Healthy Living in the North

Chetwynd’s First Annual World Mental Health Day: “Walk and Talk”

A smiling woman and a smiling man wearing sunglasses, both in high vis vests, pose for a selfie outside on a dirt road.

L-R: Organizers Charla Brazeau, Primary Care Nurse, Interprofessional Team 1; and Stan Fraser

Each year, organizations across the globe observe World Mental Health Day on October 10, a day that started in 1992 to promote mental health advocacy and to educate the public on relevant issues and topics.

This year, to commemorate the day, NH staff and residents in Chetwynd, BC organized the first annual Walk and Talk. Despite the brisk weather, dozens of people came out to show their support and help end the stigma.

The 26 km trek from Moberly Lake to Chetwynd encouraged participants to talk about their personal relationship with mental health, ask questions, and show that no one has to suffer alone.

Organized by Charla Brazeau, Primary Care Nurse, Chetwynd General Hospital, and local mental health advocate, Stan Fraser, the Walk and Talk had support from Northern Health, Saulteau Frist Nation, Chetwynd RCMP, Gerry’s Groceries, and Tim Hortons.

A man in a high vis vest walks along the side of a road with a young girl who is looking up at him.

Stan Fraser walks with the event’s attendees.

“Mental health is often overlooked as a ‘silent illness’,” says Charla. “This event was to make people aware that they are not alone in having a mental illness and there is always someone there who will be there for you and have a listening ear.”

Organizers are thrilled with the event’s success and hope to see even more people make it out next year.

Two smiling women pose for a selfie outside on a road lined with snow and trees.

L-R: Oshen Walker, Aboriginal Patient Liaison; and Charla Brazeau, Primary Care Nurse, Interprofessional Team 1

A view of a tree lined lake, hills on the horizon, and the sun shining in the sky.

The spectacular view from along the walk.

Two smiling women pose for a selfie inside a vehicle with a case of bottled water.

L-R: Oshen Walker, Aboriginal Patient Liaison; and Leona Clark, Saulteau First Nation Community Health Nurse.

A police SUV with lights and an unmarked police truck on the road next to a walker.

Walk and Talk participants get an official RCMP escort.

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.


A picture-perfect partnership: Prince George photographer donates photographs to reconnect long-term care residents with their community

Two female Gateway Lodge residents in motorized wheelchairs are in a hallway. They are admiring a picture hanging on the wall. The picture has a rusted bridge in the foreground and a river, trees, and sky in the background.

Gateway Lodge residents Ilse and Diana can admire photographs of places they know thanks to a partnership with local photographer Anna Michele McCue. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Lynn AuCoin hopes the pictures hanging in Gateway Lodge bring more than words – even a thousand of them. She hopes each image helps residents reconnect with their community.

“We’ve been trying to make our facilities more home-like,” says Lynn, the Recreation Therapist Supervisor for Gateway Lodge’s complex care and Rainbow Lodge in Prince George. “Our residents enter a new stage in their lives. Suddenly, they’re getting regular care and help in a new place. We want to see our hallways filled with things that residents can relate to and talk about. Whether that’s milking the cow, riding the tractor, or enjoying the sunset or local places.”

In a beige hallway, a picture of a long haired, black and brown dachshund in a wagon hangs above a chair.

This image of a dog in a wagon is a favourite among Gateway Lodge residents. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

Lynn is a member of a Prince George Facebook group that shares good news and local photography. In February 2019, she was scrolling through it and several stunning photos caught her eye. Lynn noticed they were all by a photographer named Anna Michele McCue, who goes by Michele. Lynn reached out to Michele right away.

“We didn’t have a big budget for this, so I was hoping we could work something out,” says Lynn. “Michele got back to me right away. She loved the idea of connecting residents with their communities. She offered her pictures at no cost!”

Thanks to Michele’s generosity, nine pictures are now hanging throughout Gateway Lodge.

A picture of a Prince George street in the fall hangs on a wall. The street is centred and continues for several blocks. It is covered in yellow leaves. On either side of the street there are tall trees with yellow leaves that have yet to fall, and houses.

Another example of a picture by Anna Michele McCue that is hanging in Gateway Lodge. Photo courtesy of Anna Michele McCue.

“I’m so pleased that my photography is bringing joy to people,” says Michele. “Seniors, who have contributed so much, are an important part of our community. It means the world to help remind them of how they lived, what they accomplished, and what they enjoyed.”

Michele isn’t the only one who’s pleased. These trips down memory lane are getting rave reviews from Gateway residents as well.

“They add beauty and colour to our empty walls,” says Margaret, a resident of Gateway Lodge. “We all enjoy finding out the location of where a photo was taken.”

Lynn notes that other Northern Health long-term care facilities may see local photography on their walls in the future.

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.


The Northern Table: Farm to School BC blossoms in the Northwest

People creating a garden.

Students working the school garden at Smithers Secondary School.

How do you get students excited about healthy, local food? According to Farm to School BC, the winning formula is simple: get students involved by providing opportunities to grow, prepare, taste, and explore healthy, local food!

Established in 2007, Farm to School BC (F2SBC) is a diverse and expanding provincial program that works to support healthy eating and sustainable regional food systems. This is done by working to have local food in schools, providing hands-on learning activities, and building school-community connections. Farm to School BC programs are tailored to the interests and needs of each school and community.

To date, F2SBC has supported 33 Farm to School initiatives across Northern BC, and is committed to supporting and inspiring even more programs across the region. Recognizing the need to provide on-the-ground support, the Northwest Regional Hub was launched, with Margo Peill as the Hub’s Community Animator.

A tray of sprouting plants.

A classroom project at Ecole Mountainview in Terrace, BC.

The Northwest Hub includes the geographic areas of the Coast Mountains School District (#82) and the Bulkley Valley School District (#54). Margo will be working with schools, farmers, and community partners to strengthen local partnerships and networks that will support sustainable F2SBC programs in the years to come.

I caught up with Margo to learn more about Farm to School BC in the Northwest, and some of the exciting opportunities she is supporting! Here’s what Margo had to say!

What are some examples of current Farm to School initiatives in the region?

We have some fantastic projects happening in the Northwest region! Each school develops their own unique projects that work within their school and community. Some projects include:

  • Cultivating bountiful school gardens
  • Experimenting with tower gardening and microgreens in the classroom
  • Incubating and hatching chicks
  • Dehydrating fruit gathered from their community for school snacks
  • Salad bar programs
  • Field trips to forage traditional and wild foods

The projects really do look different in each school, and so far, that is something we’ve seen the Northwest Hub really excelling at — coming up with creative solutions to incorporate Farm to School BC projects into the curriculum and classroom!

Can you tell me more about your role and the role of the F2SBC Northwest Regional Hub?

We’re really excited to take a community development approach to growing Farm to School BC programs in the Northwest region. Through the Northwest Regional Hub, we’ll be building networks, growing strong relationships with community partners, supporting their initiatives, and working to secure additional funding and support for the Northwest Hub.

One of our core values is to support school and community connectedness, so we really want to ensure that teachers and school champions have a strong network around them to help support the sustainability and growth of their projects. We’ll be hosting learning circles, professional development days, networking events, and an annual spring celebration to highlight and share the inspiring work that is happening here in the Northwest region.

How can local community members and groups get involved in Farm to School activities?

We are always looking for collaborations, even unlikely ones! On May 22, we’ll be hosting an official Northwest Hub launch and networking event at Cassie Hall Elementary (2620 Eby St., Terrace). Everyone is welcome to attend, share, and learn more about Farm to School BC programs while making community connections. The event will take place from 4:30 pm to 6 pm and some light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there!


Note: Farm to School BC is administered by the Public Health Association of BC and supported by the Province of British Columbia and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!


I came for… and I stayed because… with Davey MacLennan

Three men standing next to the river with fishing rods.

Davey fishing with his dad and brother during one of their trips to Canada.

I’ve recently noticed that many of the conversations I’ve had with multiple Northern Health staff have uncovered a common theme! These staff members were anticipating coming to the North for a short amount of time, but have stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person, Davey MacLennan, Regional Manager, Clinical Education based in Terrace. Davey is from Elgin, Scotland and came to Northern Health in 2004.

I came for…

My wife’s father is from Newfoundland and we were looking to move to Canada. I am a registered psychiatric nurse and at that time only western provinces recognized my profession. We found the Lower Mainland too busy, and my wife wanted to live by the ocean. Northwestern BC was our obvious choice. I was alerted to a position at the psychiatry unit in Terrace, and was successful! The lifestyle in the area appealed to us. I could fish, hunt, and enjoy outdoor activities.

I stayed because…

Davey and his family.

Davey, dressed in his Scottish kilt, attending a celebration with his wife, son, and daughter-in-law.

We were only intending on staying in Terrace for two years, then we wanted to move on to somewhere else for a new Canadian experience. In 2005, we were on vacation and quickly realized that although Terrace may not have everything you want, it has everything you need. It is a great place to put roots down. Over the years I have built fantastic friendships and gotten involved with different things in the community.

I have received a lot of support from Northern Health with my career development. I have had great leaders who have provided valuable mentorship; having supportive leaders makes it easy to come to work every day. Staff are dedicated and have a “can do” attitude no matter the situation. They step up to the plate and help when asked. I enjoy being part of the Northern Health family and the professional relationships I have built.

We are very settled in Terrace. My wife works at Mills Memorial Hospital as a booking clerk in nuclear medicine. We have property and raise pigs, chickens, and turkeys. Our youngest son lives in Terrace with our granddaughter and we enjoy spending time with them. Terrace is our home and we are happy to have settled 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.


Celebrating our Northern physicians

Physician residents in a simulated OR setting.

A group of residents participating in an OR simulation in Fort St. John.

Happy National Physician’s Day!

Join us on this day to recognize all the physicians who have contributed to the health of our Northern communities. We appreciate your commitment and dedication to your patients and the health of our families.

Please join us in thanking the physicians who work in the North!

A group of physicians sitting around a table.

A physician learning group sessions being hosted by Dr. Rob Olson, BC Cancer Centre for the North.

A group of people listening to a presentation.

Dr. Collin Phillips presenting at the 2019 Jasper Retreat and Medical Conference.

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.


What brought you to the North? A Q & A with Shannon McRae, Nurse Practitioner

Shannon posing at UNBC.

Shannon at UNBC in Prince George for the Nurse Practitioner Face-to-Face Gathering in April 2018. “It was a great opportunity to connect with my colleagues from across the region,” she says.

Shannon McRae, a family Nurse Practitioner (NP), is a relatively new graduate, having been an NP for over a year. She works in Fort St. John in a private family practice with a team of physicians.

What do you like about being an NP?

I initially went to school to be a registered nurse, then worked in the emergency department for seven years. You don’t spend a lot of time there getting to know your patients — you treat the ailment that brought them in, then send them home. I wanted the opportunity to be more involved in the long-term care of patients.

As an NP, I get to spend more time with patients, getting to know them and helping keep them healthy. It lets you have an impact in their lives, and you feel like you’re improving the overall health of the community.

Shannon standing on a cliff above the river with a fishing pole.

Shannon fishing in the Besa River in Redfern-Keily Provincial Park, a remote area north of Fort St John that can only be reached on horseback or by using all-terrain vehicles.

What made you choose Fort St. John?

I’m from Fort St. John and I grew up here. I enjoy the size of the community and the type of lifestyle you have living here.

You have quick access to lots of outdoor activities including camping, hiking, cross-country skiing, and river boating. Our airport has multiple flight options so if you like to travel, you can easily get to your destination. Plus, my commute to work is only five minutes!

What do you like about working in Fort St. John?

I’m fortunate to work with a great group of health care providers!

Our physicians are really supportive, and they’re a great group of people. I enjoy working with our interprofessional team too – it’s a group of nurses, dietitians, social workers, and mental health professionals.

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.


The Boon Docs: Excuses

The Boon Docs comic, "excuses," by Caroline Shooner, frame 1 of 3.

The Boon Docs comic, "excuses," by Caroline Shooner, frame 2 of 3.

The Boon Docs comic, "excuses," by Caroline Shooner, frame 3 of 3.

About the Boon Docs:

The Boon Docs is a comic about practicing medicine in a small town. It’s about raising chickens and having sheep instead of a lawnmower. It’s about being nice to your neighbours (or else). But don’t be fooled: it is not always simple or idyllic. There are hungry bears and peckish raccoons out there. Rumors get around faster than the ambulance, and the store often runs out of milk.

Caroline Shooner

About Caroline Shooner

Originally from Montreal, Dr. Caroline Shooner joined the Queen Charlotte medical team in 2007 and has been living and practicing as a family physician on Haida Gwaii ever since. Caroline is interested in how the arts and humanities can help promote health and allow us to look more critically and meaningfully at how we practice medicine. In 2015, she completed an MSc in Medical Humanities at King’s College London. During that year, she was introduced to the field of Graphic Medicine and started creating a series of cartoons inspired by the comic side of small town medicine: The Boon Docs.


“Urine good hands with us!”, say Robson Valley medical technologists

Lab/X-Ray Technologists from Valemount and McBride.

L – R: Antoinette Cinnamon, Lab/X-Ray Technologist, Valemount Health Centre; Dawn Hickerty, Lab/X-Ray Technologist and Robson Valley Diagnostic Supervisor; Sheila Anderson, Lab/X-Ray Technologist, McBride & District Hospital.

Technologists from McBride Hospital and Valemount Health Centre recently worked together to prepare for accreditation. They also took a minute to create some fun signage to mark National Medical Laboratory Week (April 21 – 27).

Together, these three technologists have a combined 86+ years of experience! Northern Health thanks all NH Laboratory and X-ray technologists for their years of hard work and dedication to their professions, and wishes them a happy and celebratory week.

Sheila Anderson

About Sheila Anderson

Sheila Anderson is a Lab/X-ray technologist at McBride and District Hospital in the Robson Valley. She has been working in her profession since 1993, and moved to BC from her home province of Saskatchewan in 2004. She keeps busy cheering for the Saskatchewan Roughriders football team, preparing for her first grandchild, and spending time with her husband on her days off.


Community paramedics partner with Northern Health communities to increase access to care

Community paramedics are changing patient care in some communities in Northern Health. They’re helping increase access to basic health care services in non-urgent settings, in patients’ homes, or in the community. Throughout Northern Health, 26 communities have community paramedics helping patients.

Patients can see a community paramedic if they’re referred to them by their doctor or health care team, or when they’re discharged from the hospital.

Community paramedics are employed by BC Emergency Health Services, but they work very closely with the teams of health care professionals in the community.

In Fort St. James, the “biggest positive is she [the community paramedic] works really well and has a positive relationship with the First Nations bands. She’s a great liaison for information and understanding their culture,” says Cathy York, team lead for Fort St. James.

The health care team and the community paramedic in Fort St. James are encouraged to share information and they all have a great working relationship. The community paramedic does a lot with the First Nations bands on naloxone training for overdose prevention, and also educates people on diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and heart disease. She’s also starting to work with local schools to do naloxone training.

Fraser Lake saw benefits when the first community paramedic started. At the time, they were short on nurses, so it was difficult for them to have eyes on some of the people they were concerned about in the community.

“We’re so thrilled to have the program start here, and the paramedics are such an asset to the team,” says Lora Lee Pacheco, team lead for Fraser Lake.

The community paramedic attends team meetings (called “huddles”) in Fraser Lake, which has helped close loops and encourage open communication. If there’s a concern with a patient, the community paramedic will bring it up to the team and sometimes suggest that the physician pay a home visit. They’re proactive in their care and address people’s health concerns early on.

“For example, a man used to come in every second week to the doctor’s office and was going to the hospital once a month. Now, because of the home visits of the community paramedic, he hasn’t been in the hospital since July,” says Lora Lee. “It just goes to show how important it is to check in on people and how far this program goes to prevent hospital admissions.”

Fraser Lake’s community paramedic has also taken over naloxone and CPR training in the community itself, as well as in surrounding First Nations communities. To save time, she’s also spending 1-2 hours a week at the Autumn Services Centre to follow up with people she would normally do a home visit with.

In Burns Lake, the community paramedic started only a few months ago. Since then, the team has found that he’s able to catch concerns with patients earlier on than if they waited to see their doctor. To help prevent crises, he’ll bring patients with any concerns directly to the health care team – another great example of how community paramedics are partnering with Northern Health and the local community health care teams to provide better patient care.

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.


Where can nursing take you? Discover Erin Wilson’s journey

Erin Wilson in the bushes, hiking.Nursing is one of the most rewarding careers in health care: You can work in a variety of areas and the opportunities for career advancement are endless. Erin Wilson’s nursing career of nearly 20 years has taken her across Western Canada and down many educational paths.

Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, Erin had an experience that helped shape her career choice: “A man with an intellectual disability worked with my dad. He was the most kind and generous person. He went to the hospital with calf pain and was sent home — his concerns were not validated. He ended up dying because of an undiagnosed blood clot. The unfair feeling of not being heard when asking for help has never left me.”

The many different career options available to nurses also appealed to Erin. “I wanted a career with a lot of opportunities. With nursing, you can work in hospitals or rural communities. You can also teach and conduct research.”

After graduating with her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, Erin worked in Red Sucker Lake, Manitoba. This was a valuable learning opportunity for Erin on the inequalities and inequities faced by many First Nations communities.

“It was a fly-in community where only 30% of the residents had running water. We had to take a boat to get to the store,” she said. “I learned a lot about access to care, safe housing, and how systems impact people.”

After leaving Red Sucker Lake, Erin worked at other two-nurse stations in BC and in tertiary care in Manitoba. Tertiary care is a high level of hospital care that requires specialized equipment and knowledge.

In 2004, Erin enrolled in a Master’s of Science in Nursing – Nurse Practitioner (NP) program at UBC in Vancouver, while living and working in the Yukon during the summer months. She registered as a NP in BC in 2006, but didn’t move back to the province until late 2007, becoming one of the first nurse practitioners hired by Northern Health, where she worked at the Central Interior Native Health Society in Prince George.

In 2011, looking to further her research capacity, Erin was accepted into the first cohort of UNBC’s PhD in Interdisciplinary Health Sciences. She defended her dissertation in 2017 and is currently an assistant professor at UNBC’s School of Nursing. She also continues to practice one day a week as an NP.

“Practice is an essential link between teaching and research. It allows me to be engaged with what’s happening in our community and patient experiences while maintaining my practice,” said Erin. She’s currently involved with research studies examining NP practice, rural nursing, health inequities, and implementation science.

Not all nursing careers are the same, and Erin’s is a prime example of that. Her education and experience have taken her to various roles across Western Canada. What will she do next? Only time will tell!

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.