Healthy Living in the North

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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Growing our own: From high school to health care in the South Peace

A woman and two young males sit behind a table at the Northern Health booth at the South Peace Secondary School career fair. A C.P.R.-simulation dummy is on the table along with Northern Health pens and star-shaped stress balls.

Grade 10 students Scott Cournoyer and Ben Powell learn about health care careers from Emaly Klomp, Dawson Creek & District Hospital Emergency Room Manager, at the annual South Peace Secondary School Career Fair.

In Dawson Creek, Northern Health (NH) staff are partnering with South Peace Senior Secondary (SPSS) to make sure young people, who are planning for the next phase in their lives, are considering careers in health care.

“We want high school-age kids to know that a career with Northern Health can be an easy answer to the difficult question: what will I be when I grow up?” says Kendra Kiss, South Peace Health Services Administrator. “Health care offers well-paying jobs, excellent benefits, and the opportunity to make an impact at the personal and community level – all in a person’s home community.”

For the last two years, Dawson Creek & District Hospital (DCDH) has given SPSS’s students the chance to gain work experience hours. Up to eight grade 11 and 12 students have rotated through different departments of the hospital, getting a taste of different roles. After high school, the NH-SPSS partnership continues to impact former students and the health care system.

“At least three students from the program have gone into medical programs and are coming back to work as employed students over the summer,” says Kendra. “Seeing students who were wide-eyed high schoolers, trying to find their way in the world come back with purpose is inspiring. As a hospital, we see great benefits, as do the students who gain real-world experience and grow professionally and personally.”

Along with bringing students to the hospital, staff are engaging SPSS students at their school. On March 14, Kendra and Emaly Klomp, DCDH’s Emergency Department Manager, joined other local employers at the school’s annual career fair. Students from Dawson Creek, Chetwynd, and Tumbler Ridge had the opportunity to ask questions about health care careers. NH’s booth (pictured) featured the “CPR for 2 Minutes” contest. Only one student was able to make a full minute, but everyone had a great time trying.

If you have questions about working at Northern Health, including about local partnerships like the one above, please contact NH’s Recruitment department:

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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Team health care shines in Dawson Creek – because a patient spoke up

The outside of Dawson Creek and District Hospital.

When interprofessional health care teams, emergency rooms, and patients all work together, the result can be great health care. A case in point: a recent story from Dawson Creek.

While he was at the Dawson Creek emergency room for another concern, a patient — let’s call him “Fred”* — asked for a hepatitis B vaccine. Fred also made sure the nurse knew that the interprofessional health care team was involved in his care. This was a key step in ensuring he got the best care.

The emergency department then called the health care team to see if they could get the vaccine for Fred right away, so he wouldn’t have to book a separate appointment.

The answer from the interprofessional health care team was “Yes!” A public health resource nurse working with the team took the vaccine across the street to the emergency department, then helped the ER nurse give it to Fred.

Note: Given that Fred has unique health concerns, this approach made sense for his specific case – but normally, people who need immunizations should book them through their local health unit.

“This spoke to the client engaging in his own health care,” said Deanna Thomas, Manager of Community Services in Dawson Creek. “It shows the value of building relationships with clients so they feel empowered to speak up.”

Patients are a huge part of the solution in health care – high-fives to Fred for making sure the emergency department had all the facts, and to the emergency department and the health care team for their collaboration and quick response!

*Not his real name – identifying details have been changed.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Finding wellness at work: tips from the Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team


The Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team works on different wellness related initiatives throughout the year.

“In order to take good care of patients, we need to take good care of ourselves.” This is just one reason why the Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team exists. Lara Frederick, the North East Preventive Public Health Program Lead, is an active member of this team, however, she is only one member of what she describes as a diverse group.

“The team is made up of a variety of staff at the Dawson Creek Health Unit – from administrative to management like myself,” says Lara. “Membership is optional and members are encouraged to join when they can. We’re a pretty informal group. We aim to meet monthly – usually in a neutral space like the lunchroom. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen and that’s okay. Members contribute where they can.”

Wellness in action

According to Lara, the Health Unit wellness team works on different wellness related initiatives throughout the year. She shared a few of the initiatives the team has taken part in lately:

  • Jeans Day: “Basically each staff member can choose to pay $25 for the year to be able to wear jeans on a Friday (participation is optional). We put part of that money towards wellness initiatives like potlucks etc. and the other funds go towards local charities chosen by staff. We usually vote as a group and then make a donation to four chosen charities on behalf of the Dawson Creek Health Unit.”
  • Walk Across Canada: “Last summer the team took part in a physical activity challenge where team members were placed on randomized teams and tracked their steps all summer. Every 5,000 steps equalled one star. Everyone tracked their progress by adding stars to a confidential team tally. The challenge really helped encourage everyone to get out on lunches and breaks. People were doing laps around the building! At the end of the challenge,the teams and participants who walked the farthest won a prize.”
  • Secret Friend: “This September, interested staff members filled out a questionnaire with questions asking what they liked, what makes them smile, etc. Participants were then randomly assigned to another participant to be their secret friend. The goal of the secret friend is to anonymously do nice things for their buddy – things like leaving nice notes or little gifts in their work space, and even just making a bit of effort to get to know that person. With many new staff this is a great way to help everyone feel included. One staff member actually created a seek-and-find where the secret friend had to search out people in the health unit according to clues! It was a great way to help that new staff member get to know us all! The plan is to end secret friend with a potluck in December where everyone tries to guess who their buddy was, followed by a big reveal!”

Why work should be enjoyable

For Lara, being part of the wellness team is a no-brainer as she’s a self-described wellness junky! “It’s very important to me to enjoy my time at work and have fun,” she says. For her, the best way to do this is to get involved with other people at work.

Get involved with other people on your team! If you’re given the space by managers, work together to create a fun environment. Especially with staff turnover and challenges, it’s great to come to work and have fun things going on.”

Overcoming workplace wellness obstacles

According to Lara, there can be barriers to making wellness work at work, the biggest ones being management support, time, and money. She says their team is fortunate that their local management sees the value in having a healthy wellness team: “Being supported to meet together for 30-40 minutes in the lunchroom makes a big difference. We have a lot of people eager to make our workplace enjoyable. They want to help and be involved.”


Prizes from the team’s Walk Across Canada challenge last summer!

Lara says time will always be a barrier, especially in health care: “The thought is that time shouldn’t be taken away from patient care to work on wellness at work. However, in order to take good care of patients, we need to take good care of ourselves first.” She says the wellness team operates on staff donations and relying on that can be challenging. “Sometimes when we’re looking to get prizes made, we can get discounts from local shops-which helps lower the cost. Having this local support is great.”

Incorporating wellness in your workplace: words of advice

“It takes just one person with a desire to bring wellness to the workplace. That one person needs to seek out the support of fellow teammates as well as support from leadership.” As Lara says, prioritizing time can be tough and health care workers must take care of themselves: “Making the workplace more fun and enjoyable makes it healthier for everyone!”


Getting involved with other people on your team is a great way to make work more enjoyable. 

Are you currently part of a wellness team or looking to start one? The Dawson Creek Health Unit wellness team is always looking for more ideas or other teams to do challenges with! “We’d love to do a challenge between another health unit or community team. Please get in touch with us!” 

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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Bike season is over…or is it? How one cycling team keeps wheeling through winter

For avid cyclists, this time of year is bittersweet. With the changing seasons and winter at our doorstep, it’s time to put the bikes away. However, in Dawson Creek, this isn’t the case! The local cycling club, the Greasy Chains, hosts indoor spin classes so even the most dedicated cyclist can keep spinning all winter long.

I spoke to team captain Jamie Maxwell about the club and the classes.

group cycling indoors.

The Dawson Creek Greasy Chains Cycling Club rides Tuesday and Thursday nights 7 to 8pm in the Coyote Rock Cafe at the Dawson Creek Secondary School – Central Campus from November 1 to April.

Tell me about the Greasy Chains Cycling Club!

Here in the Northeast, there are three active cycling groups: the Fort St. John Blizzards, the Grande Prairie Wheelers, and the Dawson Creek Greasy Chains. All three of us are vibrant, active groups. The Greasy Chains are predominantly a road cycling group. From about April to August, we ride outside and in the winter, we spin inside.

What do you enjoy most about spin and cycling?

Recently I found out I wore out one of my knees and was told I needed to run less. I’d read that biking and swimming was therapeutic. The nice thing too about spin and cycling is that it can be a group activity – it’s social. For cycling, it’s a way to experience being outside – similar to running but you get to cover more territory. It’s really fun too.

How does biking help you incorporate wellness into your life?

It seems like as you age, you’re genetically lucky to continue as a runner. With cycling, there doesn’t seem to be lasting negative impacts. For me, it’s an ideal aerobic endurance training tool without the joint impact.

How is the team staying active this winter?

Right now we are offering indoor cycling all winter for $70. We ride every Tuesday and Thursday night from 7 to 8 PM in the Coyote Rock Cafe at the Dawson Creek Secondary School – Central Campus from November 1 to April.

Most of us are riding road bikes, and an indoor bicycle trainer is required (we have a couple trainers available for those who haven’t taken the plunge and bought their own yet!). We’ve had users riding mountain bikes with a smooth urban tire. If you’re going to use a mountain bike there are a few things to consider so the bike stays in the trainer safely.

We use a ceiling mounted projector and sound system and we ride to cycling videos. This is a time where I, and others, can offer advice and instruction, and riders are free to work as hard as they wish. All riders must have a Cycling BC membership (Provincial RIDE $60: affiliate yourself with DC Greasy Chains) for insurance purposes). Riders looking to try it out first can drop-in for November and December and then join Cycling BC for 2019. In the spring the group has mountain bike trail enthusiasts as well!

Where can someone find more information?

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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Volunteer translator saves the day in Dawson Creek

A headshot of George Holland, Operating Room Manager at Dawson Creek & District Hospital.

George Holland, Operating Room Manager at Dawson Creek & District Hospital, recently lived out the Northern Health value of innovation using his German translation skills to help assist a patient.

George Holland, the operating room manager at Dawson Creek & District Hospital, was recently recognized by his peers for living out the NH value of innovation: “Innovation: We will succeed in our work through seeking creative and practical solutions.”

An elderly traveller from Germany needed medical attention in Dawson Creek. She spoke no English and needed someone to translate so she could better understand her situation. George was on the volunteer translation list as an Austrian translator, and he can also speak German.

As soon as he joined the group and started translating, staff noticed the tension leaving the patient and her family.

“They knew where they had to go and what tests were going to happen,” said Donna Anderson, Registration Clerk. “A great experience for our visitors!”

Thank you, George, for demonstrating our values and providing exceptional care for patients and visitors!

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps mange our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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“I always knew that I would come back to nursing”: Richelle’s story

Nurse behind a cart

Thanks to her prior training, Richelle recently transitioned from a position in the private sector to a position at Rotary Manor in Dawson Creek where she’s found some great opportunities and benefits!

Richelle Cooper counts herself as one of the lucky ones. In April 2015, she was riding the Peace Region’s energy boom doing logistical work in one of the industry’s camps when prices began to plummet and she was laid off.

How is that lucky for Richelle? Thanks to Richelle’s prior training as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) from Northern Lights College, she was able to take her career back to the public sector where she’s finding fulfillment in her work, rediscovering the value of being part of a team, and establishing a sense of professional security in spite of the economic downturn.

Born and raised in Dawson Creek, Richelle was inspired to enter health care by her grandmother who worked as a care aide at Rotary Manor.

Given her recent transition, Richelle took some time to speak with me about the differences she has experienced between the private sector and the public sector and how this change has affected her life so far.

Richelle, what was “camp life” like?

For me, the routine and experience became a bit mind numbing. After work, I would just go back to my camp, eat, sleep, and then go back again the next day. I didn’t have family around and I was the only woman in my camp, which meant I had to toughen up. One nice thing was that I didn’t have to cook or clean out there.

And how is your life different now?

The biggest difference I’ve noticed is the pride and appreciation I feel from colleagues and patients when I go to work. While working in the camp, my experience was that people only cared if my job was done, they didn’t necessarily appreciate how well it was done.

Also, now that I live full time in Dawson Creek, I have a great deal of closeness with my friends and family. It was hard to maintain relationships when I was out of town for two weeks at a time.

Do you have more work-life balance?

I do for sure! I have found eight hour shifts to be easier to manage. I now find that I have lots of time left in my day. I coach hockey, go snowboarding, and can do lots of other activities that I couldn’t do when I was living in camps.

Woman standing outside

Born and raised in Dawson Creek, Richelle was inspired to enter health care by her grandmother who worked as a care aide at Rotary Manor.

Did you have a moment when you knew that going to the public sector was the right move for you?

Actually, I had that moment just before I ended up getting laid off. I knew that I wasn’t as happy as I could be in that position, and I felt like there were no opportunities for me to advance in my career there. I need goals; while camp life didn’t offer that for me, my nursing career did! As I was thinking these things, it was a great comfort knowing that I could return to my previous nursing career.

I always knew in my heart that I would come back to nursing. I knew it deep down. It’s part of who I am.

Tell us about the team at Rotary Manor. How does working on that team differ from the team you worked with in the camps?

Our team is awesome! I feel like everybody is on the same page, and if we are not, the discussions are really helpful. Everyone really wants to be there. I find that really refreshing after some of my experiences in the work camps. There, I often got the feeling that we were just there to do a job and get paid. People rarely went the extra step to improve things; they mostly just did what was required with no extra effort. I live by the quote “if it’s good enough, it’s hardly ever good and hardly ever enough!” I feel like I can live by that quote at Rotary Manor and as a nurse!

What advice would you have for anyone looking to get into health care? What would you tell someone who’s thinking about making the jump from the private sector to the public sector?

I would definitely tell them to do as much research as they can and to not be afraid of doing something new – you might like it! Also, while you might find that there is a difference in wages between the public sector and working camp jobs like I did in the oil patch, my return to nursing also brought with it job security and membership in a union that provides me with a number of supports and opportunities.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in health care, Northern Lights College offers Health Care Assistant and Practical Nursing programs.

Start your career with Northern Health at careers.northernhealth.ca.

Steven Prins

About Steven Prins

Steven is a recruiter with Northern Health. He advertises, markets and gets in contact with health care workers throughout Canada to sell Northern Health careers. Steve has a bachelor’s degree in business administration. In his spare time, he is an active fisherman and golfer and a passionate geocaching hound!

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Staff profile: Donna Anderson

Woman in belly dancing outfit posing in front of mural.

Donna’s passion for music and dance have been a great way to stay healthy and see the world! How do you stay active?

A mother of two and grandmother of four, Donna Anderson currently lives and works in Dawson Creek. Donna’s passion for music and dance has taken her around the world and helps her to create a healthier workplace at Dawson Creek and District Hospital.

For the most recent issue of A Healthier You magazine, I asked Donna a few questions about her role at Northern Health, her love of dance, and how northern B.C. supports her health and wellness.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your role at Northern Health.

For the last nine years, I’ve worked in several clerking positions at Dawson Creek and District Hospital. I was hired as an admitting clerk/switchboard operator, but also worked in diagnostic imaging and as a medical/surgical unit clerk. I have loved every department that I’ve worked in! I’m back as an admitting clerk now and am happy meeting the constant flow of people this position involves!

My passion is music in all its forms – and moving to that music! Music has always been more than just a part of my life – it’s a huge part of who I am. As a child, I marched with baton in parades and took tap and ballet lessons along with voice, piano and guitar. Music brings such great opportunities! My grandfather was an original member of the North West Mounted Police Musical Ride and, in July 1902, his Musical Ride went to England to represent Canada at the coronation of King Edward VII. I, too, have had the great fortune of having my musical involvement take me to many places across Canada and the world! As a teen, for example, I was part of a program to entertain throughout Europe and Russia, including our Canadian troops in Germany.

Woman standing in canola field

The beautiful colors of one of Donna’s belly dancing costumes is especially striking against Dawson Creek’s yellow canola fields. Donna’s dancers, Troupe Shalize, take part in many community events in Dawson Creek.

I try to create a healthy and fun workplace by sharing my passion for moving to music with my colleagues. Some of the ladies I work with come to belly dance sessions when they can, even if it’s just dropping in when their shifts allow. Also, some of us were taking a companion hula hooping class. On our lunch breaks, we would go to the gym and hoop to music for a half-hour!

What do you do to live a healthy life?

Belly dancing is a perfect fit for me! It’s different from most other physical activities and is perfect for all ages, sizes and abilities!

The core of belly dance is posture and the isolation of specific muscle movements. By repeating and alternating various movements and putting in a little footwork, you get a pretty good cardio workout with no impact! Add in a mesmerizing costume topped off with a beautiful smile and you have a belly dancer who connects to her mysterious and ancient past!

I’ve had the privilege of taking belly dancing lessons and workshops and performing at various places across Western Canada and elsewhere. Can you imagine taking a belly dance cruise? I’ve been on two!

As a belly dancer, I also dance with various props, including candles, swords, veils, Isis wings and shamadan (chandelier worn on the head) so I get an extra workout from the balance and extensive arm work! Middle Eastern music is so different from the music I grew up with – I love the varied rhythms and instruments – so it’s a good exercise for the brain, as well! For another physical and mental challenge, I’ve added Egyptian and Iranian folk dances recently.

Two dancers standing in front of Dawson Creek sign.

Dawson Creek has it all – an active performing arts community, jaw-dropping scenery, wildlife, outdoor activities, and more!

What do you enjoy about living in Dawson Creek that supports your personal health and wellness?

The performing arts community here is one of Dawson Creek’s worst-kept secrets! I’m thrilled to be working with an amazing and fun group of dancers. My dancers, called Troupe Shalize, are proud to be invited to participate in many community events.

Want something besides dancing? There’s so much to explore in the Peace Country! The scenery is jaw-dropping, the sky is endless blue, and the fields are a gorgeous patchwork. It’s all here and you never know what you’ll see or find! I found a fossil while exploring the banks of the Kiskatinaw River, I’ve seen moose, bear, coyotes and swans while quadding and horseback riding, and the flyover of geese each spring and autumn remains a thrill! You’ll never know what you’re missing if you don’t come to Dawson Creek!


A version of this story first appeared in the August 2015 issue of A Healthier You.

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Community Health Stars: Wayne Mould

Man curling.

Northern Health is pleased to announce our Community Health Star for the month of February: Wayne Mould! Wayne is a founding member of the running club in Dawson Creek (a “running club for everyone”) and is committed to supporting people to make walking and running part of their lifestyle!

Northern Health’s first two Community Health Stars – Myles Mattila of Prince George and Seamus Damstrom of Terrace – exemplified the power of youth to promote health and wellness in their community. Not to be outdone, our Community Health Star for the month of January reminds us all that it is never too late to create healthy changes in your community and to incorporate new physical activities into your life. A retired teacher with a career that spanned 40 years, Wayne Mould has worked to keep the Dawson Creek running club going and growing for the last ten years. Not even a cancer diagnosis and surgery could keep Wayne down for long – just one year after a major cancer surgery, he was racing again and even winning his age category!

I had the pleasure of talking with Wayne about the running club, his impressive running resumé, and why supporting an active community is so important to him.

How did you get into running?

I started running in my late 50s after a bit of an off-the-cuff remark to my daughter, who runs regularly. She had just returned home after a six kilometre run, and I mentioned – as an inexperienced non-runner at the time – that she seemed quite tired after “just” six kilometres. Her response was that I should try running six kilometres. So, just to prove that I could, I started running with a few others and haven’t stopped!

Since that time, I’ve run about 15 half marathons, one full marathon, and 15 ten kilometre races. The highlights for me were races in Kelowna just after my 60th and 70th birthdays when I won my age groups. I’ve also raced the famous Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge seven times. That race is pretty special because you get a “permanent number” after five races so I’m proud to be part of that group.

How are you involved in the Dawson Creek running club?

I have been involved in the Dawson Creek running club for the last ten years. Together with some others, we’ve kept the club going and our members running through snow, rain, or shine! We organize four runs each week and the club members say that “Wayne will always be there.” I guess that I am the familiar face during all of the runs! I try to invite as many new members as possible and encourage everyone to join us on our runs.

Man running outside.

Whether snow, rain, or shine, Wayne is always out with new and existing running club members for their morning runs. Wayne is a familiar and friendly face eager to welcome new members and get more people active!

How is the Dawson Creek running club organized?

The group has a loose structure, which I believe encourages participation. We meet at the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek four times each week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:00 a.m. for a five kilometre run and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. for a longer run.

We call it the “running club for everyone” and even had some T-shirts made up with that slogan. We welcome all runners from first-timers to ultra-marathon runners. There is a lot of turnover – which is neat as we get to meet new people – and there are approximately 25 people who are loosely associated with the running club at any one point. Of these members, 3-15 runners will participate in any one run that we do.

I take our slogan – that we are a running club for everyone – very seriously! The social part of the club is very strong. Members have become very good friends because of the way that we run. We run for 10 minutes and walk for one minute, all at a pace that allows us to talk to each other.

The running club also organizes an annual run in Dawson Creek – the Windmill Run/Walk. The event is a 10 kilometre run or walk event (we don’t specify which!) and participants can turn around whenever they feel like it if 10 kilometres is too daunting. Our goal with this event is to generate interest in running and walking in Dawson Creek and to make it a part of people’s lifestyles. The event is becoming quite popular! First-time participants get medals, local doctors have been promoting it, and we had over 50 runners last year.

How did your cancer diagnosis impact your running?

Shortly after my 70th birthday, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I received excellent care – I really can’t say enough about how I was treated by the health system and health care professionals both in Dawson Creek and when I had to travel away from home for specialized care – and have recovered fully from an operation that removed the cancer and a kidney.

After about six weeks, I was walking with the running club again and after one year, I was running regularly and felt close to 90% of where I was before the diagnosis. After turning 71, I was racing again and even won my age group during a race that year.

What are your plans for 2015?

I will keep running! You’ll find me at the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek four mornings each week!

I may not do any more full marathons but I’d like to finish at least four races this year – in Grande Prairie, Chetwynd, Kelowna, and the Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge.


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Overcoming challenges for physical activity

Crystal, outside physical activity.

Crystal, showing dedication and braving the Dawson Creek winter elements to fit some physical activity into her work day.

Fourteen years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that drastically turned my world upside down. Being active was something that was always important to me and now, at the age of only 20 years old, I was faced with learning how to live with a disease that affected my ability to perform even the simplest of everyday activities.

Working at Northern Health has been a good fit for me, but especially in managing my health. I have enough flexibility in the job that on good days I could be out in the field working and on bad days I could stay in the office. As time went on, I noticed that I started to spend more time in the office. As a result, I walked less and sat much more. Something needed to change.

In 2009 I made a life change. I stepped outside of my personal comfort zone and signed up for a 12 week boot camp at the local gym. I still remember that first day. I was so self-conscious about being weak and poorly conditioned. But, instead of giving up, I kept with it. I also hired a personal trainer. It was a learning experience for both of us as we figured out how I could modify the movements.

At Northern Health we are beginning to walk the walk and be the face of health within our communities and, as we have learned the last few weeks, workplaces are great locations to promote healthy living and integrate physical activity into daily life. I decided that I wanted to use what I had learned over the years and share it with my co-workers, so I created a contest.

In the winter of 2013, the Dawson Creek and Fort St. John health units challenged the Smithers and Terrace health units in the first ever internal Workplace Wellness “Healthier You Challenge.” This challenge was a fun, in-house 12-week pilot project designed around the Northern Health position papers. The focus of the challenge was to educate and engage staff on incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviours into their everyday routines.

Between the four health units, over 100 staff committed to the challenge. Each week I sent out a new worksheet that explained the week’s challenge. The “weekly” challenges were designed to get you moving and start thinking about healthy food choices.

The physical activity component was based on the key message that every move counts. This theme was carried over from week to week. Anytime an employee participated in any form of physical activity for 10 minutes or more, they logged that into their worksheet and gained points for their team. Participants also gained points for every kilometre travelled and/or steps that they took for the day. I got lots of motivation from B.C.’s Physical Activity Line.

The food challenges were based on Canada’s Food Guide and provincial initiatives. These changed week to week. Examples included eating vegetables and fruit, and reducing the amount of trans fat and high sodium foods that were consumed.

One of the big successes of the challenge was the creation of the “Break Challenge.” During the challenge, employees were encouraged to participate in some sort of physical activity for 15 minutes while at work. Each day a group of staff from the Dawson Creek Health Unit could be found outside walking around on their coffee breaks. It was common on the really cold days to find staff lunging, frog jumping, or walking in the hallways. At the end of Week 1, employees had participated in 342 physical activity breaks, 306 hours of physical activity, and had walked 2097 kms.

At the end of the challenge I surveyed participants, asking them what they liked best about the challenge and what changes they had made in their workplace as a result of the challenge. Some of the comments were:

  • Breaking down the challenge week by week made it feel more manageable and seem less daunting. I also liked the fact there was a different challenge each week.
  • For me the best part of the challenge was the joining of the individuals in our health unit to challenge each other in a supportive environment.
  • Able to critically look at the everyday and identify small opportunities for positive change vs. drastic and likely short lived changes.

This is the challenge that I developed for my fellow co-workers. It was fun and really got people engaged. For more information on some of the weekly challenges, or to find out which health unit won bragging rights, make sure to keep an eye for my future updates on the Northern Health blog. Alternatively, if you are looking for a workplace wellness program that your workplace can join, we encourage you to look at the Canadian Cancer Society’s Wellness Fits program.

Crystal Brown

About Crystal Brown

Accepting a position as an Environmental Health Officer with Northern Health, Crystal Brown moved from Nova Scotia to Dawson Creek in 2004. Since then, Crystal has developed an interest in health promotion and how our built environments impact our health. As the B.C. Branch President-Elect since 2011, Crystal works provincially and nationally with the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors to promote the mission statement and maintain the integrity of public health. In this, she also participates in initiatives that will help to strengthen and advance the profession. To stay active, Crystal attends a morning outdoor boot camp, runs and walks her dogs. In August, Crystal participated and completed her first ever Emperor's Challenge in Tumbler Ridge, B.C.

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