The role of the UBC Rural Doctors’ Chair in Rural Health is to elevate the health priorities of rural, remote and First Nations communities across BC. RCCbc’s virtual health lead Dr. John Pawlovich is the current chair. His leadership ensures there is robust rural health research, as well as education and training that meets the needs of current and future rural residents and healthcare providers.
“Throughout the pandemic, brilliant examples of virtual care innovation created new access points for patients and families all over this province. Inequities are being confronted and addressed in new and exciting ways. Beliefs regarding what is possible in the context of virtual care are being challenged every day.”
Supported rural research
Dr. Pawlovich supports a number of rural health research projects. He is the co-sponsor of the Remote Communities Drone Transport Initiative (DTI). The DTI aims to test the feasibility of enhancing access to physically necessary medical services (lab, pharmacy, supplies) in the remote Indigenous community of Stellat’en First Nation, using bidirectional unmanned drone flights between Stellat’en First Nation and the Village of Fraser Lake. The 12-month four-seasons demonstration project ran from October 2021 to October 2022. Another project that Dr. Pawlovich is involved with is the Echocardiagraphy project. He provided guidance and support in the development of a research study and course curriculum to support the implementation of handheld ultrasound devices in rural communities for echocardiogram acquisition. Twelve rural physicians from across four of the regional Health Authorities participated in the first training. As of the end of the fiscal year, 51 patient scans had been uploaded, reviewed and reported on by a Cardiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital.
Continued advocacy for virtual health
As the virtual health lead at RCCbc, Dr. Pawlovich has continued to support the expansion and ongoing development of the Real-Time Virtual Support system. Advocacy for the value of this service to rural providers and patients remains a critical function of his work, and has included a number of speaking engagements and publications/media appearances on the subject of virtual health with groups including the Society of Rural Physicians, Joint Collaborative Committee, Northern Health Medical Advisory Council, PEER North, BC Medical Journal, Digital Health Canada, Global TV and CBC.
Provided mentorship & support in medical education
Dr. Pawlovich works as the Director for the Rural Education Action Plan (REAP) which works to attract, prepare, and retain rural physicians across British Columbia through a variety of educationally based strategies. REAP supports rural physicians by providing funding for leadership and skill enhancement training, Continuing Medical Education courses and Indigenous cultural safety training. The program also provides funding to support undergraduate medical students and postgraduate residents to gain practical rural experience, which Dr. Pawlovich assists in facilitating through his clinical work with Carrier Sekani Family Services. In collaboration with Dr. Deanne Taylor, the co-Scientific Director of the RCCbc, Dr. Pawlovich is also engaged in the development of post doctorate opportunities. Each Post Doctorate Fellow will receive mentorship and support from the Chair, executive leadership of the RCCbc, and from the RCCbc co-Scientific Directors. They will be expected to co-lead, with RCCbc staff, rural health research to understand the barriers and enablers of providing medical care for those living rurally and explore virtually enabled care systems across urban and rural perspectives.
Explore the Numbers
51 Patient scans
Rural echocardiogram patient scans uploaded for specialist at St. Paul’s Hospital to view.
12 Months of testing drone transport
A four-season drone transport demonstration project ran from October 2021 to October 2022.
Plans for the Future
Dr. Pawlovich is the co-principal investigator for a research project headed by Dr. Nelly Oelke entitled “Exploring rural emergency health services innovation: A relational approach to change“. This work is to better understand real-time innovations in BC rural emergency health services teams with other supports (e.g., Real-Time Virtual Support, emergency transport) that bolster resilience in the face of adversity to improve health equity. Objectives include case studies in rural communities utilizing current innovations in rural and remote care, to understand how these innovations came to be and evolved; to identify what works, for whom and in what contexts and to develop recommendations for innovative rural emergency health services. This project has been awarded funding by the CIHR Catalyst Grant: Quadruple Aim and Equity and is in the initial stages of implementation.