Healthy Living in the North

Fun and learning at the first Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp

Campers and an adult circle a simulation dummy, feeling its chest.

Campers visit the simulation lab at the University Hospital of Northern BC.

This summer, 18 Indigenous students from urban and rural Northern BC communities traveled to the University of Northern BC (UNBC) to participate in the first ever Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp.

The purpose of the camp was to introduce Indigenous youth entering grades five to eight to the post-secondary environment, and inspire them to learn about and pursue health- and science-related careers in the North.

Organized by the Health Arts Research Centre (HARC) with help from several sponsors, including Northern Health (NH) and the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), the camp was the first of its kind in Northern BC.

The weeklong, sleep-away camp featured a different theme each day, with all of the themes centred on Indigenous and Western science and health.

Students got the unique opportunity to “bunk” overnight in UNBC’s Keyoh Student Residence and enjoy meals at the Agora Dining Hall, making this group of future post-secondary students seasoned pros before they’ve even applied!

The camp began with an opening ceremony, including a traditional welcome to Lheidli T’enneh territory from Elder Darlene McIntosh and drummer Kyle Sam.

Throughout the week, campers learned about a range of topics including:

  • Wildlife and fish
  • Land and water
  • Health and genetics
  • Biology
  • Art

Campers also got to speak with an Environmental Health Officer, prepared traditional foods, learned to identify medicinal plants, and learned about Canada’s Food Guide.

Five children examine bins at Exploration Place's Nature Exchange.

Campers learn about wildlife at the Exploration Place.

Of course, no summer camp is complete without a field trip (or two)! Campers had the chance to learn about astronomy and cosmology at the Exploration Place, where they were able to create beautiful leather pouches, rattles, and cedar roses.

Campers impressed instructors and counsellors with their technological knowledge, and learned about coding and creating websites and apps. Afterwards, the students traveled to the Two Rivers Gallery Maker Lab where they participated in a stop-motion animation workshop – check out the amazing videos that the campers created.

Dr. Jessie King, Hadiksm Gaax, Lead, Research & Community Engagement, Indigenous Health, Northern Health, was on site for most of the week helping facilitate activities and was thrilled to watch how fast campers became friends!

“It was amazing to see the youth building friendships with each other and the camp leaders while experiencing so many fascinating activities. My favourite part of the week was watching the students exchange contact information in the last couple of days so their friendships could go beyond the camp experience! It made me wonder how many would come together at UNBC in five to eight years.”

The week of fun and learning ended with a Grand Finale on Friday, where campers created vision boards for their own futures before attending a Mentorship Fair in the afternoon.

Several campers hold a mixing bowl while another camper tosses the food with tongs.

Campers learn how to prepare traditional foods.

The Mentorship Fair included interactive tables from the Exploration Place, College of New Caledonia, UNBC Aboriginal Recruitment and Support Services, FNHA Environmental Health Team, Outland Youth Employment Program (OYEP) West, and the ECHO Network.

After the fair, campers attended a closing ceremony that included panel talks from inspiring Indigenous guest speakers who shared personal stories, experiences, career paths, and encouragement.

“Reflecting on the experience of going to university, Dr. Sarah de Leeuw and I thought about how frightening and unattainable university can seem for some,” says Dr. King. “For many students, being able to see yourself in a university environment is a powerful experience… if you walk the halls and spend time in the classrooms, it doesn’t take much to begin seeing yourself there one day.”

The success of the first Northern BC Indigenous Youth Summer Science Camp is evident in the relationships made, fun had, and pictures captured. Plans are already in motion to continue the camp into 2020 and beyond!

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.

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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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InterAGE – A unique project brings students and seniors together at Gateway Lodge Assisted Living

Zach, a young man, plays cards with five seniors.

Zach, a UNBC student, lived in Gateway Lodge as part of the InterAGE Project.

University students are calling a seniors’ care facility “home” as part of an ongoing, experiential project that has set fertile ground for blossoming friendships, teachings, learnings, and research results.

The Intergenerational Activities for Growth and Engagement (InterAGE) Project was born when researchers at the University of Northern BC (UNBC) partnered with Northern Health, and a pilot project began in September 2018 with two UNBC students spending their Fall semester (four months) living in Gateway Lodge long-term care and assisted living facility in Prince George. As part of their full course load of university credits, the students enrolled in the experiential learning course, during which they were required to spend a minimum of 10 hours a week engaging in activities with the senior residents. The pilot project was a terrific success and has led to the continuation of the InterAGE Project.

“The students bring such a new and interesting perspective to our programming,” says Therapeutic Recreational Therapist Lynn Aucoin, describing the short- and long-term benefits of the project. “They’ve made great suggestions to augment what we offer, including adding more evening and weekend programming. I think the initiative is phenomenal!”

One of the first projects of its kind in Canada, InterAGE is compiling evidence-based results on intergenerational living. The research/experiential learning project is led by UNBC’s Dr. Shannon Freeman, Assistant Professor in the School of Nursing, and Prof. Dawn Hemingway, Associate Professor in the School of Social Work.

“The neat thing for me has been to observe the sharing between the students and the residents,” says Dawn. “The sharing of lifelong learning, with an open dialogue, in a class environment in a residential home. It’s been remarkable to see the exchange of ideas and experiences between the students and residents.”

Hemingway is referring to the weekly open class that is held in a bright and airy room at Gateway Lodge. Seated at tables in comfy chairs – sometimes with the fireplace on during Prince George’s chillier months – InterAGE students, any Gateway residents interested in participating, and guest speakers (including academics, professionals, and community members) gather to learn and discuss a wide variety of topics, such as:

  • Autonomy and risk.
  • Digital media and technology use to support well-being in later life.
  • Myths and stereotypes of aging.
  • Cognitive health in later life.
  • Grief, loss, and transitions.

The classes are held in a seminar style, supporting a safe environment for individual sharing and discourse.

“Going to the classes became one of the highlights of my week,” says Agnes, a Gateway resident who regularly attends the classes. “I’ve also had an opportunity to meet more of the other residents and also hang out with young people – it’s been great!”

Another Gateway resident, John, credits morning chats over coffee, and activities and games with helping him socialize more.

“[The lectures are] a really great learning experience. I learned that socializing and doing activities gets me out of my chair – it’s a really good thing.”

This project requires the trust and support of facility staff and leadership to succeed, and their impressions after the completion of an academic year are very positive.

Sandra Barnes, Manager of Residential Programs, oversees seniors’ programs and services in Prince George as a whole, including at Gateway Lodge. She sees the impact InterAGE is having at the service and individual levels as well. For Sandra, the students’ and seniors’ interactions are profound; as are the connections with the researchers and guest lecturers.

“We have new programs, new expertise informing our services – these relationships are so valuable,” says Sandra. “[This program] provides something unique. It’s different and innovative. We’re seeing new relationships develop among our residents as people from different aspects of care [and areas of the facility] gather to participate.”

Zachary Fleck recently took part in the Winter semester portion of InterAGE. Zachary is a third-year International Studies student who applied to participate in the program for the unique academic perspective. While he moved in anticipating the experiential learning, some of what he learned went well beyond scholarly pursuits.

“I’ve developed really meaningful relationships while I’ve been here,” says Zachary. “I’ve been able to create brand-new perspectives.”

The positive practical results of InterAGE’s pilot year may impact future planning for Prince George’s aging population as the program continues into the 2019-2020 academic year. Additionally, the project’s research outcomes will be shared among leaders in the long-term care field.

“When we started the project, it was the great unknown… would it work? Could it work?” muses Dr. Freeman. “With collaborative relationships, we’re able, as educators, to offer real experiential learning in this environment, and I value that so much. This is just the beginning. We’re continuing to learn and grow and recruit more students for the next semester!”

The success of the project, which brought young strangers into a seniors’ home, with all the potential worries and unknowns, can be summed up by one of the facility’s vibrant elders, ninety-two-year-old Rose.

“I noticed that Zach talked to everyone. And I’m thrilled to have lived this long, to see something so wonderful come to be. I said to Zach,” Rose says as she opens her hands in a welcoming gesture, “‘Come in, come in… you’re part of our family now.’”

UNBC students interested in participating in InterAGE or learning more about the project can contact either:

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is a Communications Advisor with the Health Promotions Team at Northern Health. Born and raised in southern B.C., Andrea now embraces the North in large part for all the fun, healthy activities and opportunities uniquely accessible in our region including snowboarding, cross-country skiing, outdoor skating, wild berry picking, hiking, canoeing/kayaking, fishing and the bracing experience of jogging in the snow!

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Making a difference in the lives of older adults: a UNBC researcher’s passion

Shannon Freeman is pictured.

Shannon Freeman’s grandparents played a large role in her upbringing. Their impact influences her research today.

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 finally appease my curiosity, I approached Shannon Freeman, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and avid researcher at UNBC, to learn about her path to becoming a researcher and her current projects.

“My upbringing wasn’t traditional,” says Shannon, who grew up in a small town of less than 1,000 people in Southern Ontario. “I was partially raised by my grandmother, and my grandparents were very influential in my life. We developed a strong bond, which drew me towards a career where I could make a difference in the lives of older adults.”

Shannon considered some professions that help older adults, but they weren’t the right fit. She discovered her love of research while finishing her degree across the Pacific Ocean.

“I went to Japan to complete my master’s education. My research project focused on centenarians [people who have lived to or beyond 100 years of age] and longevity. They have a high number of centenarians, and I was interested in learning what they do differently to live so long. It motivated me to get involved with research as my career.”

Shannon’s current research projects focus on improving the quality of life for older adults through meaningful engagement.

Five residents of Gateway Lodge play cards with a university student.

Residents at Gateway Lodge enjoy a game of cards led by a UNBC student as part of the interAGE project.

“Two projects that I’m currently working on at Gateway Lodge in Prince George are the interAGE intergenerational cohousing project and Grow Your Own horticulture project,” says Shannon. “Everything I do connects with older adults.”

Both of these projects focus on reducing social isolation in the long-term care setting.

The interAGE project involves two UNBC students living in Gateway Lodge’s assisted-living wing for a semester. The students are responsible for developing and delivering activities that are in addition to residents’ regularly scheduled activities.

“The residents really enjoy living and interacting with the students. Activities are well attended and it’s been a positive experience for everyone involved.”

Succulents and other plants grow in a pots in an indoor garden.

The indoor flower garden at Gateway Lodge is a welcoming place for residents and their families to enjoy all year.

The Grow Your Own project focuses on gardening.

“Residents identified gardening as something they wanted to do. Last year was our first year with the project. This year, we’ve added outdoor raised beds that are designed for standing people and those in wheelchairs. A core group of residents lead the project, and plan what to plant. It’s an activity they find meaningful, and are committed to.”

For Shannon, there is no greater success than hearing that you changed someone’s perspective on aging.

“I love what I do, and the older adults and partners that I work with on these research projects continue to inspire me every day. I’m excited to start new projects that build on this work. Research allows me to give back to my community and make a difference in people’s lives.”

True to her word, she is already planning her next project: indoor hydroponic gardening at Gateway Lodge.

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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On-site health clinic provides a range of services to students at UNBC

Kara Hunter posing at UNBC.University students are in a unique situation. For most, it’s the first time they’ve lived away from home. On top of that, they’re trying to navigate their studies, and most don’t have a local health care provider. Simple health concerns can become more serious while they try to figure out where to get help.

To help keep students healthy, the on-site Health Services Clinic at the University of Northern British Columbia’s (UNBC) main campus in Prince George has a strong team of health care professionals that can meet most student health care needs:

  • Counsellors
  • General practitioner physician
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Occupational therapist
  • Psychiatrist
  • Registered nurses
  • Registered psychiatric nurse

Among the services the clinic provides are physical and mental health assessments and treatment, immunizations, health care for sexual and reproductive issues, and chronic disease management.

One of the dedicated team members is Nurse Practitioner Kara Hunter, who has worked at Northern Health for over 20 years. Most of her career was spent as a registered nurse in critical care. After completing her master’s degree, she starting work as a nurse practitioner in 2015.

“In this clinic, we can make a huge impact with students and their overall wellness,” says Kara. “Typically each provider sees between 15 and 20 students a day. On extremely busy days we can see up to 25. Appointments are scheduled, and twice a week we offer drop-in times.”

Due to the recent opioid crisis, the team has devoted a lot of time to training students to use naloxone kits. Kits were distributed to students so they could administer the drug to anyone potentially overdosing.

“This past September and October, we trained over 100 students and residence advisors on how to administer naloxone,” says Kara. “We want to make sure that if someone does overdose, students know how to help.”

Another area Kara works in is sexual and reproductive health: “In 2019, we’re trialing group appointments, specifically targeting contraceptive counselling and the use of intrauterine (IUD) devices,” she says.

There’s no limit on the number of students that can attend each group appointment. Students who want more information after the group appointment can book a follow-up appointment at the clinic.

Thanks to the on-site clinic, UNBC students have one less thing to worry about when they arrive in Prince George. For more information, visit the Wellness Centre Health Services website.

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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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 kandola@unbc.ca.

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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A focus on our people: Partnerships for better care

In the latest CEO video blog, Cathy is excited to highlight one of the exceptional partnerships that exist to help Northern Health provide high quality services to northerners. In this example, Cathy speaks with Christa Keating and Tanya Schilling about partnering with UNBC and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to provide men’s health screening at Maher Terminals in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.

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A focus on our people: Employed student nurse program

In the latest CEO video blog, Cathy takes a look at the employed student nurse program and talks to Serena Lundquist, a UNBC nursing student who participated in the program, and Andrea Starck, NH lead, professional practice.

Cathy Ulrich

About Cathy Ulrich

Cathy became NH president and chief executive officer in 2007, following five years as vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer for Northern Health. Before the formation of Northern Health, she worked in a variety of nursing and management positions in Northern B.C., Manitoba, and Alberta. Most of her career has been in rural and northern communities where she has gained a solid understanding of the unique health needs of rural communities. Cathy has a nursing degree from the University of Alberta, a master’s degree in community health sciences from the University of Northern BC, and is still actively engaged in health services research, teaching and graduate student support.

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Partnership with UNBC Wellness Centre highlights the health of young men

In March 2011, Northern Health and the UNBC Wellness Centre developed a partnership to provide screenings to students to check their blood pressure, sugars and cholesterol as well as a pre-screening for stress and depression. The event was an overwhelming success so we decided to do it again!

Northern Health and UNBC once again came together to offer the same event during November 2012, building off the momentum from the Movember campaign. The event was made possible through the partnership of the Northern Health men’s health team, the UNBC Wellness Center, the Canadian Cancer Society, and the BC Cancer Agency.

men's health screening

A total of 123 men came through the men’s health screening at UNBC. Mustaches were complimentary!

A total of 123 men were screened over the two day event. Many more came by the event for health information, games, and a free photo with complimentary mustaches. We were hoping for a good turnout and the students did not disappoint!

We want to thank UNBC for hosting the event, as well as our partner agencies for all their work in making these great two days possible. Let’s continue to spread the word about men’s health in our communities!

Visit men.northernhealth.ca for more information on men’s health and community events to support this initiative.

Brandon Grant

About Brandon Grant

As the NH men’s health coordinator, Brandon Grant travels across the Northern Health region speaking with community members about the health issues men face and what we can do to improve men’s health. He has worked with a variety of community-based organizations, including the Nawican Friendship Centre and the Northern Family Health Society, and holds two master’s degrees, one in social work and one in public administration. To stay active, Brandon enjoys playing golf and tennis, and whenever possible, visits tropical destinations to go snorkeling.
(Brandon no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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