Dr. Brent Jim, from the tiny village of Witset, B.C., is the first Indigenous gynecologic oncologist in the country. (Contributed photo)

Wet’suwet’en man becomes only Indigenous gynecologic oncologist in Canada

Dr. Brent Jim is working toward improving cervical cancer screening rates for Indigenous women

In 2003, The Interior News interviewed a 17-year-old high school graduate as he was leaving for McGill University in Montreal, determined to become the first medical doctor from the tiny village of Witset in northern B.C.

Almost a decade later, Brent Jim did it, and graduated from medical school at the University of British Columbia.

Fast forward to 2020 and Dr. Jim is now the only Indigenous gynecologic oncologist in Canada, after completing a program at the University of Calgary in December.

“Generally, I’m fairly modest, but I am honoured to be the first Indigenous gynecologic oncologist,” he said. “I wish I wasn’t. I’ve tried to avoid the spotlight my whole life. I hope I am not the last. I hope I open the doors and encourage others to follow suit.”

A gynecologic oncologist specializes in diagnosing and treating cancers that are located on a woman’s reproductive organs.

Jim said he went into the field when he discovered early on in his training that he enjoyed surgery and complex patients.

“I love the problem-solving in the operating room,” he said. “I love the patients. Generally, patients are very appreciative of the things you do for them.”

One of his short-term goals is to look into and improve screening rates for cervical cancer among Indigenous people.

In general, cervical cancer rates are not higher among Indigenous women, but Jim said the difference lies in the stages when cases are discovered.

“With a good cervical cancer screening protocol, we should be catching most cervical cancer in the early stages,” he said. “But for some reason, Indigenous women are more likely to present with advanced cervical cancer, either because they aren’t getting screened or because the disease biology is different.

“I want to look at the reasons why this is occurring and how to improve it.”

Jim recently moved to Regina and is working at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.

“It was the closest I could get to Smithers without being in Vancouver,” he said. “There were no jobs in Edmonton or Calgary. I need a cancer centre to work in and Vancouver is too busy and too expensive to live in.”

When asked if he would ever move back to northern B.C. to work, he said he would love to.

“Working in Prince George would be my dream. It is just getting an infrastructure there in order to accommodate a gynecologic oncologist. There is no gynecologic oncologist in Prince George. There are two in Victoria and eight in Vancouver, and that is it for the entire province.”

READ MORE: UBC names Prince George oncologist to new role on Indigenous cancer, wellness

– with files from Marvin Beatty

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

DoctorsHealthcareIndigenous

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19: SD67 approves budget reductions

Staff positions will be cut to balance budget

COVID-19: Pre-recorded graduation events planned for students in School District 67

Graduates from Penticton Secondary have created petition to urge postponement of grad ceremonies

COVID-19: SD67 plans restart program for Penticton, Summerland students

District following provincial guidelines as students return to classrooms on June 1

Petition seeks to clean up Okanagan forests ‘carpeted’ with shotgun shells

Penticton man says making shot-gun shells refundable would create cleaner forests

Eco-friendly bus service seeks to add Kelowna to Osoyoos route

Bus would stop in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland, Summerland, Penticton, Kaledan, Oliver, Osoyoos

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

Enderby’s drive-in not safe from top doc’s 50-car limit

Starlight Drive-In opened with reduced capacity, COVID-19 safety measures in place

Parking lot patios a go in Vernon

Council votes in favour of allowing businesses to expand commercial space into on-street parking spots

Shuswap cabin owner disputes request to stay home in Alberta

Alberta resident redrafts response to CSRD request to stay home

Kelowna’s main drag will be closed to vehicles this summer

Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue will be a pedestrian-only roadway from June 29 through the Labour Day long weekend

Vernon gym knocked out by COVID-19

9Round Fitness in Vernon Square Mall owners announce permanent closure of facility

Snapshot: Distanced dancing in Salmon Arm

Friends use picnic shelter at Blackburn Park for safe practice

Kelowna’s Homebase Baseball Tournament cancelled

A live auction will still take place to raise funds for Joeanna’s House

Kelowna General Hospital Foundation launches fundraising initiative to support local health care

The initiative also highlights workers at Kelowna General Hospital

Most Read