Growing up around the Fort St. James area (part of Dakelh territory), Nathan Teegee, from Takla Lake Nation, and Todd Alec, from Nak’azdli, knew early on they wanted to be doctors. When they both moved to Prince George to attend Prince George Senior Secondary School, they became good friends - with a shared passion for medicine.
In August 2012, Nathan and Todd again became classmates, this time as part of the Northern Medical Program (NMP) at UNBC, two of just a handful of Aboriginal students in the program.
During their time at the NMP, the two were able to experience first-hand the delivery of rural medicine, as well as pursue learning in urban settings to further develop their medical skills, thanks to grants from the Northern Medical Programs Trust.
“The assistance from the Trust allowed me to take electives in Vancouver during my fourth year, which were invaluable as I had the opportunity to work with specialists that I would not have otherwise encountered in the North at the time, such as dermatologists,” explains Todd, who is also a UNBC Health Sciences graduate. “These experiences will definitely help me in my own family practice down the road.”
Outside of their medical studies, the two also took time to inspire future First Nations leaders, connecting with schools and youth to promote post-secondary education.
“Our ongoing message has been, ‘if we can do it, you can do it,’” notes Nathan. “We highlight studying tools and tips, the importance of career planning, keeping course prerequisites in mind, and also applying for available bursaries and scholarships, all with the end goal of creating a bright future.”
And the future for these two Class of 2016 graduates looks exciting. Both are planning to set up practice in Northern B.C. after residency, and contribute to regional medical education and health service initiatives. Nathan is currently pursuing a dermatology specialty in Vancouver, while Todd is undertaking his family medicine residency at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia in Prince George.
“I would like to work, hopefully, in a more rural setting, and pursue preventative medicine as one area of focus,” says Todd. “I want to help people reduce their risks for disease and chronic illnesses, especially if these are due to a lack of access to health care, and try to advocate for changes that help reduce barriers to service.”