Healthy Living in the North

Why did you become a researcher? Learn about Chelsea Pelletier’s desire to increase physical activity for all Northerners

Chelsea presenting her work on the 2018 Physical Activity Summit at a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research event.

Chelsea presenting her work on the 2018 Physical Activity Summit at a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research event.

I’ve always been curious about researchers at post-secondary institutions. What made them want to get into research, and what continues to drive them? Through my role at Northern Health, I’ve been fortunate to meet multiple researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC).

To appease my curiosity, I approached Chelsea Pelletier, Assistant Professor in the School of Health Sciences and an avid researcher at UNBC, to learn about her path to becoming a researcher and her current projects.

“During my undergraduate studies in Kinesiology at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, I was unsure what I wanted to do after graduation,” says Chelsea. “In my fourth year, I did an honours project that involved a research component. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and learning about research. My mentor encouraged me to pursue additional education and a career in research. It’s led me to where I am today.”

After graduation, Chelsea moved to Ontario where she furthered her education with McMaster University’s Master’s and Doctoral (PhD) programs in Kinesiology.

“I was interested in exercise and physical activity to manage or prevent chronic disease. My Master’s and PhD programs were an opportunity to connect with people in those fields and learn more.

“I did a post-doctoral fellowship at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute. They help people to overcome the challenges of injury, illness, or age-related health conditions to live active, healthy lives. My supervisor ran a program for chronic disease and exercise; I learned a lot about how to work with people and community members. It inspired me to continue on this path for my research.”

In 2015, Chelsea took her talents west to Prince George to begin her career as a professor and researcher.

“Since I started at UNBC, I’ve been able to grow my research in areas that matter to communities. I spend a lot of time not only talking to community members, but listening to them. I try to let the community drive the research rather than my own interests.”

Chelsea and her two small dogs sit on a log on a sunny day.

Relaxing after a walk with dogs Blossom (L) and Cohen (R) in Salmon Valley.

Chelsea’s research mainly focuses on factors that shape physical activity for communities, understanding how to work with partners, and adding physical activity to people’s lives.

“Physical activity is an important part of being healthy. It decreases stress, improves self-esteem, gives you energy, and makes you stronger. It helps prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes. As we age, it becomes even more important to live an active life.”

She’s also working on a few special projects including a cardiac rehab study in Terrace, and a study with the BC Wildfire Service to learn about the impacts wildfires have on firefighters and command-centre staff.

As Chelsea’s career progresses, she continues to work with community members and partner organizations to focus on items that matter to them. All of these have an end goal of improving physical activity in the North and creating healthier communities.

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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I came for… I stayed because… with Melinda Lau

Melinda stands on a train track that disappears in the distant forest. A sunny sky beats down on her.

Taking in the scenery on the Pouce Coupe Bridge.

I recently noticed a common theme in my conversations with many Northern Health staff members. They were planning on coming to the North for a short time, but they’ve stayed for a lot longer. Meet one such person: Melinda Lau, Chief Physiotherapist, Rehabilitation in Fort St. John. Melinda is from Toronto, and came to Northern Health in 2016.

I came for…

I originally came to Northern Health for a temporary maternity leave position in Dawson Creek. When that ended, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go. I found the Chief Physiotherapist position posting in Fort St. John and decided to apply. I had limited managerial experience and I had only been in practice for a few years, so I was excited when I was offered the position!

I like the outdoors and the mountains, and wanted to live somewhere close to hiking trails and rock climbing. I had visited the area before, during a trip to the Yukon, so I knew what to expect when I came here. I liked the small-town feel in the Peace River region.

Melinda mountain climbs, suspended by a rope, hanging onto a rock. The rock fades from grey to brown and yellow.

Melinda working on her mountain climbing skills on Hassler Crag just outside of Chetwynd.

I stayed because…

There are a lot of different activities to get involved with, including cross-country skiing, the pottery guild, and so much more. I enjoy attending all of the different festivals, rodeos, and events in town.

I love the people I work with, and couldn’t ask for a better team. Everyone gets along great, and it feels like I’m working with a group of my friends.

I have been given so many amazing opportunities in this role. The leadership team has allowed me to develop many different areas in addition to my clinical practice. I’ve been given more areas to manage, and been allowed to develop my own interests. I feel valued as an employee; they are investing in me, which makes me want to stay here and grow and develop. My original plan was to stay here for a year, but I don’t feel the need to go anywhere 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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