Healthy Living in the North

Northern Health’s VP of Indigenous Health to sit on Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research

Dr. Margo Greenwood stands between two trees, wearing a scarf with Indigenous art on it.

Dr. Margo Greenwood, Northern Health’s VP of Indigenous Health, has been named one of only 14 panelists on the federal Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research.

Dr. Margo Greenwood, Northern Health’s VP of Indigenous Health, has been appointed to the federal Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

The Expert Panel’s mandate comes directly from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and aims to increase the quality, accessibility, affordability, flexibility, and inclusivity of early learning and child care with consideration for families that need child care the most.

The Expert Panel will be a forum to facilitate in-depth discussions on issues related to early learning and child care information, data, and research to support the honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. The mandate includes lower income families, Indigenous families, lone-parent families, families in underserved communities, those working non-standard hours, and or/children with varying abilities.

The Panel brings together a diverse group of leaders, practitioners, Indigenous representatives, and experts in early learning and child care. The 14 panelists were chosen from over 220 Canadian and international nominees. During the selection process, it was important that the panel be representative of Canada’s diversity in terms of gender, ethnicity, Indigenous identities, regions, and official languages, as well as early learning and child care needs.

The Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Métis National Council were invited to propose representatives who would take part in and engage with the Expert Panel and make linkages to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis data and research.

The Expert Panel will operate for 18 months and provide advice on the development of an early learning and child care data and research strategy. The strategy will identify innovative approaches to encourage high-quality early learning and child care, and to offer advice on how to align the objectives of the work on the Expert Panel with other Government priorities.

Margo’s work focuses on the health and well-being of Indigenous children and families. She has worked as a frontline caregiver of early childhood services; designed early childhood curriculum, programs, and evaluations; and taught early childhood education courses at both the college and university levels. Margo has also served on numerous national and provincial federations, committees and assemblies. She’s undertaken work with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations, and the Canadian Reference Group to the World Health Organization Commission on Social Determinants.

Currently, Margo splits her time between her work with the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health, where she is the academic lead, and Northern Health, where she is the VP of Indigenous Health. Her current research interests include:

  • The development of early childhood education programs and services in Canada from the past and present.
  • How health can be affected by social and economic factors with a focus on colonization and children’s rights.
  • How children form their cultural identity and the exploration of Indigenous ways of knowledge and ways of being.
Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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Selfies with the CEO: Fort St. John Community Action Team

From left to right, Cathy Ulrich, NH CEO; Colleen Nyce, NH Board Chair; and Julianne Kucheran, Community Consultant, Urban Matters smile into the camera as a meeting breaks behind them.

L-R: Cathy Ulrich, NH CEO; Colleen Nyce, NH Board Chair; Julianne Kucheran, Community Consultant, Urban Matters.

Welcome to my new blog series: Selfies with the CEO! As President and CEO of Northern Health, I have the opportunity to be involved with a wide variety of the amazing work being done in the North to improve the health and well-being of our residents. I get to travel the region, meet with a variety of staff, stakeholders, and partners, and be a part of projects, events, and meetings that make Northern Health an organization that I’m proud to lead.

During my travels across the North, I’m going to invite people to take a quick photo with me, so I can highlight some of the dedicated people, great work, and inspiring stories that I hear about.

Last week, the NH Board of Directors held their June meeting in Fort St. John, and we had the honour of hearing a presentation from Community Action Team (CAT) members about local efforts to tackle the opioid crisis.

The Fort St. John CAT includes representatives from more than 20 stakeholder groups and organizations whose goal it is to coordinate and communicate overdose response work in the city. This work includes:

  • Education, awareness, and partnerships
  • Intervention planning
  • Exploring treatment, recovery, and after care in Fort St. John
  • Strengthening the collaboration of the Fort St. John CAT

Thank you to Julianne Kucheran, Community Consultant for Urban Matters, and Amanda Trotter, Executive Director of Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, for your great presentation!

More information on CATs and the response to the overdose crisis can be found on the BC Ministry of Health website.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.

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Our People: Spotlight on Rosalind Layton, NH Connections

Rosalind, a middle-aged woman, smiles into the camera.

Rosalind Layton, NH Connections Operations Manager

One of the challenges of delivering health care in Northern BC is the distance that separates us. We love our nature, our wilderness, and our room to breathe, but this lifestyle also means being hours from neighbouring communities and their services.

Luckily for people who need to travel to their health care appointments, there’s Northern Health (NH) Connections. This shuttle service is operated by Diversified Transportation and runs all over the North, offering affordable transportation to those who need it, with buses captained by safe and compassionate drivers!

Behind the scenes, working tirelessly to ensure the fleet is organized and happy, is an incredibly humble, kind, camera-shy individual named Rosalind (Ros) Layton. Ros, the NH Connections Operations Manager, believes wholeheartedly in the program, and sees the benefits it’s brought to so many Northerners throughout the years!

Here’s a little of Ros’s background story and some of her thoughts on NH Connections:

Why did you choose your career with Diversified Transportation/NH Connections?

My last career at a local radio station was very stressful, so I took some time off to reflect on what I wanted out of a career. Northern Health Connections posted a position for a call centre representative and I jumped on it. I got to know the team and the program, and I loved it. Eight months later, I became the Call Centre Supervisor.

What keeps you at NH Connections?

I love the clients! It’s so rewarding to know that we’re helping people.

What would you say to anyone interested in a career with NH Connections?

The company is wonderful. They truly believe in helping staff members grow and succeed.

What do you like about the North?

My whole family lives in the North, specifically Prince George. The people are very friendly and the region is beautiful.

What do you think you bring most to the NH Connections team?

I try to put everybody else first. My team and the clients are the most important part of the job to me, so I try to prioritize them over… well, anything!

What is something that someone might not know about you?

I was recently awarded the BC Transit Superstar Award!

What is your favourite thing to do outside of work?

I love to spend time with my grandson. He plays basketball and football, so you can usually find me cheering him on at games!

What’s your guilty pleasure?

BEING PAMPERED!!!

Thank you, Rosalind, for everything that you do for NH Connections, and for caring so deeply about the program, the drivers, and our riders!

Visit the NH Connections page for more information or to book your trip today.

Fiona MacPherson

About Fiona MacPherson

Fiona MacPherson was born in Glasgow Scotland, but has spent most of her life in Prince George. She's spent the majority of her career at Northern Health in the IMIT department as a Project Manager, but most recently moved into the Communications department as the Lead for Northern Health Connections and Special Projects. Fiona loves to volunteer in her community and can be found at the local hockey arenas on the weekends watching both her boys play hockey.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Clare Hart

Clare smiles into the camera. Her brown and white horse is directly behind her. Mountains and forest is further in the background.

Clare with her horse, Graffiti.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person, Clare Hart, Director of Specialized Services for the Northwest, based in Terrace. Clare is from England and came to Northern Health in 2009.

I came for…

I was born in a coal mining village in the Northern part of England. It’s an industrial area that is not very clean. Growing up, I always dreamed of living somewhere green, with fresh air and nice woodlands.

I studied to become a registered nurse and had worked in different emergency room positions in England. When we were looking to move, there were a few different countries that needed nurses. English is the only language I speak, so that eliminated quite a few countries. Another big factor was that I wanted the time difference to allow me to talk to my family in England at somewhat normal times.

At that time, I had three children and wanted them to grow up in an area with different opportunities and be close to nature. We chose Terrace because of the job opportunities and natural beauty of the area. We’re surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes, and an abundance of fresh air.

On top of a mountain, Clare smiles in front of a helicopter. She is surrounded by snowy mountains.

Taking a helicopter ride around Terrace to see all the scenery.

I stayed because…

My children have easily settled into life in Terrace. The schools are smaller and my children felt very welcomed from the moment we arrived. Community members have embraced us, and we have built a network of friends that feel more like family.

I really enjoy the outdoors and in the winter I like snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I love that I can pack a picnic and drive in any direction and have quality time outdoors with my family. We have a dog, horse, and a variety of other animals that are a huge part of my life.

I have been able to advance my career in Terrace. I started out as an emergency room nurse at Mills Memorial Hospital and have transitioned to a psychiatric nurse, team lead, manager of mental health and substance use, and now director of specialized services. I feel extremely appreciated by my team and other colleagues. I really appreciate that they always make me feel welcome, like I was born and raised here.

 

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 Lyndsey Rhea, Aboriginal Patient Liaison

On a dirt road with a creek in the background, a man in a motorized wheelchair holds a beige horse. Lyndsey stands to their right.

Stan Boyd (left) from Nazko First Nation and Lyndsey Rhea (right).

Lyndsey Rhea is an Aboriginal Patient Liaison (APL) from Quesnel, BC. Her career as an APL started in 2010, when she began working at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) in Prince George. In 2011, the same role opened up in her home town and she was quick to make the move to G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel, where she’s worked since May 2011.

Not sure what an APL is? Check out “What are APLs and what do they do?

Why did you choose your career?

I attended UNBC in Prince George and received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. I’ve always had an interest in medicine and, through a practicum placement in my fourth year, I learned about the APL role.

APLs have a unique role. We can act as a bridge for the medical system, Aboriginal patients, and communities. I’m passionate about Aboriginal health and making sure that patients receive high-quality, culturally safe care. The APL role combines medical, social work, and Aboriginal components into one job!

How did you end up at NH?

After my practicum placement, I worked as a casual Social Worker and APL in Prince GeorgeI’m from Quesnel, so I was very happy when the APL role came up [in Quesnel] and I was able to move back to my home community.

What would you say to anyone wanting to get into your kind of career?

It’s definitely a very rewarding career! Every day is different, which makes for an exciting and challenging job. I’m always learning something new, and have learned so much about local traditions and history from the Elders in my area. It’s also a good idea to look into volunteering opportunities that are in the field of your interest. Here in Quesnel, we have a Junior Volunteer Program that is a great way to get an understanding of what it might be like to work in a hospital.

Lyndsey Rhea sits at a desk at G.R. Baker Hospital.

Lyndsey Rhea at G.R. Baker Hospital.

What does a day in the life of an APL look like?

On a typical day, the first thing I do is go to our daily huddle on the inpatient unit. From there, I can plan my day. I would then see the patients who are in the hospital, help to support them throughout their stay, and help plan for their discharge.

I work in all areas of the hospital, including the emergency room, intensive care unit, acute care, psychiatry, and with residents in long-term care. I also work with clients in the community to help them navigate the health care system. This might include a home visit or attending a doctor’s appointment with a patient to help them advocate for their health care needs. Another big part of my job includes working with the First Nations Health Authority for things like patient travel, medical supplies and equipment, and prescription coverage.

I’m lucky to be able to work with our local communities and take part in events in both urban and community settings. Recently, I helped with an Equine Wellness event for youth in Nazko. I attend health fairs and other community events. I’ve found a huge benefit in getting to know community members outside of the hospital, so if they do need my services, I’m a familiar face.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an APL?

The most rewarding part to me has been the relationships that I have built with Elders, patients, and local First Nations communities. I’ve been able to work with new moms having their first babies, Elders who are passing away, and everything in between. Accessing health care can be stressful and it is rewarding to know that I have been able to help patients go through the medical system easier.

What’s your favourite part about living where you do?

I like that Quesnel is such a close-knit community. We may lack resources compared to a larger centre, but the service providers in our community are able to work together to come up with creative ideas and solutions. Because Quesnel is a smaller community, I’m able to build relationships and connect with patients and clients in a way that is not possible in larger cities.

12 members of the G.R. Baker staff are wearing orange shirts in support of Orange Shirt Day.

Lyndsey and other G.R. Baker Hospital staff support Orange Shirt Day.

How can patients get a referral to work with an APL?

I have a very casual/informal referral process. Referrals come by phone. Patients are welcome to self refer, or I can get calls from doctors, nurses, First Nations health teams, or family members. Patients do not need to have a status card or be admitted to the hospital to use APL services.

What’s your favourite thing to do outside work?

Last summer, I started paddle boarding and can’t wait for the warmer weather so I can get out on the lake with friends. I also play the fiddle and enjoy doing that as often as I can.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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I came for… I stayed because… with Cathy Czechmeister

A young Cathy Czechmeister smiles in front of the camera, wearing a blue and white nursing uniform, including cap, from 1978.

Cathy in 1978 during her first year as a student nurse in the United Kingdom.

If you’ve been following this series, you’ll be familiar with the common theme I’ve uncovered among many Northern Health staff: many of them had planned to come to the North for a short time, but have stayed for a lot longer! Meet one such person: Cathy Czechmeister, Lead, Professional Practice Nursing, based in Prince George. Cathy is from Edinburgh, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 1992.

I came for…

We came to Prince George two weeks after my husband and I got married. He was a teacher and had just graduated from university. At that time, teaching jobs were few and far between. He applied to positions all over the world, and was fortunate to get a job in Prince George. I am a nurse and I had been working as an acute care head nurse in Scotland. We planned on staying for a year or two, then move on to somewhere else.

I stayed because…

My husband and I learned to love the North and all of the outdoor activities we have access to! I enjoy hiking and kayaking. As a family, we cross-country ski and one of our daughters has competed in biathlons. The quality of life is so fantastic here and you have more time for yourself and family.

Two women sit on a wood structure high atop a mountain. They are high above forest and a body of water in the distance.

Cathy and her daughter, Sophie, hiking Mount Pope near Fort St James.

After having children, we made more friends and became engaged in the community. We have found people to be very friendly. Plus, everything is so convenient. Since we have been in Prince George, the community has grown so much: we have a great university, cultural activities, shopping, and much more!

I’ve had lots of opportunities for growth and education. Throughout my time at Northern Health, I’ve held multiple positions in community care including team lead, manager, and educator. I don’t think I would have had the same career and leadership opportunities if I had lived somewhere 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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What are Aboriginal Patient Liaisons and what do they do?

Lloyd McDames smiles at the camera. Text highlights what Llyod, an Aboriginal Patient Liason at Mills Memorial does and provides his phone number: 250-638-4085.

Llyod McDames is the APL for Terrace and Kitimat at Mills Memorial Hospital. The contact information for your community’s APL is available on the Indigenous Health website. It’s also on posters and screens at your local hospital.

Maybe you’ve seen their smiling faces on a TV screen at one of our hospitals or maybe you’ve heard the term “APL,” but you’re still not sure what exactly Aboriginal Patient Liaisons are, much less what they do. Let’s find out!

So, what are Aboriginal Patient Liaisons (APLs) and what do they do?

There are 10 APLs across the North. They work to make sure Indigenous patients, clients, residents, and their families have access to high quality, culturally safe care. They also help close gaps between Western and traditional medicine, ensuring a holistic health approach.

Lloyd McDames is the APL for Mills Memorial Hospital, which serves communities in and around the Terrace and Kitimat areas. In Lloyd’s role, no two days are the same.

“When I reflect on my role as an APL at Mills Memorial Hospital I find my role is that of: a travel coordinator, a comforter, a family researcher, a cultural awareness educator, a support person, an advocate, an outreach worker, a facilitator, a mediator, a problem solver, a community liaison, a social worker, and my favourite: a telephone-tag player,” says Lloyd.

Lloyd and the other APLs across the region work with a diverse group of community members and health care providers. They must learn to adapt quickly to make sure each unique individual receives culturally safe care.

Northern Health created the APL program because we are committed to:

  • Partnering with Indigenous peoples.
  • Building a health care system that honours diversity and provides services in a culturally relevant manner.

The program runs in partnership with community agencies in Prince George and Smithers (Carrier Sekani Family Services and the Dze L K’ant Friendship Centre Society respectively).

Northern Health’s Indigenous Health team supports the APL program by:

  • Providing training opportunities and mentoring.
  • Supporting a community of practice.
  • Developing communications materials and resources.
  • Collaboratively planning, developing and evaluating the program.

What can an APL assist you with?

Indigenous health is holistic and seeks balance. At the heart of this view is an understanding that all things are connected and in relationship to one another – land, water, air, animals, individuals, families, and communities. Holistic health is a process that demands a broad and inclusive perspective for addressing health issues.

Here are some of the ways that APLs can work to make sure your health care experience is holistic:

  • Arrange for translation services.
  • Help patients understand the health care process, procedures, and terminology.
  • Help to ensure admission and discharge planning goes according to patient needs.
  • Assist with advanced health care planning.
  • Facilitate communication and cultural understanding between patient and care providers.
  • Assist patient with end-of-life resources.
  • Coordinate spiritual/cultural advisors.
  • Support and comfort family and friends.
  • Assist with referrals within Northern Health and to community agencies.
  • Help link patients to non-insured health benefits.
  • Assist with transition to and within long-term care.

How can you get in contact with an APL in your community?

There are 10 APLs throughout Northern Health in the following communities:

Contact information for each area can be found on the Indigenous Health website. Patients are invited to reach out to their APL directly or ask their health care provider for a referral.

Whether you are a health care provider or a patient seeking care, the team of APLs is here for you.

Shelby Petersen

About Shelby Petersen

Shelby is the Web Services Coordinator with Indigenous Health. Shelby has over five years of experience working in content development and digital marketing. After graduating with a degree in Political Science from UNBC, Shelby moved to Vancouver where she pursued a career in digital marketing. Most recently, Shelby was the Senior Content Developer and Project Manager with a digital advertising agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Born and raised in Prince George, Shelby is thrilled to be back in the community and spending time outside enjoying everything that the North has to offer.

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I came for… and I stayed because… with John Short

John sitting on a log on the beach, petting his dog.

John and his dog Pipyr enjoying a visit to one of the local beaches in Masset.

Recently, I 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: John Short, Site Manager for the Northern Haida Gwaii Hospital & Health Centre in Masset. John is from Toronto, Ontario, and he first came to Northern Health 10 years ago.

I came for…

I was working as a temporary nurse with a staffing company in 2009 and was placed in Masset for three weeks. Two days into the placement, I had a feeling that I was supposed to be here. It felt like home. I discussed future opportunities with the nurse manager. I worked in nearby communities for the next few months, but came back to Masset. I officially started as a Northern Health employee May 1, 2010.

John posing at the beach, holding a starfish.

You never know what sort of sea creatures you are going to find on Haida Gwaii. John found a starfish on one of his adventures around the island.

I stayed because…

I fell in love with the community and people on Haida Gwaii. Living in a small, rural community was very new for me and I quickly became appreciative of the relationships I was building. My partner relocated with me and was creating his own experiences. We’ve been fortunate to have developed many meaningful relationships. By chance, we developed a strong friendship with a local Haida elder (matriarch) that led to both of us being adopted into her clan. We continue to have a close relationship with her and her adult children and many cousins. We had a naming potlatch and I was given the name dangid giigang, which means “always smiling.”

There was a lot of potential for career advancement in Masset. The nurse manager that hired me recognized my leadership potential. She invested time to orientate me to her role so I could cover her vacations and provide support to the department. This motivated me to further develop my leadership skills. After she retired, I was hired as the nurse manager. I was in that position for two years until the opportunity to be the site director came up.

Moving to Masset has been a great adventure. I look forward to coming to work every day. I love seeing when others develop their own connection to Masset. After getting our matriarch’s blessing, we acquired property outside of town and we plan to build our forever home while we live off-grid on the property. We are settlers here and don’t see ourselves ever wanting to leave Masset. This is home. I am very thankful that a temporary nursing assignment brought me here.

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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Mamma Mia in a small town

Members of Vanderhoof's Mamma Mia the musical performance pose in costume.

Members of Vanderhoof’s Mamma Mia the musical performance pose in costume.

In 2018, I had the unique opportunity to work with a number of my Vanderhoof colleagues in a community musical theater production of the hit movie, Mamma Mia.

Without prior knowledge of my colleagues’ hidden talents, I auditioned, only to find several of them were also involved in the production in various roles: chorus, leads, costume design, band members, backstage crew, and more.

As it turns out, talent in rural medicine is not limited to the hospital or clinic, but extends into the fabric of the community-focused, small-town lifestyle.

Having worked with so many driven, career-focused individuals in medical school and residency, it was easy to forget that there are other things in life beyond medicine.

Who knew that by joining a busy, full-scope rural practice, I would get whisked away with a group of super creative and outrageously musically inclined friends?

It exposed me to another side of rural medicine that I couldn’t have anticipated: “science geeks” can have a wildly artistic and creative side.

Despite our busy lives, we all managed to find time to join other community members to put together what I think is by far the best musical production of Mamma Mia outside the Silver Screen.

Whenever my children sing songs from the play or I talk about the production with friends, I remember how the stress of our day-to-day lives in the ER or clinic melted away when we were on stage.

The shop talk was left at the door as we joined our cast and crew and focused on delivering the best team performance of Lisa Striegler’s inspired interpretation of the musical.

Several months have passed, and it’s still hard to believe that the collective and passionate journey from first auditions to performing in front of a sold-out audience is actually over.

The pressure of gruelling practices, memorizing lines and dance moves, and remembering where to stand all paled in comparison to the uplifting solidarity and camaraderie of the Mamma Mia family.

Although this chapter has come to an end, every time I greet one of my fellow cast members in the community, I have a deeper understanding that we are family and have shared a sacred experience.

Performing in the production of Mamma Mia has enlightened me to the strong and unwavering love within the town of Vanderhoof. It is my pleasure to serve and be a member of such an amazing and welcoming community.

Dr. Aryn Khan

About Dr. Aryn Khan

Dr. Aryn Khan was born in Burns Lake, BC and always dreamed of becoming a rural doctor. She received her medical degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, and in 2016 she moved to Vanderhoof with her family. Dr. Khan is currently on the Medical Staff Association for St. John Hospital and chair of their Facility Engagement. Her life is busy with three amazing kids, two dogs, three cats, two parrots, and one husband and the best job in the world: rural family medicine in Vanderhoof!

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Our People: Spotlight on Kyle Smith, Audiologist, Fort St. John

Kyle standing on a riverbank.

Kyle Smith, Audiologist in Fort St. John.

For Kyle Smith, it was his interest in language and communication that led him to a career in audiology. Growing up off the grid, he developed a love for the outdoors which made his move to Fort St. John with his fiancée a great fit! Before choosing audiology as a career, he completed a culinary degree and was a tree planter and self-professed “ski bum” before he decided to go back to school for creative writing. This ultimately led him to audiology.

May is Speech and Hearing Month, so I spoke with Kyle to learn a little more about him and what it’s like working as an audiologist!

In your own words, what does an audiologist do?

Audiology is a big field! It involves communication and hearing health, as well as balance. It includes what you might typically picture an audiologist doing — things like hearing tests and helping people with hearing devices. But it also includes things you might not picture, like occupational noise testing: walking around with a sound level meter and determining whether there’s a dangerous amount of sound or not. I’m part of a community health team in Fort St. John. Along with hearing tests, I also help little kids learn to use their ears. That could mean teaching families about communication strategies, or using hearing aids, or helping make homes and schools hearing-friendly places. Basically, I work on the hearing or input side of speech and language development.

Audiologists also help adults with balance disorders — these can be complicated to test! There’s a complex interaction between our inner ear, eyes, and the mechanical receptors in our feet and leg muscles. They work as a team to tell us if we’re standing upright or not. When these aren’t in balance with each other, people can get queasy and lose their balance.

Can you tell me about your career so far?

I’m pretty new to my role. I started in October 2018. Since I started school six years ago, the field has already changed in huge ways. There are little computers in hearing aids themselves. If you think about the advances in smart phones and cameras and how far that technology has come — hearing aids are similar. You can get hearing aids that are controlled by apps. From what I understand, the next generation may even connect to the internet!

How are speech and hearing related?

They’re very connected — basically they’re two sides of the same coin. We don’t learn speech on our own. Hearing our guardians’ voices as babies, we eventually make sense of the “blurbs” they’re saying as syllables and words and then sentences. We need practice to get good at it. It’s the turn taking and the conversation when we’re communicating that counts towards learning language. If someone isn’t getting input, they won’t understand that sounds have meaning and are connected to people moving their faces around. There are little cues — for example if someone is missing their “f’s” and “s’s,” that may indicate hearing loss, as in they may not have ever heard the sound to know it.

What kind of education is needed to be an audiologist?

In Canada, you need a master’s degree. I did a Master of Science in Audiology and Speech Sciences at the University of British Columbia. It takes a four year undergraduate degree and volunteer work to get in. The master’s program is about two to three years long — it depends if you do a thesis or go on to complete a doctorate afterwards. After school, you don’t stop learning! I’m going to a conference in May. Things are always changing and updating in the field, especially with the technology.

What does a regular day look like for you?

Every day looks a bit different which is one of the things I enjoy about my job! A lot of my day involves patient care. I mostly see kids aged nine months to 19. I try and determine what they can hear, and if they’re having difficulties, then I figure out where the break down is and how to fix it, so to speak. For some kids, I’m trying to figure out how they can hear better in the classroom or in daily life. I get to work with new and cool technology. There are some fun gadgets like bone conduction hearing aids; they vibrate the skull so that sound can be interpreted that way, rather than through the outer ear.

What’s your favourite or most rewarding part of your role?

I love those “Youtube moments” when a baby hears their parent’s voice for the first time. I also love being at the intersection of health care and cool new gadgets — I get to troubleshoot problems and fix things in real time which I enjoy. I also love helping kids access the sounds and conversation around them so they can keep up with their hearing peers. Hearing loss can really isolate us from people.

What sort of collaboration is there in the audiology field?

I’d like to give a shout out to the BC Early Hearing Program. They’re a global leader in the detection of hearing loss in newborns, with amazing follow through to coordinating medical or technological interventions when needed. In a recent national survey on early hearing detection and intervention, all the different provincial programs were ranked and BC was a shining star!

I work closely with the BC Early Hearing Program, mostly with kids aged nine months to five years. If they’ve had hearing loss, we work in tandem to coordinate services, whether that’s getting funding for devices or using a team approach to get a speech pathologist, or sign language instruction for deaf infants born to hearing parents, if they choose that route.

How are kids screened for hearing loss?

Just about every newborn baby is screened at birth. If there’s risk factors identified, then they’re followed up and checked on. When kids are school-aged, they do a Kindergarten screening and language assessment. There’s more information on the NH Hearing Program website.

How can someone see an audiologist?

Seeing a public health audiologist requires a referral. These can come from a variety of sources depending on the concerns and the community:

  • Registered nurses and allied health professionals
  • Doctors and medical specialists
  • Child development centres
  • Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in the school districts

Learn more

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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