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: Northern Health assuring public it has declared no public exposure events or outbreaks

As of Sept. 17, there are 241 cases in the Northern Health Authority region

Single-engine aircraft crashes near Telkwa

Two occupants of the plane sustained minor injuries and were transported to hospital

Cullen announces bid for provincial NDP nomination for Stikine riding

Current MLA Donaldson not seeking re-election

Anne Marie Sam seeks NDP nomination for Nechako Lakes riding

She also ran in 2017 but was defeated by BC Liberal John Rustad

Northern Health records 1st fatality due to COVID-19

Six people died from the novel coronavirus on the weekend, health officials confirm

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read