WHISTLER/LIL̓WAT7ÚL AND SḴWX̱WÚ7MESH NATION, BC (June 2, 2023)—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.
Rural BC Community Award Winner: District of Sicamous
A collaborative approach helped a community thrive after they risked losing access to healthcare.
The District of Sicamous was spurred into action when the area’s only family physician was due to retire, with no one willing to take his place.
“As a rural community with no public transportation options, the impact of losing access to healthcare would have been catastrophic,” said Mayor Colleen Anderson. “Without a solution, Sicamous would have found itself in the precarious position of not being able to care for its predominately senior population or encourage families to live and stay in Sicamous.”
The community was consulted and a plan was hatched.
The District acquired the assets of the Sicamous Medical Clinic, which had been privately run, and assumed the management and administration of the clinic, transitioning it to the Sicamous Community Health Centre.
The community-run model was attractive to providers who did not want to manage a business and they were able to recruit physicians and a nurse practitioner interested in a collaborative team-based environment.
The establishment of the centre ensured the ongoing delivery of medical services in the community. During its first year of operation the patient panel increased by 23%, scheduled office visits increased by 27% and over 1,000 walk-in patients were seen by a physician and received care.
Several years on from this bold move, the District is currently in the detailed design phase of building it a new home – the Shuswap (Secwépemc) Healing Centre that will serve as a wellness hub for the community and the entire Secwépemc region.
“The District of Sicamous asked their community what was needed, they listened, and they provided,” said Dr. Carol Connick, one of the physicians who was recruited.
“They collaborated and purchased the practice, hired management and staff to deliver the aspects of the office management and IT to allow the physicians to focus on their expertise of medicine,” she said.
The District of Sicamous is the 2023 winner of the Rural BC Community Award at the Rural Health Awards, chosen because they developed innovative and collaborative solutions to local healthcare issues.
Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine–Lifetime Achievement: Dr. David May
A rural generalist who has spent his career making things better through system change is being honoured with the Lifetime Achievement award.
Dr. David May from qathet has steadfastly supported rural patients in the face of a global pandemic, mental health challenges, a toxic drug supply, a healthcare labour shortage, maternity care challenges and systemic racism.
While providing longitudinal care to his patients, he practiced obstetrics for 10 years, emergency for 15 years, and anesthesia for around 30 years. He also taught and consulted in the areas of chronic pain and palliative care, was a founding member of Pain BC as well as a board member of Powell River Hospice Society.
During his 12 years on the board of the qathet Division of Family Practice, Dr. May worked tirelessly to maintain and strengthen local primary healthcare services. An advocate for health equity, he constantly amplified the rural voice, including publishing articles in the British Columbia Medical Journal.
He also demonstrated exceptional leadership towards truth, reconciliation, and decolonization. He ensured action was taken after the release of the In Plain Sight report, leading the development of an organizational cultural safety and humility policy and ensuring the changing of the name of the division to one that was respectful and inclusive.
Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine–Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Robert Fox
A physician who has had a lasting impact on a number of Indigenous communities in the Fraser Health region by offering consistently excellent, culturally safe primary care services is being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Robert Fox, who grew up on the Blood Reserve in Southern Alberta, began working with the Seabird Island community – near Agassiz – in 2007. Within two years, the warmth of the community’s embrace won him over and he moved his family to the area.
His impact was immediate. His approach to seeing community members demonstrated a knowledge of the cultural challenges his patients face, while providing individualized care and treatment in a friendly, welcoming manner.
But Dr. Fox saw an opportunity to make an even bigger impact, and he took it. He returned to UBC to complete his credentials as an addictions physician. Community members believe his efforts have helped to reduce deaths and overdoses from opioid use, and other toxic substances.
Dr. Fox’s contributions go beyond Seabird Island. Alongside his team, he has committed to providing access to primary care for any Indigenous person residing between Yarrow and Boston Bar, inclusive of the 22 Indigenous communities in the region.
Dr. Fox has provided a bridge to help fill the gap in understanding between medical practitioners and the Indigenous patients they serve. He has started local diabetes, mental health, team-based care, and medical education initiatives. He has been a force for provincial policy and clinical practice development.
Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine–Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Trina Larsen-Soles
A physician whose dedication to achieving excellence in rural medicine is being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Trina Larsen-Soles was described as the “epitome of what we all hope to embody as rural physicians” by colleagues.
“She is kind, empathetic, and patient, but also doesn’t back down from a fight. She advocates for her community’s access to care and stands up for what she believes in,” said Dr. Allison Clare.
Dr. Larsen-Soles’s career in Golden spans 30 years. She successfully built up a group of caring, committed physicians with a wide skill set (including family practice anesthesia, family practice surgery, obstetrics, women’s health, geriatrics and oncology) serving the community of Golden and surrounding rural catchment.
In addition to her work in Golden, Dr. Larsen-Soles has been advocating for rural medicine for over 20 years in various leadership roles and committees. In that time, she has served as the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada’s (SRPC) president. In addition, she has served many roles within the SRPC including as the co-chair of the SRPC/CPFC joint task force on advancing rural family medicine, the chair of the nominations and awards committee, and currently serves on the Rural Patient Transfer advisory group.
She has also had over 20 years of involvement with the Doctors of BC (formerly the BCMA), including as president in 2017. She currently serves as the chair of the governance committee and a member of the Physician Services Committee.
Award of Excellence in Rural Medicine–Lifetime Achievement: Dr. Charles Helm
A physician whose love for his community has shaped numerous initiatives is being honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Dr. Charles Helm has dedicated over 30 years to the community of Tumbler Ridge, not only as a highly skilled doctor, acting as Chief of Medical Staff for most of that time, but also as a community champion.
Whether it is a medication initiative, preserving dinosaur tracks, hosting a medical conference, or working on a geoparks initiative, Dr. Helm is enthusiastic about it all.
Dr. Helm, originally from South Africa, may not have intended to study paleontology on the side, but the chance discovery of Cretaceous dinosaur trackways near Tumbler Ridge by his nine-year-old son and a friend in 2000, led to him becoming the founding member of the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation. Through this volunteer work, he led the drive for the successful designation of the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark.
As part of his “day job”, he was the physician lead for the South Peace Shared Care polypharmacy reduction initiative (an initiative to prevent adverse health effects for those prescribed multiple medications) in 2021, and organized the 3D (Drugs, Dinos and Dinners) medical conference on this theme annually in Tumbler Ridge from 2017–2019, and more recently in 2022.
Dr. Helm has received awards for postgraduate teaching from the University of British Columbia Department of Family Practice, the Walter Smith Visionary Award in recognition of contribution to tourism innovation in northern British Columbia, the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award (2016), the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012), and the Rural Family Physician of the Year Award (2016) from the British Columbia College of Family Physicians.
RHC and the Rural Health Awards committee are pleased to honour Dr. Helm with this award.
- Media Release: Rural Health Heroes Honoured at 2023 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.