Healthy Living in the North

Tumbler Ridge physician makes 33rd appearance in long-running journal feature

Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine cover, in which Dr. Helm has an article.Dr. Charles Helm, who practices in Tumbler Ridge in Northern BC, is the author of “Country Cardiograms case 64” in the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine’s Fall 2018 issue. The recurring feature presents an electrocardiogram and invites readers to make a diagnosis, letting readers pit their skills against those of the physician author. This is Dr. Helm’s 33rd publication under “Country Cardiograms” — congratulations to Dr. Helm!

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!

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“3D”: Drugs, Dinos, and Dinner – Another unique conference in Tumbler Ridge

By Dr. Charles Helm & Heather Gummow

The second “3D conference” – Drugs, Dinos and Dinner – was held in Tumbler Ridge from May 25–27. Nearly 70 physicians, pharmacists, paramedics and nurses registered, a number that swelled to 120 at the Saturday evening banquet with the inclusion of spouses and families. This was probably the largest ever medical gathering in northeast BC.

Physicians are learning tendon repair using pigs' legs.

Dr. Stuart Johnston teaching tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs) to Dr. Kalun Boudreau, Fort St. John and James Wilkie, Resident physician, Fort St. John. Dr. Charles Helm, Chief of Staff Tumbler Ridge, observing.

Conference participants were treated to ten hours of stimulating talks, featuring Tom Perry, Rita McCracken, Cait O’Sullivan, and Emma Reid of the Therapeutics Initiative, a UBC-based think-tank that rigorously analyzes evidence on which medications work and which don’t. “Deprescribing” was emphasized – trying to get by with fewer medications and eliminating those that may be harmful. Dr. Stuart Johnston provided a talk on hand injuries and conducted a practical workshop on tendon repair and skin flaps (using pigs’ legs), and Dr. Trevor Campbell spoke engagingly on non-drug treatment of chronic pain. Five exhibitor booths provided for extra learning opportunities, all completely free of pharmaceutical industry involvement.

So far, that’s not too unusual for a northern BC medical conference, but many similarities end there. Firstly, there was no registration fee for the 3D conference. Each northern BC community is entitled to Community Funds to devote to educational activities. The Tumbler Ridge physicians decided to use all of their reverted funds to create this regional conference of benefit to all, which physician groups in Fort St John, Dawson Creek, Valemount, McBride and Northern Health then generously supported, aided by a much appreciated donation from Conuma Coal.

Physician throwing a tree off the trail.

Resident physician from Fort St. John, BC Vikrant Grewal throwing a tree off the trail as the team worked to “give back” to the community of Tumbler Ridge.

Secondly, the palaeo theme reigned supreme, with the welcome supper served amid dinosaur attractions that are available nowhere else in BC. The Dinosaur Discovery Gallery was in ‘idling mode’ due to lack of funding, but Dr. McCrea, Dr. Buckley, and staff, all of whom had recently had their positions terminated due to the Museum funding situation, came in and conducted participants though four stations: the gallery, collections, preparation lab, and photogrammetry lab. Field trips followed to a dinosaur footprint site, a birding excursion, and a hike to the end of the magnificent Titanic Rock (expertly guided by the president of the local hiking club).

Thirdly, ‘payback’ for medical residents involved a team of ten working on the hiking trails immediately after the conference, chain-sawing deadfall and throwing it off the trail, thus contributing to the comfort of visitors and tourists to Tumbler Ridge.

Draws were held for spots on three jet-boats for tours to Kinuseo Falls, and the lucky winners had the privilege of seeing this great waterfall in full spate. Add in live violin music, a live band, a local comedian (the famous ‘Aunt Lizzie’), morning fitness runs, Float Fit and Tabatha classes in the pool, and all-in-all a unique learning environment was created, cementing the reputation of Tumbler Ridge as a conference destination with a special ambience.

Southern African physicians have contributed enormously to rural health care in BC over the past decades, and two short slideshows featured different aspects of this part of the world: clinics in Zimbabwe and fossil human footprints in South Africa. However, perhaps the most unexpected part of the conference happened later, after the banquet. Dr. Tom Perry, gravely concerned about the funding challenges of the dinosaur museum (with $50,000 needed in order to re-open) worked the crowd. Within a quarter of an hour $19,000 had been pledged, helping the museum significantly towards its goal!

As for the kids, it was all about Dinosaur Camp! Recently employed museum staff Debbie Gainor and Tammy Pigeon provided them with an unforgettable experience through two mornings of dinosaur crafts, microscope demonstration of dinosaur bones and teeth, using scribe tools, tours of parts of the museum that the public doesn’t get to see, and the making and painting of plaster casts of dinosaur tracks which they were able to take home as keepsakes.

At the end of a memorable weekend, participant evaluation forms reflected the high satisfaction rate for the conference, along with a much-heard sentiment: Can we please do 3D again in 2019?

 

For further information please contact:
Heather Gummow (250)565-5814 or heather.gummow@northernhealth.ca
Dr. Charles Helm (250) 242-1101 or helm.c.w@gmail.com

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.

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