NMP grad pursues northern and rural pediatric learning

After completing her MD undergraduate degree at the UBC Northern Medical Program as part of the Class of 2020, Dr. Gurkirat Kaur Kandola entered UBC’s Pediatric Residency Program – Community Impact stream which offers training in both Vancouver and in northern B.C., providing an opportunity to learn first-hand about rural pediatric care.

February 24, 2021
Dr. Gurkirat Kaur Kandola with a photo of her father, Jaswinder Singh Kandola.

It has been an exciting year for UBC Northern Medical Program (NMP) graduate and UNBC alumna Dr. Gurkirat Kaur Kandola. After finishing medical school last spring, she then entered UBC’s Pediatric Residency Program – Community Impact (CI) stream in July – a unique training experience that offers northern and rural learning as part of its core goals.

Launched in 2019, Dr. Kandola is one of the first residents to enter the CI stream which provides training in Prince George at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, in addition to ongoing training at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. It also offers a variety of opportunities to learn about the practice of pediatric medicine in northern B.C. and to learn about the challenges faced by rural pediatric care providers.

“I am incredibly honoured and proud to be a resident in this unique stream,” says Dr. Kandola. “I have always called Prince George home and to be able to continue part of my residency training in the north is a dream come true.”

"The Community Impact Stream offers many opportunities to gain experience in the care of vulnerable populations in Prince George and in smaller communities,” says Dr. Lara Malks-Jjumba, Co-Site Lead for the UBC Pediatrics Community Impact Program. “The CI resident is able to join pediatric outreach clinics throughout the north and to participate in primary care community outreach clinics in more remote areas, including Indigenous communities.”

After spending the summer at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Dr. Kandola returned to Prince George in the fall, and has since completed rural outreach rotations in Terrace and the First Nations community of Takla.

"It’s humbling to visit smaller communities and see how much work many of the rural teams are carrying as they strive to deliver the best care possible, especially during this pandemic,” she says.

As a second-generation Canadian of minority descent and future pediatrician, Dr. Kandola also understands the importance of patient advocacy in order to provide patients and families with optimal care.

“From personal experiences I can appreciate how difficult it can be to navigate the healthcare system with a loved one with language and cultural barriers,” she explains. “My dream is to provide care to under-served areas and - as a woman of colour - I hope to become an ally for families from a variety of different backgrounds."

Gurkirat’s passion for helping people comes from a strong foundation of family and community that was laid while growing up in Prince George.

“I gather my inspiration from my parents who worked so incredibly hard in order to see my sisters and I succeed. After my father passed away unexpectedly at a young age, my mum went above and beyond despite health challenges to support our family. I continue to be in awe of her strength and dedication.

“I also have tremendous respect and admiration for my community. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I really have understood what that means. After my father passed away, this community rallied behind my family and wholly supported us. I have had the opportunity to give back to my community in different ways throughout these years, but to be able to give back in this capacity as a health care provider is a special honour.”