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