Healthy Living in the North

Northern Doctor’s Day brings together 150 doctors from across the North

NH staff standing at the registration table for Northern Doctor's Day.

Northern Health staff welcome physicians at the registration table on Northern Doctor’s Day. Left to right: Kelsey Guldbransen, Continuing Medical Education Program Assistant, Jayleen Emery, Physician Quality Improvement Coordinator, Heather Gummow, Continuing Medical Education Program Coordinator.

The 42nd Annual Northern Doctor’s Day was held on November 2 and 3 at the University Hospital of Northern BC (UHNBC) and the Courtyard Marriott in Prince George. This year, 150 doctors attended from throughout Northern BC.

The event is an annual conference that offers learning opportunities for physicians. It’s a chance for physicians throughout the North to network and build relationships, as well as to attend educational seminars. The educational program hosted a variety of topics this year including: Trauma Informed Approach to Addressing Inequity in Indigenous Health, Pharmacologic Treatments for Child/Youth Depression & Anxiety Disorders in Primary Care, and A Morning of Orthopedics for the Primary Care Physician.

Annually, Northern Doctor’s Day also features recognition of retiring physicians from the Prince George community.

Janna Olynick, Research Associate, and Erika Belanger, Research Associate, from Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCBC) offering rural physicians resources and information on practice.

 Erika Belanger and Janna Olynick, Research Associates, from Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCBC), offering rural physicians resources and information on practice.

Candice Manahan, Executive Lead, Physician Quality Improvement offers information and resources to support doctors in their practice.

Candice Manahan, Executive Lead, Physician Quality Improvement offers information and resources to support doctors in their practice.

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.


Share your story!

We want to highlight the lasting impact of teachers and coaches on the health and wellness of northerners by sharing stories about the positive influence of school experiences, and WE NEED YOUR HELP! Will you share your story?

These stories will be highlighted in a new resource from the Every Child and Coach a Winner (ECCAW) program, which aims to support the health and wellness of children in schools across the north. ECCAW equips ‘coaches’ with key health messages to engage children in their own health, preparing them to become healthy, responsible adults while supporting teachers to create a healthy school.

Your story, however brief, serves as an important reminder about the role of school staff, educators and coaches in the health and wellness of young people.

As an example, here’s what George Wiens in Dawson Creek says:

“As a grade nine student, I had a very dynamic English teacher. It was the first time I had experienced interactive study sessions, where I leaned philosophy and history intertwined and tied to the literature from the curriculum. After school our English teacher would take a group of us interested students to the tennis courts where he taught us how to play while continuing to learn and discuss English topics. He set different expectations for learning. We were challenged to think and act independently, to pull together why we thought and did things and to defend the actions we took. It was an incredible mentoring process that went beyond the normal hours and expectations of a classroom. I don’t think he would have called himself a coach, but he was coaching in a different way, challenging us as students and young adults. This is an experience that remains vivid and impactful for me.”

Having your voice and the stories of our colleagues and friends will strengthen this initiative and ensure that northern voices are represented in this resource.

Email your story to or post it as a comment on this post.

More info: I previously shared a blog post that describes more about ECCAW here:

Julia Stephenson

About Julia Stephenson

Julia is a master’s of public health graduate working with the 2015 Canada Winter Games. She is passionate about upstream health and creating environments that support well-being. Julia grew up in Ontario, but feels at home in B.C., and is embracing the move north with all the opportunities for outdoor activity. She enjoys hiking, camping, canoeing, swimming, and being outside exploring new places.


Combating the fear, shock and stigma around HIV/AIDS

Be a warrior against HIV

Playing cards developed by the STOP HIV/AIDS program for the campaign.

I first learned about AIDS when I worked as a newspaper reporter in Vancouver in the mid-1980s. AIDS Vancouver, one of the first AIDS support organizations in Canada, was in its infancy, and little was known about this mystery disease other than it only seemed to affect gay men who were dying of a strange form of pneumonia in various North American cities.

When it became known that AIDS was actually a global epidemic that also affected heterosexual men and women, people everywhere reacted with fear, shock and stigma.

Fast forward to October 2011, when I was hired by Northern Health to work as a communications officer on the provincially-funded STOP HIV/AIDS pilot project. Things haven’t changed much since the 1980s. Mention HIV/AIDS now and many people still react with fear, shock and stigma — mainly because they’re woefully uneducated on all things related to HIV/AIDS.

What has changed is that HIV is now considered a manageable chronic disease — it’s no longer an automatic death sentence. That’s where Northern Health’s STOP HIV/AIDS pilot project comes in. The project has been operating since 2010 and on May 29, 2012, we launched the education/awareness component of the project. As communications lead, I’ve had the opportunity to work with talented consultants, dedicated community partners and Northern Health staff on this education/awareness campaign. We’re giving northerners the facts about HIV. We’re telling them that HIV affects everyone: all genders, all ages, all races. We’re encouraging people to take an HIV test and, if necessary, seek treatment to control the disease which will allow them to lead longer, healthier lives.

Our aggressive campaign, running in communities across northern B.C., features newspaper, radio, TV and billboard ads; a new website,; and catchy drink coasters, posters and other promo items all encouraging people to take an HIV test. We also created the very powerful video posted below.

It’s been a real team effort — and a very emotional one. It’s been heartbreaking to hear people living with HIV describe how they were diagnosed with the virus and, in some cases, shunned by their families and friends.

On the flip side, it’s been truly inspiring to work with people who’ve bravely allowed their photos and words to be used in our very public campaign. Their courage has enabled us to begin breaking down barriers about HIV in the north, and getting people talking about how to combat its spread. As the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network points out, “Reducing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS is key to both stopping the spread of the epidemic and improving the quality of life of people living with the disease.”

I’m not sure how many people we’ll actually reach with our STOP HIV/AIDS campaign. Some people say that our year-long education/awareness campaign will reach a saturation point, with our HIV/AIDS messages eventually ignored. I respond that behaviour change can take years to occur. The fact that we’re still fighting stigma about HIV more than 25 years after AIDS first appeared tells me that we still have much work to do. But I’m optimistic that if we and others persist with our education efforts that, perhaps one day, the stigma around HIV can be eliminated — along with the disease itself. For more information, visit

Joanne MacDonald

About Joanne MacDonald

Joanne MacDonald is a communications officer at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects, including the STOP HIV/AIDS program and integrated health services. Prior to joining Northern Health, Joanne worked in the journalism and communications fields in the lower mainland, Whitehorse and Ottawa. She keeps active by taking Zumba and spinning classes. She lives with her husband in Prince George. (Joanne no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)