Healthy Living in the North

I came for… I stayed because… with Stella Ndunda

Stella and her mother are bundled up on top of a hill, overlooking other snowy hills and a body of water.

Stella (left) introducing her mom to the Fort St. John winters.

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: Stella Ndunda, a primary care team lead based in Fort St. John. Stella is from Kenya and joined Northern Health in 2012.

I came for…

In 2003, I left Kenya and came to Canada to pursue my Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology. After completing my master’s, I worked casual positions for a year in Vancouver. I needed full-time hours, and at that time it was difficult to gain full-time employment in Vancouver. I was alerted to an opening at the Fort St. John office with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. It was a really good job where I gained lots of experience. In 2012, I started at Northern Health as a care process coach.

Stella in the mall. Beside her is a table with a sign that says "Zumba with Stella."

Stella promoting her Zumba classes at the local Fort St John shopping centre.

I stayed because…

I did not plan or anticipate that I would stay in Fort St. John for so long, and I’m often asked why I’ve stayed. I’ve gotten more involved with the community in Fort St. John than I ever did in Vancouver. I received lots of support and kindness from the community and I have built genuine friendships.

As an African woman, camping, swimming, hiking, or fishing are not typically things to do, but I had wonderful friends that I trusted to push me way beyond my comfort zone! Surprisingly, I’ve really enjoyed those activities. I like trying new things and, despite it being a small town, Fort St. John has lots of activities to offer. I’ve shared my love of music and dance through teaching Zumba. It’s been wonderful sharing a bit of myself with the community.

At Northern Health, I’ve had great leaders who’ve supported my career growth and development. The team at Fort St. John Community Services is wonderful and I’m excited for our future.

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.


3D1P: Drugs, Dinos, Dinner, and a Pig… Another unique medical conference in Tumbler Ridge

The conference's organization team waits for participants at the registration booth.

The conference’s organization team waits for participants at the registration booth. Left to right: Dr. Charles Helm, Heather Gummow, Jayleen Emery, and Kirsten Quinlan.

The third annual 3D Conference – Drugs, Dinos, and Dinner (now 3D1P for the one pig (1P) that was roasted) was held in Tumbler Ridge from May 31-June 2, 2019. Nearly 70 physicians, pharmacists, and allied health professionals registered. On the Saturday, that number swelled to over 120 with spouses and families joining for the pig roast at the Lions Flatbed Creek Campground. To the best of our knowledge, this was the largest ever medical gathering in northeastern BC.

Conference participants were treated to ten hours of stimulating talks featuring:

  • Dr. Tom Perry, Dr. Rita McCracken, and Stephanie Song of the Therapeutics Initiative. The Therapeutics Initiative is a UBC-based think tank that rigorously analyzes evidence on which medications work and which don’t.
  • Internationally renowned speakers Dr. Tom Finucane and Dr. Robin McKenzie journeyed all the way from Boston, Massachusetts. They delivered outstanding presentations on matters like antibiotic overuse and how routine, current treatment of Type 2 diabetes is open to criticism.
  • Dr. Onyema Ohiaeri spoke about ways to address the opioid crisis.
  • Dr. James Wilkie continued the tradition of a medical resident presenting a polypharmacy case.
  • Charissa Tonnesen and Dr. Charles Helm presented on local Tumbler Ridge medical and health-related initiatives.
  • Seven resource booths provided extra learning opportunities, all completely free of pharmaceutical industry involvement.
A female presenter is in front of a room of participants. A screen is behind her with her presentation slides.

Dr. Robin McKenzie presenting to the participants.

There were also social activities surrounding the educational part of the conference. They had a healthy living and activity focus, with tours to Kinuseo Falls, morning fitness runs and swimming, Zumba classes, and, for the kids, it was all about Dinosaur Camp! Museum staff provided them with an unforgettable experience over two mornings. All in all, a unique learning environment was created, cementing the reputation of Tumbler Ridge as a family-friendly conference destination with a special ambience.

At the end of the memorable weekend, participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction rate for the conference. There were even suggestions that 3D1P should become a provincial event in 2020.

Dr. Ronald Chapman, Northern Health’s Vice President of Medicine, was one of the special guests at 3D1P. After the event, he commented that: “The 3D conference was very well organized and the lectures were exceptional. I was delighted that I attended.”

It takes a community to put on a conference like this, and well over 25 volunteers went the extra mile to make it happen. The organizing committee (Charles Helm, Heather Gummow, Kirsten Quinlan, and Jayleen Emery) are enormously grateful to all of the volunteers and businesses that contributed.

For more information, please contact:

Charles Helm

About Charles Helm

Charles Helm has been a family physician in Tumbler Ridge since 1992. He immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1986. He is the author of seven books on the Tumbler Ridge area, two on the history of the northern Rockies, and one on dinosaurs for kids. He has been an active explorer in the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society, designing, building and maintaining hiking trails. His palaeontological interests, expressed through the Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation, have led to numerous fossil discoveries and scientific articles. He was instrumental in the successful proposal that led to the creation of the Tumbler Ridge Global Geopark, the newest UNESCO site in western Canada. He and his wife Linda have two children, Daniel and Carina.