Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice

Volume 16 - September 2020

Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice AGM

Last night, the 7th Annual General Meeting was held for the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice.  The members elected a slate of diverse and qualified candidates to serve as your Board of Directors.

New members of the Board include Dr. Kate McCarroll, Dr. Tracey Thorne, and Dr. Liz Whynot. Dr. Danette Dawkin, Travis Holyk, Dr. Don Sutherland and Laurie Walters will continue their terms for one more year.  The Division said thank you and farewell to Dr. John Soles, Lori Verigin, NP and Dr. Dave Whittaker with thanks for their service.  To read more about your new Board of Directors, click here.

A special resolution was passed to make a series of administrative changes to our by-laws including updating our list of Chapters and aligning more closely with the changes to our Board Structure after the 2018 Societies Act change. In addition to the governance matters, highlights from the Division’s Annual Report were shared and Dr. Dan Cutfeet gave a talk about his experience with the COVID-19 cluster on Cormorant Island.  To read the Division’s Annual Report, click here.

Strategic Plan Update

Despite the pandemic response, the Division continues to advance towards our goals articulated in the Strategic Plan.  Recent successes include the following:


An orientation session was hosted for New Chapter Physician Leads.  This session was facilitated by the outgoing Board Chair/Division Physician Lead, incoming Division Physician Lead and the Division’s Executive Director.  A working draft physician orientation manual was produced for further reference and is available to view here.  The goal is to ensure that new Chapter Physician leads have a more fulsome orientation in addition to the local orientation activities led by the Chapter Coordinator and to reinforce the ongoing support from the Regional Physician Lead and Regional Manager. This orientation and supporting materials will be evaluated and enhanced as we have more practice using it.


A Project Repository has been created to capture details associated with dozens of projects and initiatives the Division has implemented over the years. This will prevent a Chapter from having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ instead of building on successful work of other communities across the Province. This living document will be updated and maintained regularly to capture successes and learning opportunities. The Project repository is available to view here.

A Division wide Communications Plan has been implemented.  While the Division has sent out various communications over the years, a formalized strategic approach has been formalized that includes regular e-newsletters, weekly member e-blasts, a presence on social media to complement our relationship based, grassroots communications approach.  This plan is being monitored and will be evaluated to improve member experience.

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Pemberton Early Draw Nurse Practitioner (NP)

The Pemberton Medical Clinic (PMC) provides primary care to residents in Pemberton village, surrounding rural areas and to several First Nations including Lil’wat, N'Quatqua, Samahquam, Skatin and Xa'xtsa First Nations. For several years, nurse practitioner (NP) Erica Vanzanten has provided care to patients in the Pemberton and surrounding area through the NP for Me program as an employee of the Health Authority.

This winter, the physicians at PMC began discussions with the Health Authority and First Nations partners for Erica to join the PMC as an NP through the early draw NP process. The early draw NP enables primary care clinics within communities that are not yet part of a Primary Care Network to add an NP as a new practitioner resource that provides team-based care within the clinic. The Health Authority and local partners were supportive of Erica working as an NP through the early draw process and explored opportunities for additional NPs in the area.

Erica speaks highly of this new opportunity: "I am thrilled to work as a Nurse Practitioner within a team based model of care. Primary Care Networks allows me the opportunity to work as an independent contractor alongside my wonderfully supportive GP colleagues to deliver primary care services that meet the needs of patients in our community" Erica Vanzanten, PMC NP. Some benefits for the clinic, patients and community include the clinic receiving overhead payment to support the costs of having an additional practitioner at the clinic and Erica is able to provide team-based care to rural First Nations communities." 

For more information on Pemberton’s early draw NP experience, contact Helen Truran, Regional Manager, VCH and Northern Region at

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photo credit: Erica Vantanzen

New Faces and Grateful Farewells

New Faces

Dr. Victoria Weber, Physician Lead, Lillooet

Dr. Victoria Weber grew up in Chelsea, Quebec and attended medical school at Saba University School of Medicine, in the Dutch Antilles, where she obtained a Masters in Hyperbaric Medicine in addition to her Medical Degree. Prior to embarking on her medical studies, Victoria completed a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Dr. Weber moved out west to complete her family medicine residency through UBC’s Rural Family Medicine Residency program in Kelowna, which took her to Haida Gwaii and the Sunshine Coast, furthering her interest in full scope family practice.  She has been working in Lillooet for the past year. Her areas of interest include; women's health, emergency medicine, addictions and dermatology.

When away from work, Victoria enjoys running, skiing and hiking.

Dr Amber Bacenas, Regional Physician Lead Vancouver Coastal and Northern Regions

Amber has been the long time Chapter Physician Lead in Bella Coola and has recently become the Regional Physician Lead for Vancouver Coastal and Northern Regions. Dr. Bacenas began to appreciate the unique nature of rural, remote, northern communities at a young age when her family relocated from America’s Deep South to the Canadian Shield. After the shock of -40° C wore off, the future doctor made a strong commitment to her new environment.

After completing her MD at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, Dr. Bacenas finished her Family Practice residency at UBC’s Northern Rural program. This ultimately brought her to Bella Coola, BC where she joined an excellent team of rural generalists.

In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Bacenas has held leadership positions including Local Medical Director for Bella Coola General Hospital and physician lead for the Bella Coola Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice.

When not working, Dr. Bacenas can be found hiking the Central Coast alpine with her furry four-legged friends.

Dana Hibbard, Chapter Coordinator, Hazelton

Dana has lived and worked on Gitxsan territory since 2011.  She has held a diverse set of roles from wildfire fighter to community educator, river guide to project manager and has spent the past five years working as an independent contractor while managing an outfitting business. Some of you may have worked with Dana when she facilitated the two-year Child & Youth Mental Health Collaborative. She has also had experience working with the Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice on their A GP for Me initiative.


Cheryl Drewitz, Chapter Coordinator, Pemberton and Ashcroft

Cheryl has been with the Division for almost two years, starting back in October 2018 as the Pemberton Chapter Coordinator and has more recently take on the role of the Acting Chapter Coordinator for Ashcroft.  

Cheryl has provided a great deal of support to the physicians in Pemberton particularly around partnership development and facilitation of their local Collaborative Service Committee. Cheryl has supported the Pemberton Chapter through many projects but in particular to note their PMH project: Exploring the impact social determinants of health have on patients, staff and physicians and the Interprofessional, Community Emergency Simulation Team Building Program.  In her time as the Acting Chapter Coordinator for the Interior community of Ashcroft, Cheryl has continued to build strong relationships with community, health authority and local First Nations partners.  She has supported the Interim Primary Care Services proposal to the Ministry of Health for outreach to local communities, worked with stakeholders to implement further outreach opportunities and worked very closely with members on the transitioning of a new physician to the community during the challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Cheryl has been a lovely addition to the Interior region and we look forward to crossing paths with Cheryl in her new role. 

Pat Lenci, Chapter Coordinator, Bella Coola

Pat Lenci has officially decided to retire and will be leaving her role as Chapter Coordinator of the Bella Coola Chapter at the end of October.  Pat has been instrumental in supporting the physicians of Bella Coola to form as a chapter and in organizing and facilitating their Collaborative Services Committee (CSC). While Pat has worked on a number of different initiatives, the My Path to Diabetes Health a local diabetic patient education model and resource was her most recent and involved projects that she managed.  Pat’s passion for rural and her light humour will be missed!

New virtual supports available for healthcare providers in rural, remote and First Nations communities – Submitted by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC


A new virtual support initiative is enabling rural healthcare providers to deliver timely patient-centred care closer to home.

Real-Time Virtual Support (RTVS) pathways provide physicians, nurse practitioners, and nurses in rural, remote, and First Nations communities with access to 24-hour, just-in-time advice to support patient care. Through Zoom, they can be connected to one of five teams providing culturally safe and compassionate support:

  1. RUDi – Emergency
  2. ROSe – Critical Care
  3. CHARLiE – Pediatrics
  4. MaBAL – Maternity and Newborn
  5. UBC Dermatology Rural and Remote Service  

These teams have an understanding of the rural and cultural contexts and are available to support rural healthcare providers for any issue, including:

  • providing a patient consult, second opinion, or ongoing patient support;
  • reviewing a patient case;
  • running through patient simulation scenarios;
  • navigating the healthcare system; and
  • providing collaborative support in critical times.

“The pathways were developed not only to improve access to care but also to help rural healthcare providers seek support about their patients or situations in a safe, non-judgemental way,” says Dr. John Pawlovich, RTVS lead for the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, one of the organizations involved in the initiative. “Real-Time Virtual Support is a change in culture for accessing assistance and support, and we hope to see more rural healthcare providers reaching out to us.”

To learn more about the pathways and how to access them, download the RTVS Toolkit for Healthcare Providers at The toolkit is aimed at helping healthcare providers in rural, remote, and First Nations communities navigate the pathways and includes access information, Zoom instructions, FAQs, bios and photos of RTVS teams, and posters.

Real-Time Virtual Support is an initiative of the Virtual Health and Wellness Collaborative for Rural and First Nations BC and is made possible through the incredible work and collaboration of the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (supported by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues), First Nations Health Authority, Provincial Health Services Authority, Providence Health Care, BC Emergency Medicine Network, and UBC Department of Emergency Medicine. For more information about Real-Time Virtual Support, visit