Healthy Living in the North

Prince Rupert staff blaze the (Kaien Island) trail

Three Prince Rupert staff who took part in a trail run are pictured wearing running gear.

Left to right: LPN Bailey, RN Miranda Jaques, and Staffing Clerk Jessica Lindstrom.

What did you get up to this summer? Did you get a chance to get outside and enjoy beautiful Northern BC? For some Prince Rupert staff, summer plans included running in the Kaien Trails’ Trailblazer Run on August 24, 2019.

Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Bailey, Registered Nurse (RN) Miranda Jaques, and Staffing Clerk Jessica Lindstrom all participated in the inaugural trail run, which took place on the recently restored Kaien Island Trail Network in beautiful Prince Rupert.

Good exercise? Check. Breathtaking views? Check. Supporting an awesome community event? Check!

Way to go, ladies!

To learn more about the Kaien Island Trail Network and the race, check out the video below or visit: kaientrails.ca/trailblazer.

Haylee Seiter

About Haylee Seiter

Haylee is a communications advisor for Public and Population Health. She grew up in Prince George and is proud to call Northern BC home. During university she found her passion for health promotions by volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society and became interested in marketing through the UNBC JDC West team. When she's not dreaming up communications strategies, she can be found cycling with the Wheelin Warriors or spending time with family and friends. (NH Blog Admin)

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NH staff member defends PhD thesis on First Nations identity, wins award

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat, and holding her degree.

Jessie on convocation day, wearing the robes of a Ph.D. and a traditional cedar hat.

In December 2018, we featured a story on Prince George resident and Northern Health staff member Jessie King presenting her Ph.D. thesis at an international conference in Ontario. Jessie has now successfully defended that thesis, gaining her doctorate in Health Sciences from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

“When my supervisor told me my thesis defense was successful, I just started crying and shaking because it’s been eight years,” says Jessie. “It was such a personal process.”

Jessie was also awarded the Pounamu Taonga Award, which recognizes an Aboriginal student who is graduating from UNBC for their academic achievements, university service, and community involvement.

Jessie, who works in Northern Health’s Indigenous Health department as the Lead, Research and Community Engagement, titled her thesis “Niit nüüyu gwa’a: Decolonizing and Deconstructing First Nations Identity.”

The first part of the title is Sm’algyax (a dialect of the Tsimsham language) for “This is who I am.” She chose this title to acknowledge the intensive 10-year exploration of her identity and to honour her maternal ties to Gitxaala and the Tsimshian Nation.

Some of the questions that her thesis examined include:

  • Does how you disclose your identity change based on different situations and your perceived level of safety?
  • What are the implications of status on your identity?

“I had such a fantastic supervisory committee,” says Jessie, who hopes to publish her dissertation.

Her next adventure will include post-doctoral activities and teaching a course on research methods and design for the First Nations Studies department of UNBC.

“It will be nice to get my foot back in the teaching door,” she says.

For now, she’s enjoying plenty of well-deserved quality time with her family.

Congratulations to Jessie on her many achievements!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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Wellness in the workplace: Taking the stairs is a marathon

Tanya Carter is pictured on top of a mountain in the snow. In the distance is a snowy mountain range.

Tanya Carter – conqueror of HR administrative tasks, stairs, and the Sugarbowl Mountain hike (pictured).

A couple months ago, I started a new job with Northern Health. It brought me from the fourth floor of our office building to the seventh. My new desk is near the elevator, and I noticed a lot of my floor-mates bypass the elevator doors and opt to take the stairs instead.

I also noticed that there were some gummy treats in the reception area, with a sign that said “Fuel for the stair climbers.” Naturally, I stole one of the gummies and asked, “What do you mean by stair climbers?” Tanya Carter, one of our fantastic Administrative Assistants in Human Resources, then proceeded to tell me about the stair-climbing challenge she organized.

How does the challenge work?

Basically, you’re encouraged to take the stairs instead of the elevator, and to keep track of your steps. Your steps are then entered into a spreadsheet and you can track how far you’ve gone with your stair climbing:

  • 1 mile =2,000 steps
  • 5 km = 6,200 steps
  • 10 km = 12,400 steps
  • Half marathon = 26,200 steps
  • Marathon = 52,400 steps

I thought this was a really cool idea, and after a little bit of peer pressure, I signed myself up for the 10 km. Tanya is really encouraging to those of us in the stair-climbing challenge and an advocate for fitness overall. She and I chatted about physical activity and wellness in the workplace.

A sign is pictured on the door to the seventh floor from the staircase. It says "Way to go! You made it!"

The “congrats” message that stair climbers see everyday.

Tanya, what made you want to start doing the stair-climbing challenge?

“The very first day I came to work here, I took the elevator. I thought, “what am I doing taking the elevator?” After that first day, I promised myself that I’d take the stairs and continue taking them. That was the only day that I’ve used the elevator.

“Usually when I start something, I jokingly (but kind of truthfully) want everybody else to do what I’m doing. Right off the bat, I looked forward to seeing how everybody would react to a stairs challenge. I started the challenge as a fun contest and I kind of warned everybody that I would be starting it, and some people started training for it like they would a marathon.

“When the stair-climbing challenge first started, I let everyone know that they didn’t have to do all the stairs right away. They could take the elevator to the fourth floor and then walk up to the seventh, and that’s how some people have started doing it. Just like in a real marathon, you don’t just go and do 42 kms, you start with 15 minutes and work your way up.”

How do you promote wellness in the workplace?

“That’s just who I am! I like to encourage people in a positive and healthy way. I believe that when you’re healthy, you have more confidence. You don’t have to be a certain size to be strong and healthy. Most recently, I suggested to my desk mates [that they] start an Ice Man team because they’re already starting to run a little bit.”

If someone can’t do stairs at work, how can they get some activity in during the day?

“If you aren’t working, take the stairs when you can, even for an appointment. Parking your car further away can also help get some activity in. Going for a walk is also great. [You can] encourage others to get away from their desks and go for a quick, ten-minute walk.”

Do you have any tips or tricks to stay motivated?

“For sure having a goal and just getting started. The hardest part can be getting started, and once you get going and you are in a routine, it’s the routine that keeps you going.

“[It also helps to have] someone to answer to … a partner or some friends to do an activity with. When someone is waiting for you, it makes you more inclined to be there.

“Another tip is [don’t keep] it to yourself! When you’ve actually admitted it, it makes it real and you don’t want to let people down. I have a saying, it’s not my own but I use it often, and it’s, ‘I never regret going for a run, for a bike ride, or going to cross fit – I regret not going.’ If I stay in bed and skip my run, I get up thinking I wish I would have done it.”

Outside of the workplace, what is your favorite activity to stay active?

“I like long-distance running and cross fit/strength training.”

Thanks to Tanya, I’m getting more activity in my daily routine and the 126 stairs I take to get to my desk are getting a little bit easier… just don’t call me until I’ve managed to catch my breath.

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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Why did you become a researcher? Learn about Chelsea Pelletier’s desire to increase physical activity for all Northerners

Chelsea presenting her work on the 2018 Physical Activity Summit at a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research event.

Chelsea presenting her work on the 2018 Physical Activity Summit at a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research event.

I’ve always been curious about researchers at post-secondary institutions. What made them want to get into research, and what continues to drive them? Through my role at Northern Health, I’ve been fortunate to meet multiple researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

To appease my curiosity, I approached Chelsea Pelletier, Assistant Professor in the School of Health Sciences and an avid researcher at UNBC, to learn about her path to becoming a researcher and her current projects.

“During my undergraduate studies in Kinesiology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, I was unsure what I wanted to do after graduation,” says Chelsea. “In my fourth year, I did an honours project that involved a research component. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and learning about research. My mentor encouraged me to pursue additional education and a career in research. It’s led me to where I am today.”

After graduation, Chelsea moved to Ontario where she furthered her education with McMaster University’s Master’s and Doctoral (PhD) programs in Kinesiology.

“I was interested in exercise and physical activity to manage or prevent chronic disease. My Master’s and PhD programs were an opportunity to connect with people in those fields and learn more.

“I did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. They help people to overcome the challenges of injury, illness, or age-related health conditions to live active, healthy lives. My supervisor ran a program for chronic disease and exercise; I learned a lot about how to work with people and community members. It inspired me to continue on this path for my research.”

In 2015, Chelsea took her talents west to Prince George to begin her career as a professor and researcher.

“Since I started at UNBC, I’ve been able to grow my research in areas that matter to communities. I spend a lot of time not only talking to community members, but listening to them. I try to let the community drive the research rather than my own interests.”

Chelsea and her two small dogs sit on a log on a sunny day.

Relaxing after a walk with dogs Blossom (L) and Cohen (R) in Salmon Valley.

Chelsea’s research mainly focuses on factors that shape physical activity for communities, understanding how to work with partners, and adding physical activity to people’s lives.

“Physical activity is an important part of being healthy. It decreases stress, improves self-esteem, gives you energy, and makes you stronger. It helps prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes. As we age, it becomes even more important to live an active life.”

She’s also working on a few special projects including a cardiac rehab study in Terrace, and a study with the BC Wildfire Service to learn about the impacts wildfires have on firefighters and command-centre staff.

As Chelsea’s career progresses, she continues to work with community members and partner organizations to focus on items that matter to them. All of these have an end goal of improving physical activity in the North and creating healthier communities.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Melinda Lau

Melinda stands on a train track that disappears in the distant forest. A sunny sky beats down on her.

Taking in the scenery on the Pouce Coupe Bridge.

I recently noticed a common theme in my conversations with many Northern Health staff members. They were planning on coming to the North for a short time, but they’ve stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Melinda Lau, Chief Physiotherapist, Rehabilitation in Fort St. John. Melinda is from Toronto, and came to Northern Health in 2016.

I came for…

I originally came to Northern Health for a temporary maternity leave position in Dawson Creek. When that ended, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I found the Chief Physiotherapist position posting in Fort St. John and decided to apply. I had limited managerial experience and I had only been in practice for a few years, so I was excited when I was offered the position!

I like the outdoors and the mountains, and wanted to live somewhere close to hiking trails and rock climbing. I had visited the area before, during a trip to the Yukon, so I knew what to expect when I came here. I liked the small-town feel in the Peace River region.

Melinda mountain climbs, suspended by a rope, hanging onto a rock. The rock fades from grey to brown and yellow.

Melinda working on her mountain climbing skills on Hassler Crag just outside of Chetwynd.

I stayed because…

There are a lot of different activities to get involved with, including cross-country skiing, the pottery guild, and so much more. I enjoy attending all of the different festivals, rodeos, and events in town.

I love the people I work with, and couldn’t ask for a better team. Everyone gets along great, and it feels like I’m working with a group of my friends.

I have been given so many amazing opportunities in this role. The leadership team has allowed me to develop many different areas in addition to my clinical practice. I’ve been given more areas to manage, and been allowed to develop my own interests. I feel valued as an employee; they are investing in me, which makes me want to stay here and grow and develop. My original plan was to stay here for a year, but I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else!

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Ibolya Agoston

Ibolya is in the front of a canoe on a clam lake, surrounded by mountains.

Ibolya enjoying time off at the Bowron Lakes in the Cariboo.

I recently noticed a common theme in my conversations with many Northern Health staff members. They were planning on coming to the North for a short time, but they’ve stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Ibolya Agoston, team leader, Mental Health and Addictions Specialized Services. Based in Fort St. John, Ibolya is from Romania and came to Northern Health in 2003.

I came for…

I came to Canada for an adventure, where I could forge my own career path. I was living in England at the time, and wanted to experience the adventure of living in a Northern, rural community.

I was told about Health Match BC as a resource to learn more about nursing in BC. Their staff guided me to available positions in Northern Health. Well before Google maps, I had no idea where Fort St. John was located. To help me decide where I wanted to live, I went to the local library, and looked through photo books imagining what life would be like in the North. Then, I called the Fort St. John Health Unit and the receptionist who answered the phone sold me on the community. If it wasn’t for her sales pitch, I might have gone to a different community.

Iboyla takes a selfie. Behind her is a small valley and lake.

Iboyla participating in the Emperor’s challenge in Tumbler Ridge.

I stayed because…

The people. Leadership in the Northeast encourages the growth and development. They invest in their staff and encourage you to achieve your career goals. I work with amazing staff, and I enjoy impacting their career development. I’m able to coach them and encourage their own career growth.

I love the lifestyle I have in Fort St. John. We are close to nature and it’s a relaxed atmosphere. People who come here tend to have a similar mindset. Outside of work, I can canoe, hike, or cross-country ski.

Our patients are my immediate community. We’re serving people that I’m sometimes acquainted with, and interactions carry more weight because you have a different impact than in a larger community. People can be intimidated by the North, but once you embrace it, you love it!

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Making a difference in the lives of older adults: a UNBC researcher’s passion

Shannon Freeman is pictured.

Shannon Freeman’s grandparents played a large role in her upbringing. Their impact influences her research today.

I’ve always been curious about researchers at post-secondary institutions. What made them want to get into research, and what continues to drive them? Through my role at Northern Health, I’ve been fortunate to meet multiple researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

To finally appease my curiosity, I approached Shannon Freeman, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and avid researcher at UNBC, to learn about her path to becoming a researcher and her current projects.

“My upbringing wasn’t traditional,” says Shannon, who grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 people in Southern Ontario. “I was partially raised by my grandmother, and my grandparents were very influential in my life. We developed a strong bond, which drew me towards a career where I could make a difference in the lives of older adults.”

Shannon considered some professions that help older adults, but they weren’t the right fit. She discovered her love of research while finishing her degree across the Pacific Ocean.

“I went to Japan to complete my master’s education. My research project focused on centenarians [people who have lived to or beyond 100 years of age] and longevity. They have a high number of centenarians, and I was interested in learning what they do differently to live so long. It motivated me to get involved with research as my career.”

Shannon’s current research projects focus on improving the quality of life for older adults through meaningful engagement.

Five residents of Gateway Lodge play cards with a university student.

Residents at Gateway Lodge enjoy a game of cards led by a UNBC student as part of the interAGE project.

“Two projects that I’m currently working on at Gateway Lodge in Prince George are the interAGE intergenerational cohousing project and Grow Your Own horticulture project,” says Shannon. “Everything I do connects with older adults.”

Both of these projects focus on reducing social isolation in the long-term care setting.

The interAGE project involves two UNBC students living in Gateway Lodge’s assisted-living wing for a semester. The students are responsible for developing and delivering activities that are in addition to residents’ regularly scheduled activities.

“The residents really enjoy living and interacting with the students. Activities are well attended and it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved.”

Succulents and other plants grow in a pots in an indoor garden.

The indoor flower garden at Gateway Lodge is a welcoming place for residents and their families to enjoy all year.

The Grow Your Own project focuses on gardening.

“Residents identified gardening as something they wanted to do. Last year was our first year with the project. This year, we’ve added outdoor raised beds that are designed for standing people and those in wheelchairs. A core group of residents lead the project, and plan what to plant. It’s an activity they find meaningful, and are committed to.”

For Shannon, there is no greater success than hearing that you changed someone’s perspective on aging.

“I love what I do, and the older adults and partners that I work with on these research projects continue to inspire me every day. I’m excited to start new projects that build on this work. Research allows me to give back to my community and make a difference in people’s lives.”

True to her word, she is already planning her next project: indoor hydroponic gardening at Gateway Lodge.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Cecilia Chiumia

Cecilia stands in her office.

Cecilia at work.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Cecilia Chiumia, Team Lead, Inpatient Psychiatric Unit in Dawson Creek. Cecilia is from Africa and came to Northern Health in 2008.

I came for…

I’ve travelled all my life. My mom worked for an airline and my dad worked for an oil company. So, growing up, I was very exposed to travelling. After completing high school, I wanted to travel some more. I decided to move to the United Kingdom (UK) to pursue nursing. I spent a lot of time travelling across Europe and Africa, but after 18 years, decided it was time for a change.

In 2006, my partner and I made the decision to move to North America. We found Canada appealing and decided it was where we wanted to live. I was initially hired by Interior Health and worked in Kamloops, and my partner was hired by Northern Health and worked in Dawson Creek. In 2008, we decided that I’d move to Dawson Creek. We had a two-year plan to stay here, then we would move on to somewhere else.

Cecilia and four of her co-workers dressed in Christmas-themed outfits, holding a tinsel frame around them.

Cecilia celebrating the holidays with her unit co-workers at a holiday celebration (L-R) Helen, Elizabeth, Debbie, Brenda, and Cecilia.

I stayed because…

I’ve enjoyed working for Northern Health and have great co-workers. There are lots of opportunities for professional development and career growth. I’ve taken available opportunities that have allowed me to grow. When I left the UK, I was in a leadership position, and I am back in a leadership position at Northern Health.

The morale and sense of community is amazing. It feels similar to what I had growing up in Africa. It’s a small community with friendly neighbours who welcomed us with open arms. Wherever you go, people are accommodating. Not only people I work with, but people I have met that have become my friends. It’s been a great place to raise our children.

We continue to travel, and have seen most of BC. Airline travel has become easier thanks to more flights from Dawson Creek and Fort St. John. We can easily get to new and exciting destinations throughout North America. Whenever I travel, I am truly excited when I get back home to Dawson Creek. Twelve years on, I’ve realized that our two-year plan is out the window, and we are here to stay.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Our People: Spotlight on Dr. Aryn Khan, Physician in Vanderhoof

Dr. Khan at the hospital with her three children. One child sits in a chair with a newborn baby.

Dr. Khan doing her medical rounds with her kids. The beauty of rural medicine!

You might remember Dr. Aryn Khan from the fantastic story she wrote about taking part in a Mama Mia production in Vanderhoof. Her enthusiasm for her job and life in Vanderhoof makes Dr. Khan a great person to include for the “Our People: spotlight” series!

Dr. Khan, how’d you get into medicine?

I was born in Burns Lake, BC and always dreamed of becoming a rural family doctor. The road was winding as I previously worked in laboratory sciences, biochemical sales, and as a registered dietitian. I took a few years to travel and study abroad in England. In 2009, I started my medical degree at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. I managed to juggle having our first daughter with medical school and residency without taking any time off, and still found time to snowboard, volunteer in Cambodia, partake in the multiple sclerosis (MS) off-road bike tour in Hinton, and enjoy window shopping at West Edmonton Mall. We moved to Vanderhoof in March 2016 and I literally hit the ground running.

What do you do in Vanderhoof?

I work more than full time in clinic, obstetrics, and emergency medicine. I offer circumcisions, lumps and bumps clinics, and I “scrub in” for surgical assistance. I do rounds on hospital patients, provide community detox/addictions support, and am now learning endoscopy. I am currently on the Medical Staff Association for St. John Hospital and am chair of our Facility Engagement. I love the variety of rural family medicine!

I also love coffee, cooking, visiting with friends and family, camping, fishing, travelling, kickboxing, biking, and gardening. My life is crazy-busy with three amazing kids, two dogs, three cats, two parrots, my husband, and the best job in the world: rural family medicine in Vanderhoof!

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into rural family medicine?

You have to have a lot of energy because you’re always busy, but the variety is amazing. You can do anything you want to do and visit with anybody. You help all of your patients, right from pregnancy, delivering, doing home visits, and long-term care. It’s totally full scope, I love it. Staying organized is very key, because you are very busy and it’s great to have people in your court helping you.

Dr. Khan stands in her yard with a cherry tree behind her.

Dr. Khan enjoying time in her garden.

What do you like about the community you live in?

Everybody is amazing here in Vanderhoof! The community, all the doctors are incredibly supportive; they’re all my friends and my family. My kids call them all aunts and uncles. They’ve just totally adopted us and taken us in. We don’t have any direct family here and it still feels like home. Everyone just wants you to succeed. All of my colleagues here are so supportive and they have all jumped to help one another. The collegial environment is amazing. I promote that strongly to our new recruits. It’s really a family of people who work together to make the best team. I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. The support here is honestly amazing. They support you with anything! After the birth of my third child, all the doctors came in to congratulate me. If you’re sick, people will ask if they can help with the kids. That doesn’t happen with most jobs. We’ve lived here for three years and I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else because they make you feel so great.

When you aren’t super busy, what do you like to do?

I love baking and cooking. Before I became a doctor, I was a dietitian because I love food. I’m a total foodie. I love going out to restaurants and experimenting with new recipes. The kids and I are always baking and trying new things. My husband planted me this big garden and greenhouse, so we’ve been eating lots of homegrown things. Being in a smaller community, I find all sorts of farmers, so we get a lot fresh and local from the farm.

What’s something someone might not know about you?

I really like to go out boating and, funny enough, fishing. We bought a boat a couple years ago, and we love to take the kids out on the tube and go swimming in the middle of the lake. We also like to do ocean fishing and crabbing. We’re off to Haida Gwaii this year. It’s like my little sanctuary. We probably go there every year and just hang out.

What’s your guilty pleasure/vice?
A fabulous glass of red wine, and it has to be served with some sort of amazing cheese platter or a charcuterie board.

Thank you Dr. Kahn for your enthusiasm! Your story and the zest you have for your community reminds us all of the opportunities in the North!

Sanja Knezevic

About Sanja Knezevic

Sanja is a communications advisor with Northern Health’s medical affairs department and is based in Prince George. She moved to Canada in 1995 from former Yugoslavia to Fort Nelson where she lived for a few years before moving to Prince George in 2000. Sanja enjoys photography, curling up with a good book, cooking and spending time with her friends and family.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Gillian McCutcheon

Gillian and her four-year-old daughter, wearing life jackets, in a boat on the Skeena River. The river, forest, and mountains are behind them.

Gillian’s daughter, Polly (4), giving a thumbs up to her first rafting trip on the Upper Skeena.

Recently, I’ve noticed a common theme in my conversations with Northern Health staff! Many staff members planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Gillian McCutcheon, a human resources advisor based in Terrace. Gillian is from Squamish and came to Northern Health in 2015.

I came for…

My husband and I were trying to move to Terrace for about six years. He had been working in the area for a number of years. We knew the area quite well, and liked the closeness to so many activities. It was important for us to be close to water, and not be land locked. We are winter people, and Terrace has all of the winter activities we love to do.

I like the small town feel, and Terrace reminded me of what Squamish felt like 20 years ago. I commuted to Vancouver for work everyday. With our children being so small, it was hard to juggle daycare, the commute, and all of my responsibilities at home. A short commute was very important to me, which made Terrace even more appealing.

Gillian and her eight-year-old daughter wearing their ski gear on a chair lift.

Gillian and her oldest daughter, Maggie (8), skiing at Shames Mountain.

I stayed because…

My work-life balance is great. There are lots of career opportunities at Northern Health to move around and try new things. We’ve always wanted to live on acreage, which we are able to do in Terrace and it’s still only a few minutes from town.

We’ve only been here for four years, which isn’t long, but it feels like home already. Our children really like it here, and there are lots of activities for them to be involved in. Our oldest is really involved in skiing, dance, and Taekwondo. Our youngest has tried dance, t-ball, and yoga already.

We truly feel like part of the community. Unlike Squamish, people live and work here, which is very noticeable. We are active in the ski hill, and enjoy camping, ice skating, and snow shoeing. We recently bought a white water raft and we’re anticipating spending most of the summer on the river. There’s lots to explore, and we feel like we’re only getting started.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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