Healthy Living in the North

UNBC PhD student awarded national fellowship to study stroke care

Daman Kandola with Northern Health supervisor Jessica Place and academic supervisor Davina Banner.
L-R: Dr. Jessica Place, Executive Lead, Regional Chronic Diseases; Daman Kandola, recipient of the HSI Fellowship; and Dr. Davina Banner, academic supervisor.

UNBC PhD candidate Daman Kandola was recently awarded a 2018/2019 Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Fellowship (HSIF). She’s one of only three PhD fellows in BC, and 20 from across Canada. Daman’s research focuses on the delivery of stroke-related care across the Northern Health region.

Daman is the first person from UNBC to be awarded a CIHR HSIF fellowship and is excited to be recognized.

“It’s amazing to have the importance of this work recognized on a national level and to celebrate some of the research we are doing at UNBC,” she said.

This 1-year fellowship supports Northern Health’s mission of promoting health and providing health services to Northern and rural populations. The fellowship is funded jointly by Northern Health and CIHR’s Institute of Health Services and Policy Research. The goal is to train the next generation of scientists in hybrid research and policy careers to work in health systems to address challenges in health service delivery, clinical care, and innovation.

Broken into three phases, Daman’s study looks at the different ways to arrive at the hospital and the time taken to receive stroke care. Sites she’s studying are ones with computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans — they include the University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George, GR Baker Hospital in Quesnel, Dawson Creek and District Hospital, Fort St. John Hospital, Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace, and Prince Rupert Regional Hospital. The study is expected to finish in fall 2019.

To understand patient experiences, Daman’s interviewing stroke survivors and their family members.

“This information is very meaningful to learn about each person’s experience. Numbers don’t tell the full story, so hearing directly from those affected is important,” she said. “Findings from this study may be relevant to similar small urban, Northern, rural, and remote regions. We hope that this work will improve health services for acute and time-sensitive conditions including stroke.”

Daman also said she’s grateful for the expertise of her mentors, including academic supervisor Dr. Davina Banner, Northern Health supervisor Dr. Jessica Place and cardiac and stroke lead Kristin Massey. “We’re fortunate to have a wonderful team support this fellowship including patient partners,” says Daman.

If you’d like further information about this work, or if you or someone you know has had a stroke in the last two years and is interested in sharing their stroke experience, contact Daman at

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.


“This is who I am:” Northern Health staff member Jessie King presents at international conference

Jessie King posing with a slide from her presentation.
Jessie King before presenting her PhD thesis in Toronto.

Jessie King presented her PhD thesis on November 10 as part of an event attended by 1,500 people from around the world.

The Prince George resident, a member of the Raven Clan of the Tsimshian First Nation, was attending the 11th annual Decolonizing Conference hosted by the Centre for Integrative Anti-Racism Studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

The conference, entitled “Dialoguing and Living Well Together: Decolonization and Insurgent Voices,” was at the University of Toronto, which is located on the traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, Petun, Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River.

Decolonizing has been described as speaking out against and reframing “the ongoing colonialism and colonial mentalities that permeate education, media, government policies, and ‘commonsense’.”[1]

Jessie, who works in Northern Health’s Indigenous Health department as the Lead, Research & Community Engagement, entitled her thesis “Niit nüüyu gwa’a: Decolonizing and Deconstructing First Nations Identity.” The first part of the title is Sm’algyax for “This is who I am.” She chose this title to acknowledge the ten-year intensive exploration of her identity that has taught her to keep questioning and talking about Indigenous identities. For her identity, specifically, Jessie looks to her personal experiences growing up learning about her Tsimshian culture, social interactions that were both positive and negative, and the most recent and ongoing conflict with identity as defined within the Indian Act.  

A painting by Jessie King of a raven and an orange moon.
This painting by Jessie King representing the clan and identity that she shares with her boys was also used as a conceptual framework for her research.

Her work looks at how the social, personal, and legal components of First Nations identity influence how someone thinks of their identity. It’s important to discuss and interrogate the intersection of where these parts of First Nations identity interact and create conflict, not only for First Nations People, but equally for those who are curious to know more.

Jessie’s thesis, which she’ll formally defend early in 2019, discusses issues of identity in an Indigenous context. Some questions she examines include: “Does how you disclose your identity change based on different situations and your perceived level of safety?” and “What are the implications of status on your identity?”

Jessie built her thesis on a foundation of research that she carried out for her master’s degree. At that time, she talked to women who’d lost status by “marrying out” – in other words, by marrying a man without Status as defined in the Indian Act.

“This whole concept of status being based on your proximity to men with status is problematic,” Jessie says. “To have such an important part of your legal identity defined by the men in your life is difficult for me coming from a matrilineal society.” 

She continued the work into her PhD thesis partly at the urging of the women she spoke with, who she prefers to describe as “co-researchers,” rather than “research subjects.”

“Several of these women asked me to keep the conversation going and keep creating that space,” she says. “We’re moving forward together.”

In the course of the interviews, people would interpret their identities much more precisely, she says, because they were in that space.

A slide from Jessie King’s conference presentation.
A slide from Jessie King’s conference presentation sets out the research questions used in her thesis.

For her co-researchers, being part of Jessie’s research was a positive experience overall: “Just being here right now, this is healing” said one woman. It’s essential to create space for these conversations to happen in safe spaces without fearing what others will think of you based on where you are in your journey to understanding identity. Jessie’s work is about acknowledging where people are in their understanding and honouring their stories by privileging their voice.

“The intent was to open up that space,” said Jessie. “Not many people feel safe to talk about their identity in the open, because of judgments, misunderstanding, or how an interaction will change because someone finds out who you are.”

A concrete example of the contradictions inherent in Indigenous identity involves a specific spot where Jessie fishes with her family. Beyond a certain point on that river,four important men in Jessie’s life – her two sons, husband, and father – are not legally allowed to fish: her husband and father, because they are not Indigenous; and her two boys, because Jessie is unable to transmit her status to them after marrying their father. This is the current law according to the Indian Act: after two generations of “marrying out,” mothers lose the ability to transmit status to their children, and subsequently, membership to their ancestral communities.

Jessie and her mother, on the other hand, are free to fish and practice certain rights. Jessie notes that according to researcher Pam Palmater, this sort of restriction creates “a divide between different ways of knowing who we are — a divide between people.” It’s a divide she anticipates having to explain to her two young sons one day when their curiosity shifts to who they are and why it’s in conflict with a system that defines them differently from their Tsimshian mother and grandmother.

“It’s still something I struggle with, that divide within families,” Jessie says. “My boys will never be able to fish beyond that boundary. I do this work in preparation for explaining this to them when they’re old enough to ask.”

Jessie claims this is problematic “because the Indian Act has been conflated with personal identity, which it is not, but it does impact your idea of self when it is in conflict with who you are and who your family is.” She continues, “Be what you were meant to be and do what you were meant to do, not what the Indian Act determines!”

Jessie reports that her presentation was well received in Toronto, and that she found it valuable to share her thoughts and her research with people – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous — from many different countries.

[1][, accessed December 5, 2018

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!


Northern physician wins 2nd international research award

Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen accepting the Dr. Wolfgang Hevert Prize for her research on vitamins and memory.

Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen, second from left, accepts the Dr. Wolfgang Hevert Prize for her research on vitamins and memory.

Dr. Jacqueline Pettersen, a neurologist in the Northern Health region and an associate professor in the Northern Medical Program, recently won the Dr. Wolfgang Hevert prize for a research study she plans on the combined effects of two vitamins on attention and memory.

“I’m interested in the possibility that vitamin D and vitamin K2 may work together to help keep our brains functioning well,” said Dr. Pettersen. “There have been studies on the effect of Vitamin D alone, but not on the combination of D and K2.”

In fact, Dr. Pettersen’s own research has shown the benefits of vitamin D for brain health. A study she carried out showed significant memory improvement for people who took 4000 IU of vitamin D each day for 18 weeks. That study also won Dr. Pettersen an international award, the 2018 Fritz Wörwag Research Prize.

Most people have heard of vitamin D, but vitamin K2 might be less familiar. It’s found in animal foods, such as butter from grass-fed cows, or eggs from free-range chickens, and in fermented foods, such as natto (a Japanese fermented soy food), as well as some cheeses. Vitamin K2 was plentiful in traditional, non-industrial diets, but it’s more rare in modern diets. Vitamin K2 generally improves bone and heart health, and vitamin D seems to work with it to strengthen these effects.

“Northern BC residents have been incredibly supportive of research in the north,” said Dr. Pettersen. “I have been pleasantly surprised by the interest generated from my prior vitamin D work as well as this upcoming planned study on vitamin D and K2.”

While the study is still in the planning phases, Dr. Pettersen hopes to start recruiting and enrolling interested participants in early 2019, with final results available within two years. Congratulations to Dr. Pettersen!

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!


Introducing a unique book on Indigenous determinants of health

Two book editors sitting behind poster of book cover.

What began as a casual conversation over breakfast is now a valuable book on Indigenous determinants of health. Photo courtesy of UNBC.

Have you ever had one of those “aha!” moments over morning toast and coffee? I’m so glad that three B.C. scholars had one such moment back in 2011! Because of their exchange of ideas over a casual breakfast, we now have access to a unique new collection of Indigenous perspectives on health and well-being in northern B.C. and Canada more broadly. I’m excited to tell you about it!

I will begin by introducing the concept of social determinants of health. According to the World Health Organization, they are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age. These circumstances are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels” and “are mostly responsible for health inequities – the unfair and avoidable differences in health status” between groups.

To set the stage, by 2011 when the book was first imagined, a “social determinants of health” framework was increasingly accepted as important for understanding why different groups of people have different health outcomes and why this is unfair. But there were also limits to the conversations, particularly as they related to Indigenous peoples’ health. For example, colonialism was yet to be fully and consistently recognized as a significant determinant of Indigenous peoples’ health. As well, much of the research on the social determinants of Indigenous peoples’ health was a subsection of broader work instead of a unique area for sustained focus. And it was often conducted by non-Indigenous people.

So, casually over breakfast at a conference one autumn morning in 2011, Drs. Margo Greenwood, Sarah de Leeuw and Charlotte Loppie (Reading) conceived of an idea for a ground-breaking book that would address these limits. It would be about a broader understanding of determinants of Indigenous health in Canada and it would be a unique compilation of ideas, perspectives, and stories written primarily by Indigenous people. The three of them decided over breakfast to work together to make that book a reality!

They began to brainstorm Indigenous scholars, activists, clinicians, and community leaders who would likely have something to say about First Nations, Métis and Inuit well-being in Canada. Sometime later, after chapters had begun to pour in, Indigenous artists were also invited to contribute works that sought to creatively illuminate questions about Indigenous health. Poems, short stories, and reproductions of contemporary totem poles were added to the research contributions.

And then, in August this year, what started as a breakfast chat was published as Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social, edited by Greenwood, de Leeuw, Reading and Lindsay (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2015). This book is an invitation to think about health inequities lived by Indigenous people in Canada through the voices, stories and experiences of Indigenous people.

Explaining why this book is important, Greenwood said:

These are stories that document resilience, strength, and solutions from a health context, offering a richness of information far beyond what we would ordinarily see in discussions centred only on the basic social determinants of health.

In de Leeuw’s words:

What makes this book special is that it is has been written by Indigenous people about Indigenous people and their viewpoints on health. It also provides an artistic lens on health issues rarely seen in academic medical texts. The book includes creative voice in the form of poems, stories and other art that provide a unique and serious reflection on health status.

I wanted to share this book with you because these issues impact all of us and I believe that a better understanding of Indigenous perspectives of health and well-being can make a difference in all of our work, our communities, and our lives!

Determinants of Indigenous Peoples’ Health in Canada: Beyond the Social can be ordered through your local bookstore or online through Canadian Scholars’ Press. The book was supported through the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health (NCCAH) with funding from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

All royalties from the book are going to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Media Coverage

This blog post was informed by an article from the NCCAH.

Hilary McGregor

About Hilary McGregor

Hilary is the Lead of Knowledge Translation and Community Engagement for Aboriginal Health. She feels privileged to work for Northern Health, particularly within this department, because she gets to apply her passion for creativity, critical thinking, and quality to important issues related to health equity for Indigenous people in the north. Hilary is grateful for the opportunity to live on the beautiful traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh in Prince George, where she keeps busy renovating an older home, playing with her young nephew and niece, walking her feisty chihuahua, gardening and taking in the surrounding outdoors.