UBC research spotlights rural health

A new research chair in rural health care at the University of British Columbia is the first position of its kind at a Canadian university to focus on the delivery of health care in rural communities.

Terry Lake, B.C.’s minister of health, announced a $5 million endowment in November to establish a position to enhance the delivery of rural health-care services in the province.

The endowment is funded through the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues, a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Doctors of B.C. that advises the provincial government on rural medical practice.

Dr. Dave Snadden, who was appointed the founding Rural Doctors UBC Chair in Rural Health, said physicians are keen for this chair to provide advocacy and raise the profile of rural health.

“Rural health doctors work in circumstances that aren’t always easy, and that aren’t always understood in the big cities,” he says .

“We are also very keen to encourage our students and residents to consider rural practice for their careers.”

Recruiting and retaining new physicians to rural practice is a longtime passion for Snadden, who oversaw the expansion of medical education and training in northern British Columbia earlier in his career.

Based in Prince George, Snadden will provide academic leadership in rural affairs, establish relevant research and address rural physician recruitment and retention.

“One of the things about being an academic at a university is that I’m not aligned with the government or the health authorities. It brings an independent voice to bear,” he says.

“I hope through looking at current evidence, and maybe working with some of the rural communities to create new evidence, we can begin to influence how rural health care is delivered and find innovative ways of doing things.”

In addition to the endowment, operational funding of $350,000 per year will be provided over the next five years to support the development of a provincial network of rural health researchers and the establishment of a Dean’s Advisory Committee on Rural and Remote Health.

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