Warren Brock

Communications Manager

Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management, Southern Medical Program
Office: Reichwald Health Sciences Centre
Phone: 250.807.8601
Email: warren.brock@ubc.ca


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.

Dr. Douglas Pollock

A new endowment fund for Southern Medical Program (SMP) students has been established with the generous support of a retired local family physician. Dr. Douglas Pollock, who practiced medicine in Kelowna for 43 years, has provided a substantial gift to UBC to provide annual bursaries for medical students based at UBC Okanagan.

A graduate of Queen’s University, Pollock first arrived in Kelowna in 1965 to a small community of 22,000 people and less than 30 physicians. He worked as part of the Underhill Clinic for five years before helping form Group One Medical where he worked for the balance of his career.

Pollock dedicated his life to the practice of medicine. “I jumped out of bed every morning, excited to see my patients and make rounds at the hospital,” he says. “I loved solving complex medical problems and working with an amazing group of colleagues deeply devoted to their craft.”

Reflecting back on his years of practice, Pollock underscores the advancement of technology as the biggest game changer in the delivery of health care. He still enjoys finding time to absorb new medical knowledge and to follow his many other passions such as opera, politics and time with family.

The new bursary program will provide much-needed financial support for SMP students to offset tuition and other educational expenses. With matching funds from UBC, approximately $20,000 in annual bursaries will be made available.

“The debts incurred by medical students during their studies can be daunting,” says Pollock. “I wanted to find a way to support students in perpetuity and alleviate some of financial stressors as they pursue their medical careers.”

The Southern Medical Program is pleased to welcome our newest students from the SMP Class of 2024. Meet some of our first-year students as they begin their studies in the Okanagan.

Aneesha Thouli
Hometown: Kelowna, BC

What inspired you to pursue medicine?
I’ve always been interested in medicine. My mom is a huge influence in that she works at KGH, so I was exposed to the medical field from an early age. As I got older, I knew I wanted to do something where I could help people and medicine seemed like the perfect fit for that.

What are you most looking forward to this year?
I’m excited to start learning about things I’m passionate about and meet others who share my interests.

How are you making personal wellness a priority during COVID-19?
Checking in on my mental health has been a huge priority for me. It’s easy to get bogged down with all the (mostly discouraging) information coming at us. I’ve had to really make an effort to take some time to myself every day.

Favourite physically-distanced social activity?
Definitely anything outdoors! I love hiking and working out. I just returned from studying in Australia and my favourite activity there was surfing or swimming in the ocean.

Emmet Suttill
Hometown: Kamloops, BC

What inspired you to pursue medicine?
I’ve always been interested in science and medicine, and like the idea of a career where I can problem solve and work with others. However, I was inspired to become a doctor from a positive experience I had with a surgeon when I was younger. When I was younger, family illness was something I was largely unfamiliar with and my mom needed surgery. Her surgeon was able to put my family and I at ease and instill confidence in us by explaining the procedure in simple terms. This experience made me want to be able to help others in the same way.

What are you most looking forward to this year?
I am incredibly excited about pretty much everything, ranging from new friends to the curriculum, but I would have to say I am most excited to learn the essential hands-on skills! COVID-19 is definitely an obstacle to this but I am very confident that we will find ways to work around it.

How are you making personal wellness a priority during COVID-19?
This is definitely a challenging time for everyone, and requires quite a bit of adaptation. I feel that, because of the risks the pandemic poses to our physical health, it has become easier to forget about our mental health. I’ve tried to take care of myself by getting outdoors in socially responsible ways which, in my opinion, has greatly helped both my mental and physical well being.

Favourite physically-distanced social activity?
My favourite physically-distanced social activity would have to be whitewater kayaking. This was my favourite sport prior to the pandemic, and adjusting has required a fair bit of creativity. Ultimately, I have still been able to whitewater kayak while minimizing exposure to my fellow paddlers which has been great!

Sabrina Martini
Hometown: Cranbrook, BC

What inspired you to pursue medicine?
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else! Funnily enough, what first peaked my interest in medicine was when the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow came to my high school.

What are you most looking forward to this year?
I am looking most forward to studying things that I am very interested in and working towards becoming an awesome physician. I am also super excited to meet all of my classmates.

How are you making personal wellness a priority during COVID-19?
During this time I have been making a conscious effort to schedule time for things that make me feel good like facetiming my grandparents, exercising and staying connected to the people who keep me sane.

Favourite physically-distanced social activity?
Hitting the beach, hiking, camping, pretty much anything outdoors!


Sahej Dhak
Hometown: Vanderhoof, BC

What inspired you to pursue medicine?
I had been toying with the idea of medicine since high school, but I was never really committed to it until a few years ago, when both my mother and brother were diagnosed with cancer in the span of a year. Their diagnosis and treatments made me feel frustrated because I wanted to know more about their diseases, more than what a brochure or website could teach me. Also, it was the first time I had ever experienced a serious illness either with myself or in my family. Seeing firsthand how much stress and anxiety it put on us, made me strengthen my resolve to do whatever I could to prevent others from having to go through the same thing. Additionally, I grew up in a household and culture that highly values respecting others and engaging in selfless service, and these values have become a core part of who I am. Combined, these experiences made me very committed to persuading medicine as a means to reduce the suffering of others while being of service to them in a productive and compassionate way.

What are you most looking forward to this year?
There is so much I am looking forward to! Asides from being able to live in the beautiful Okanagan and experience the warm weather, I am most excited to make new friendships with all the other students, faculty, and staff. All the students and faculty I have met from the SMP so far have all been very warm and welcoming. Having attended a small university before coming here, I had formed close connections with most of my class and department, and it is exciting to know that there is also a feeling of being in a close-knit community here.

How are you making personal wellness a priority during COVID-19?
All the uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely been stressful to deal with, especially as a student. I find that keeping myself occupied with essentially any activity helps to keep myself feeling well, especially engaging in my two favourite hobbies: cooking and gardening. I often go for runs and walks, which help me clear my mind, and I frequently call my friends as a means of safely maintaining good social wellbeing.

Favourite physically-distanced social activity?
A few friends and I often have virtual board games night, in which we video-call each other and then play some online board games together. I love playing board games and I’ve learned how to play some very interesting new ones during this time.

The Digital Technology Supercluster recently announced their co-investment of $1.4M in a new $1.8M project that will help keep patients healthy, connected and supported at home.

The Stronger Together: Social Infrastructure for Community Health project will combine a private social network that uses AI, matchmaking and machine learning to connect patients to support with an advanced, real time patient monitoring platform. This new tool will keep patients healthy at home while providing the healthcare system with a single, comprehensive solution.

Led by Curatio, a digital health company headquartered in B.C., the project was sparked by the urgent need to give healthcare organizations new tools to support patients. The project partners are also contributing funding and resources to launch the new platform.

For patients and families living with a chronic condition, a health challenge, disability or awaiting surgery, COVID-19 has meant they can’t access support programs as they did previously. At the same time, healthcare and community organizations need new technologies that can be quickly rolled out to connect, support and deliver care at scale. At Curatio, we believe that no patient should be alone when facing a health issue. We are honoured to be working with Cloud DX and our project partners to develop a single solution that has the potential to help all Canadians lead their healthiest, most connected lives.” says Lynda Brown-Ganzert, CEO of Curatio. 

Researchers with the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management (CCDPM) will collaborate with Interior Health to develop evidence-based resources and strategies that leverage Curatio’s dynamic technology.

“This new industry partnership will allow our researchers to conduct effective knowledge exchange despite geographical challenges,” says Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis. “It will also allow graduate and undergraduate students to engage in content development and evaluation that directly supports patients”.

The Digital Technology Supercluster solves some of industry’s and society’s biggest problems through Canadian-made technologies. Bringing together private and public sector organizations of all sizes to address challenges facing Canada’s economic sectors including healthcare, natural resources, manufacturing and transportation, the Supercluster helps to drive solutions better than any single organization could on its own.  

The Power of Positive

Throughout his training with the Southern Medical Program, Dr. Jeremy Dick experienced the impact and transformative nature of the relationship between physicians and patients.

One particular encounter that really stuck with him was during his training at Kelowna General Hospital. On his six-week pediatrics rotation, Dick assisted with the delivery of a new baby and witnessed the pure joy of new parents welcoming their first child into the world.

“The father stood next to me, full of admiration as he stared down at their new baby,” says Dick. “It was an amazing experience and I was so grateful to have been able to share in their excitement.”

Weeks later, Dick unexpectedly ran into the same couple and their newborn in the clinic. They instantly recognized him and together they reconnected over one of their happiest moments in their lives.

“Seeing the parents again reminded me how positive patient experiences can have such a lasting and memorable impact,” says Dick.

Originally from Summerland, Dick completed a BSc at UBC’s Vancouver campus before returning to the region to study with the SMP. Drawn to the program to be closer to family, he also thrived in the smaller class size offered at UBC Okanagan.

“Going through medical school with the smaller number of learners, you get to work more closely with your preceptors and have the opportunity to be more hands-on with procedures,” says Dick.

It was during shadowing sessions with local radiologists and observing the advanced technology used in patient care that Dick ignited his passion for the field of radiology.

“Radiology allows you to see inside the human body without the need of disrupting tissue,” says Dick. “The cerebral nature of the field and endless problem-solving are ultimately the best fit for my future practice.”

Dick now heads off to the University of Ottawa for five years with their Diagnostic Radiology Residency Program. Thinking back on his time with SMP, he remains open to the possibility of returning to practice in the region.

“I have so many positive memories from my time in Kelowna and would be open to practice in a smaller BC city,” says Dick. “It has been an amazing experience and I’m truly grateful for everyone’s support.”

Family Through and Through

Dr. Alysson Hamilton always knew she wanted become a family doctor, but her career aspirations first took a backseat to podium dreams on the international cross-country ski circuit.

Hamilton competed around the world and built an impressive athletic record as a member of the Canadian national ski team.

When the time came for her to leave the sport, she focused her sights on a UBC medical degree. Originally from Salmon Arm, she was drawn to the Southern Medical Program’s intimate learning environment and the opportunity to be closer to family.

“The faculty and administration are so welcoming that you feel like you’re part of a big family,” says Hamilton. “Students are given the space to learn and our classmates really support each other through the challenges of medical school.”

Hamilton credits Healer’s Art, a discovery model curriculum on values, identity and professionalism, as an invaluable resource to her personal growth and learning. The program creates a safe space for students to reflect and share their successes and challenges with their peers.

In the final year of her degree, Hamilton returned to her hometown to work as part of a health clinic at Salmon Arm Secondary School. The clinic brings together physicians and allied health professionals to offer accessible health services such as addictions counselling and sexual health for high school students.

“It really shows you the power of a small community with people coming together to make things happen and looking out for each other,” says Hamilton.

Ultimately, it’s the familiarity and strength of small communities that solidified her interest in rural family medicine.

“I want to be able to develop life-long connections with my patients – treat the whole person, their individuality, and their families,” says Hamilton. “It’s been shown that long-term relationships with patients equate to better health and it ties closely with my passion for lifestyle and behavior change.”

As a newly-graduated physician, Hamilton leaves the Okanagan for the Kootenay Boundary region and two years of family medicine training. She ultimately plans to practice within the Interior, and is loving the idea of getting reacquainted with the phenomenal cross-country trail system in her new community of Rossland.

Each year, Southern Medical Program (SMP) students from across the Interior Health region highlight individual faculty and staff who have made significant contributions to their education.

The 2020 SMP Excellence Award recipients are recognized for their dedication and outstanding support for students across all four years and the SMP’s distributed education sites.

Year 1 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award
Allison Gilbert, Program Manager, Years 1 & 2, Course Manager, MEDD 412







Year 2 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award
Carmen Sigalet, Clinical Instructor, Department of Family Practice








Year 3 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award – Kamloops
Dr. Hilary Baikie, Clinical Instructor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology








Year 3 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award – Kelowna
Dr. Alysha MacKenzie-Feder, Clinical Instructor, Department of Pediatrics







Year 3 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award – Kelowna
Dr. Michael MacLeod, Clinical Instructor, Department of Surgery







Year 3 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award – Trail
Dr. Ryan Truant, Clinical Instructor, Department of Anesthesia, Pharmacology & Therapeutics







Year 3 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award – Vernon
Dr. Riley Martin, Clinical Instructor, Department of Emergency Medicine






Year 3 Southern Medical Program Excellence Award – Vernon
Dr. Brett Wilson, Clinical Instructor, Department of Emergency Medicine






Southern Medical Program Graduating Class Award
Dr. Olusegun Oyedele, Senior Instructor, Department of Cellular & Physiological Sciences & MEDD 412 Course Co-Director







Southern Medical Program Graduating Class Award
Dr. Remy Wong, Clinical Instructor, Department of Medicine, Division of Community Internal Medicine







Congratulations to the Southern Medical Program (SMP) Class of 2020 on graduating from medical school and earning their medical degrees.

Our new graduates now head off across BC and Canada to pursue their passions and future career paths as family physicians and specialists.

Here are a few highlights from the SMP Class of 2020:

  • 32 new physicians educated and trained in the BC Interior.
  •  17 graduates matched to family medicine including two graduates in the BC Interior with the Kamloops and Kootenay Boundary sites.
  • 15 graduates matched to Royal College specialty programs including anesthesiology (2), dermatology, diagnostic radiology, emergency medicine, internal medicine (2), neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics (2), psychiatry (3), and vascular surgery.
  • 13 students matched to UBC residency programs.

Read the SMP Class of 2020 Graduation Newsletter.