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New UBC Chair to advance rural and Indigenous health education and research in B.C.

Dr. John Pawlovich appointed the next Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health
Dr. John Pawlovich UBC
Dr. John Pawlovich has been appointed the next Rural Doctor's UBC Chair in Rural Health.

Dr. John Pawlovich, the medical director for Carrier Sekani Family Services, has been appointed the next Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health.

The position is dedicated to advancing rural health education and research in B.C.

Pawlovich is a family doctor who has dedicated his career to improving the health of rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

During his appointment, he will collaborate with academic institutions, government, rural healthcare providers and communities to enhance health education and training and explore healthcare innovations that will build capacity in rural, remote and Indigenous settings.

A graduate of UBC’s medical program and as medical director for Carrier Sekani Family Services, Pawlovich provides medical care to a number of Indigenous communities, including Takla Landing, located approximately 400 km north of Prince George.

“Takla represents many B.C. communities that are geographically very far from any large health centre,” said Pawlovich.

“These communities are really disadvantaged in terms of how they access primary, specialty and emergency care. These are also the communities where we best understand our work to do around equity and access to care. I am honoured to serve as the next Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health, helping to advance rural health education and research to close the delivery gap in more isolated communities across B.C.”

As chair, Pawlovich will also support the growth of an integrated rural health research program relevant to rural, remote and Indigenous populations of B.C.

Much of his research will focus on using technology in new ways—for patients, and also to support health care providers who work in relative isolation. He wants to create more opportunities for medical students to train and practice in rural communities and also hopes to use technology to reduce the sense of isolation to encourage students to pursue rural postings. 

The chair position is funded through the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC) which is a partnership between the B.C. Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC.

The JSC has provided $840,000 in new funding to support rural health initiatives in B.C. and committed an additional $2.5 million in matching funds to support fundraising through UBC to double the $5 million endowment for the chair.

“The collaborative energy among government, health authorities, universities, rural healthcare practitioners, communities and patients is mounting to overcome longstanding barriers and inequities in the healthcare system,” said Dr. Alan Ruddiman, a rural physician in Oliver, co-chair of the JSC, and director at the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc).

“This is the power of working together in partnership to achieve sustainable health service delivery in rural and remote areas of our province.”

Pawlovich is also the virtual health lead for the RCCbc and teaches and mentors medical students, residents and physicians in rural practice through his role as co-director of the JSC’s Rural Education Action Plan.

“Dr. John Pawlovich is deeply committed to social accountability and has embraced innovative technologies to reach those most in need and enable greater access to culturally-safe healthcare in Indigenous communities,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, dean of the faculty of medicine and vice-president, health at UBC.

“His efforts toward equitable access to daily health services and optimal health for British Columbians in rural and remote areas are essential to our vision of transforming health for everyone.”

Pawlovich’s appointment follows Dr. David Snadden’s five-year term as the founding Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health.

From 2016 to 2020, Snadden worked to develop community-led and team-based healthcare in Northern B.C. He worked closely with RCCbc and partners to shape progress in vital areas of rural healthcare such as transportation, safety, humility, Indigenous health and virtual health.

Pawlovich’s five-year term continues until November 2025.