Ru­ral care is fo­cus for med­i­cal Ris­ing Star

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Chris­tine HINZMANN Cit­i­zen staff chinz­[email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

Caitlin Blewett, a sec­ond-year stu­dent in the uni­ver­sity’s North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­gram, is the re­cip­i­ent of the Ris­ing Star of Health Ser­vice award which rec­og­nizes out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tions made to health care in the north.

Blewett, who grew up in Van­cou­ver, moved to Haida Gwaii to take a three-month post grad­u­ate course and knew al­most im­me­di­ately it was the place she wanted to call home.

As a pub­lic health mas­ters grad­u­ate, Blewett stayed on the re­mote is­land for seven years de­vel­op­ing pro­grams fo­cus­ing on child/youth men­tal health and sub­stance use, well­ness fo­rums, and work­ing with el­ders to im­prove qual­ity of life for Indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties while serv­ing on the Haida Gwaii Is­lands Well­ness So­ci­ety.

“We talked specif­i­cally a lot around men­tal health ser­vices and what that could look like and also a lot about elder care – about ag­ing in place and elder health­care ser­vices and so­cial ser­vices rel­e­vant and lo­cal to save fam­i­lies and the sick peo­ple from all of the has­sle, which is not a strong enough word – of ac­cess­ing health ser­vices off-is­land and that work was specif­i­cally for Haida Gwaii,” Blewett said, who has done ex­ten­sive work in main­land ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties as well.

Blewett feels a strong con­nec­tion to Haida Gwaii.

“The peo­ple I met just threw open arms out to any­thing you wanted to do and any­thing you were in­ter­ested in be­ing a part of,” she said.

“Within the first month, I had joined the fire depart­ment. They’re just so ex­cited to have peo­ple with en­ergy and ex­cite­ment who want to live in the com­mu­nity and who want to make it work. I think this kind of at­ti­tude is a large part of what keeps me in North­ern B.C., and what makes me want to live and work here for the rest of my life.

“I def­i­nitely applied to medicine in hopes of pur­su­ing ru­ral fam­ily prac­tice.”

With five years of school­ing left to go, Blewett said she specif­i­cally asked to be part of the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­gram at UNBC when given the choice of cam­puses from the pro­gram that is an ex­ten­sion of the Uni­ver­sity of B.C. med­i­cal pro­gram.

“When I grad­u­ate, I will be 40 and I would love to go home and get to prac­tice there,” she said about Haida Gwaii.

Blewett said it was a nice sur­prise when she heard she had been des­ig­nated as Ris­ing Star, which in­cludes a $5,000 award.

“The money made a short pit stop in my ac­count,” Blewett laughed.

And then it went straight to tu­ition.

The award is pro­vided through the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­grams Trust, es­tab­lished in 2002 to help sup­port a health­care stu­dent’s ed­u­ca­tion and re­cruit­ment ini­tia­tives in the North.

“I have be­come very pas­sion­ate about ru­ral health ser­vices,” Blewett said.

It’s about what kind of ser­vices a ru­ral com­mu­nity needs and how to get those ser­vices in town rather than hav­ing to fly to Van­cou­ver or take an eight-hour ferry to Prince Ru­pert, Blewett gave as an ex­am­ple.

She said time spent at the BC Ru­ral Health Con­fer­ence held in the spring just con­firmed her con­tin­ued in­ter­est in ru­ral medicine and health­care im­prove­ment.

“Con­nect­ing with ru­ral fam­ily doc­tors at the con­fer­ence who have been do­ing this for so long and just get­ting to see how much they can change the work that they are do­ing, both to suit their com­mu­ni­ties and to suit what they and their fam­i­lies need, it’s re­ally heart­en­ing,” Blewett said.

HAND­OUT PHOTO

Caitlin Brewett, a sec­ond-year stu­dent, is the Ris­ing Star of the North­ern Med­i­cal Pro­gram at UNBC for her ex­ten­sive work in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

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