and management.

Launching early this fall, the new virtual health coaching project pairs seniors with a student health coach to undergo an in-depth assessment of chronic disease risks factors and formulate a personalized healthy lifestyle plan. Participants connect with the students by phone or videoconference for six coaching sessions and receive ongoing advice and support.

Cam Clayton, a third-year medical student with the Vancouver-Fraser Medical Program, is leading the training for the project’s team of student coaches.

“We’re trying to encourage seniors to improve their health in meaningful ways, despite the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Clayton. “Our goal is to develop a personalized relationship with each participant and help them implement a health action plan that best suits their individual needs.”

Along with the CCDPM, other project partners include researchers from Interior Health, UBC’s Department of Occupational Sciences and Occupational Therapy, and the University of Northern British Columbia.

To learn more about the program or register as a participant, visit https://coachprogram.lpages.co/coach-study.

Faculty, staff, and students participate in the 2020 workshop via Zoom.

The Southern Medical Program hosted the 17th annual Indigenous Pre-Admissions Workshop virtually this past July. With public health measures still in place, organizers revamped their format to offer the programming remotely.

18 students participated in the three-day workshop which helps prepare prospective Indigenous medical students for the MD admissions process and learn more about the education and training offered by the Faculty of Medicine across the province.

Highlights from the event included presentations from the MD Admissions Office, SMP Student Affairs team, and Dr. Sarah Brears, Regional Associate Dean, Interior. Musqueam Elder Doris Fox provided the opening and closing remarks for the workshop. Additionally, Indigenous medical students and graduates shared their own personal stories and words of wisdom to the participants.

“The programming was highly interactive and provided an in-depth look at rewards and challenges of medical school,” says Carri Folk, Admissions & Student Affairs Coordinator. “It was also deeply inspiring to hear our students and graduates talk about their own journeys into medicine.”

“The workshop is modelled after the University of North Dakota’s INMED (Indians into Medicine) Program, Preadmissions Workshop,” says James Andrew, Indigenous Student Initiatives Manager. “The faculty, staff and students really enjoyed this year’s event and special kudos to Carri Folk and Meghan MacGillivray for doing a wonderful job organizing.”

Southern Medical Program Student Research Profile

Kaitlin Toplak, Southern Medical Program Class of 2022
Research Supervisor(s): Dr. Anise Barton and Dr. Elizabeth Ewart
Funding: Summer Student Research Project, Southern Medical Program

Tell us about your research project.

Streamlining care for breast health patients, the Rae Fawcett Breast Health Centre (RFBHC) in Kamloops, BC, acts as a “one-stop shop” providing single visit triple assessment. This assessment includes clinical exam, diagnostic imagining and, when appropriate, tissue biopsy. Even though the benefits of a multidisciplinary clinic have been proven in other facets, this local clinic has yet to be evaluated for its efficacy. Using patient surveys, small group feedback sessions, and data from a retrospective chart analysis, clinic quality measures such as wait times and patient satisfaction were examined. Our findings allowed us to determine clinic performance as well as provide guidance for future quality improvement initiatives.

What were the results and potential impact?

Establishment of the RFBHC has led to significant reduction of wait times, most notably with a 24-day decrease from the time of symptoms to treatment. Patient satisfaction was also at an all-time high, with 91% rating their experience “excellent” and the rest “good” or “very good.” Taken together, this coordinated care centre has decreased delays for cancer diagnosis and provided safe, quality, and timely care.

We anticipate this study will highlight the importance of BHCs as well as offering a better understanding of experiences faced by rural and remote patients in accessing traditional services. This opportunity will showcase research that is done locally, driven from a community need, and recognizes the healthcare professionals at RIH for their meaningful work.