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

Chemainus woman sets a new standard for 106-year-olds

Active lifestyle includes a trip to Scotland in the works for May

Forest industry supporters and convoy arrive at B.C. legislature

Rally delivers petition in favour of ‘working forests’

Local state of emergency ends in Cowichan Valley

No further threats of flooding in the Valley

Pressure builds for buses from Cowichan to ferry terminals

North Cowichan’s council now requesting bus connections be considered

Coming up in Cowichan: Climate change series, nominate a Leader of Tomorrow

Series of seminars on climate change emergency coming up Are you interested… Continue reading

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Teen snowmobiler from Kelowna found after air force’s overnight search

The teen had been missing since just after 6 p.m. on Monday

Two law enforcement trucks ‘deliberately’ set on fire in northern B.C., RCMP say

Police say they have video evidence of a person in the area of the truck fires

Nanaimo man wins lotto, plans to buy $16,000 fridge

Curtis Wright a winner in Lotto 6/49 draw

Three protesters arrested after blocking driveway at premier’s home

Protestors claimed they would make a citizen’s arrest of the Premier, according to West Shore RCMP

Budget 2020: B.C. adds tax to sweet drinks and sodas

All soda, vending machine drinks will be subject to higher PST

Budget 2020: B.C. unveils new grant for students, phases out debt-relief program

For the first time, diploma, certificate students qualify for yearly post-secondary grant

Budget 2020: B.C. NDP taps top tax bracket for more revenue

Minimum wage set to pass $15 an hour by 2021

Budget 2020: Not much new for B.C.’s struggling forest industry

Focus on wood waste utilization, efficiency, Carole James says

Most Read