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

RDKS developing strategy to bring higher internet speeds to remote areas

Results of public survey will help ISPs build business case for funding

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Donations flow into Mills Memorial Hospital

Community responds to request for equipment, supplies

School district digs in on instruction resumption

Senior official calls the process a “marathon”

Terrace dental clinic say no staff experiencing COVID-19 symptoms 22 days after dental conference

Five members of the office attended the Pacific Dental Conference from March 5-7

B.C. records first at-home death from COVID-19, but 70+ hospital patients have recovered

Total of 970 novel coronavirus cases in B.C., with the majority in the Lower Mainland area

BC Ferries able to restrict travel for sick passengers

Ferries working on schedule shifts to keep workers safe

Canada expands 75% wage subsidy to COVID-19 affected businesses of all sizes: Trudeau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Pay parking suspended at B.C. hospitals due to COVID-19

Temporary free parking reduces need for keypads, contact

Helping those at risk, one piece of paper at a time through ‘isolation communication’

Simple paper tool during pandemic making its way across Canada thanks to social media.

‘Back to school, in a virtual way’ for B.C. students in COVID-19 pandemic

Province adds online resources to help parents at home

Canadian COVID-19 round-up: Air Canada cuts 15,000 jobs, 90% of flights

Comprehensive Canadian news update as of 2:30 p.m., Monday, March 30.

Canadian ferry operators call for inclusion in COVID-19 travel restrictions

Domestic travel restrictions should include ferries, operators say

Most Read