PENTICTON/SYILX (OKANAGAN) NATION, BC (May 13, 2022)—The Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc) presents the BC Rural Health Awards each spring to recognize and honour rural doctors for their inspiring contributions to improving the health of rural people and communities across British Columbia (BC).
Recipients of the Rural BC Community Award are selected for developing innovative and collaborative solutions to local healthcare issues. Recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award must be a rural doctor who has served one or more rural communities throughout their career and have significantly impacted provincial, national and/or international rural health. The Above and Beyond recognition is for a rural physician’s exceptional rural BC service and contributions in supporting rural health care.
Rural BC Community Award Winner: Whistler
The recipient of the Rural BC Community Award is Whistler, where, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, health care teams worked with partners across many community organizations to provide ‘social prescriptions’ for things, like food from the food bank, and therapy to meet people’s needs in a holistic way.
The model was an example of remarkable community partnership-building and helped Whistler to care for its most vulnerable citizens at a difficult time.
To decrease face-to-face time with people at the start of the pandemic, health care workers took detailed histories of patients seeking care over the phone. What they noticed was a trend.
Dr. Karin Kausky, one of the people instrumental in implementing the model, said: “The medical issues were relatively easy for us to deal with, but we were talking with a lot of people that were really struggling with paying the rent, or accommodation, or groceries, or just feeling really lonely and unsupported, or even worse, living in their vehicles.
“And we also noted that we were giving out the contact information for community-based social services multiple times a day. So we collaborated with Foster Community Services, a local non-profit that manages many of Whistler’s social services, including the food bank, and we agreed to put their contact information on a text that we sent patients with their appointment information. This text just asked, ‘Do you need help with rent, food, or accommodation?’
“And we realized that just by asking the question, we seem to have decreased stigma enough to make it okay for people to ask for this help, because Whistler Community Services immediately noted a large increase in demand for their services. In the first week, their phone lines were completely overwhelmed and food bank visits increased by over 300 percent.”
The simple text quickly developed into a model that fully embraced a social prescription approach. It also created a closer partnership between local medical teams and community-based social services and non-profits and local government.
Dr. Kausky said the community laid the groundwork for its success in the lead-up to the pandemic.
“I think the secret sauce is getting community and local government involved in primary care,” she said, explaining that they held a massive community engagement event about three years ago, where they invited every group that intersected with primary care to be involved. “From that, we started a primary care task force that has community members, local government, as well as the health authority, mental health services, social services, and non-profits. So a lot of those relationships pre-existed.”
Dr. Kausky will accept the award on behalf of the Whistler community.
Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine, Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Lauri-Ann Shearer
Dr. Lauri-Ann Shearer is a widely respected physician, leader, friend, and ally who has been dedicated to improving health care in Bella Bella for more than 18 years. So beloved is Dr. Shearer in her community, that her nomination for her Lifetime Achievement Award was 65 pages long.
Dr. Greg Costello, who has been working with Dr. Shearer since moving to the community in 2019, said the nomination was put together in the span of about 10 days, in the middle of a particularly brutal winter for the community, and one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the province.
“Despite this, more than 36 exceedingly busy community members and leaders, physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrators, and others provided letters on a short deadline for this package,” said Dr. Costello. “This number of high-quality testimonials speaks to the incredible positive impact that Dr. Shearer has had on Bella Bella.”
The nomination spoke of:
- Her kind, collaborative demeanour that puts everyone at ease, setting the standard for morning rounds;
- Her leadership style that inspires excellence in those around her; and
- How she has been instrumental in creating practical improvements for healthcare delivery in this small rural and remote First Nations community—from acquiring new equipment, to maintaining and developing specialist outreach clinics, in addition to managing the local medical clinic essentially on her own.
Dr. Shearer has also had an impact on the personal lives of those in her community.
Dawn Hall, Program Manager at the local hospital and member of the Heiltsuk Nation, recounted: “In a conversation way back in the early 2000s, Dr. Shearer told me I should consider going back to school, and had I ever considered being a doctor? I was kind of shocked as I didn’t have that sort of confidence in myself and, honestly, I never had the intention of being a doctor. But over the years, I have always thought about that conversation.
“Fast forward to 2022, I now have a university degree with an Indigenous specialty and am now applying to a Master’s program. I would hear her words when I faced many hurdles, challenges, and questioned my own ability.”
Above and Beyond Recognition
Dr. Francois Bosman
Dr. Francois Bosman has been a dedicated physician on Gabriola Island, committed not only to the patients in his practice, but also to any and all patients requiring urgent and emergency care, regardless of the time of day or night.
Nancy Rowan, Vice President of the Gabriola Health Care Foundation (GHCF), said Dr. Bosman was also instrumental in allowing the Island to recruit more physicians so the community could have consistent care. She said Dr. Bosman recognized that the community could not attract and retain doctors without an adequate facility to work in, and that is why he collaborated with community volunteers in the development of a Community Health Centre.
“This amazing facility opened its doors in 2012 and is owned and managed by the not-for-profit GHCF and its volunteer Board of Directors,” said Ms. Rowan. “It hosts a medical clinic, three-bay urgent treatment complex, Life Labs, dental clinic, and massage therapist. Physician recruitment was not only successful due to the new facility, but also to the strong physician mentorship of Dr. Bosman to the new physicians. The demands of rural practice can be daunting to many physicians and Dr. Bosman’s strong emergency management skills and ongoing practice support enabled new physicians in adapting to rural practice.”
Dr. Tracey Thorne, Medical Director at the Gabriola Medical Centre, said that Dr. Bosman worked countless hours to fight for Gabriola Island residents and, although he will never get those hours back, his legacy will be remembered.
“His leadership and dedication led to change, led to improvement, and led to sustainability in his community,” said Dr. Thorne. “He will remember the hard work, but our community will never forget his good work. He made an immeasurable contribution to the health of Gabriola, and his dedication ensured this community would thrive and become a model of care across the province.”
Dr. John Soles
Dr. John Soles is a dedicated rural doctor who has been integral to healthcare in his community and beyond.
Until his recent retirement, Dr. Soles was the Chief of Staff at Helmcken Memorial Hospital in Clearwater, where he worked for 32 years. But Dr. Soles is keeping busy in retirement and continues to locum at the hospital. He also remains involved with multiple organizations and initiatives, including being Interior Regional Physician Lead for the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, supporting the towns of Revelstoke, Lytton, Lillooet, Ashcroft, Merritt, and Clearwater, and adjacent First Nations and settler communities. He is also involved with The CARE Course and the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.
One professional accomplishment Dr. Soles is proud of is the collaboration of the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) with the College of Canadian Family Physicians on the Joint Task Force on Advancing Rural Family Medicine while he was president of SRPC. He also helped establish the REAP British Columbia Rural Interest Award, which was designed to assist rural medical students, or medical students with strong rural exposure, with the costs associated with their medical training.
In addition to his impressive track-record at the provincial and national levels, Dr. Soles also leaves his mark on a personal level.
Dr. Kate McCaroll, Physician Lead for the Revelstoke Chapter and Board Member of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, said: “John is a rare kind of leader who always leads with heart and humour. Although some could argue that rural medicine is in crisis, what will strike you about John is how he always remains hopeful and offers solutions, rather than dwelling on problems. John has left an undeniable mark on medicine in BC for the better.”
Dr. Paul Warbeck
Dr. Paul Warbeck is a hard-working, detailed-oriented rural doctor who is always looking out for his patients in the communities served by the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, Gitlaxt’aamiks, Gitwinksilkhw, Laxgalt’sap, and Gingolx. He is also well known and respected for his work in Bella Bella, Terrace, Masset, and Stewart.
The medical director of the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority, Dr. Jeremy Penner, noted in the nomination: “As a colleague, I have been amazed by his depth and breadth of knowledge, and I frequently consult him about diagnostic dilemmas and complex management decisions. Other physicians have commented on the same, that he is seen as a teacher and valuable clinical resource, whose opinion is sought out.
“His patients also recognize his expertise; he has accumulated a panel of patients with complex medical issues, some of whom had not received an accurate diagnosis, or successful management plan, until Paul took them on.”
The Deputy Medical Director, Dr. Christie Chan, added: “His dedication to his patients is unparalleled. It is not uncommon to see Paul working late into the night at the clinic to advocate passionately for his patients with insurance companies, specialists, etc. He takes the time to review every single visit, every investigation, every consult, and will look up old paper charts to figure out a diagnostic puzzle, or to compile a comprehensive report and advocate for his patient.”
- Media Release: Rural Health Heroes Honoured at 2022 BC Rural Health Awards
- BC Rural Health Awards webpage
RCCbc Communications: [email protected]
About the Rural Coordination Centre of BC
Led by rural physicians, the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc) is a network that improves the health of rural people and communities across British Columbia. We cultivate relationships and networks, facilitate rural health discussion, coordinate rural health projects, create learning opportunities for rural healthcare practitioners, advocate for a healthy rural British Columbia, stimulate rural health research, and develop healthcare leaders. Funded primarily by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues, our network partners include healthcare providers and administrators, community members, policymakers, academics, and non-profit and business leaders. We serve all communities covered by the Rural Practice Subsidiary Agreement.