Grad spotlights - NMP Class of 2019

June 3, 2019

Meet some of our recent grads! The NMP's Class of 2019 has graduated and is moving on to the next stage of training – two to seven years of residency (depending on specialty). 


Jessica Burian

Hometown: Dawson City, Yukon

What attracted you to your field?
I grew up in the small, rural community of Dawson City, Yukon. I’ve always had a love for rural town living and Rural Family Practice allows me to live where I desire while also allowing me to experience different, changing, and surprising medicine. I believe as a rural family physician you need to have a mindset to tackle whatever comes through the door. I look forward to being integrated within a community where I hope to make positive contributions.

In 10 years, what UBC moment will you still be talking about?
In first year all UBC medical students need to be down in Vancouver for their first semester before moving to their home site for the next 3.5 years of training. For Northern Medical Program (NMP) students our home site is Prince George. While down in Vancouver a group of female NMP students decided to participate in a Dragon Boat Race.  We did not know each other very well at this point and prior to the race we had only been able to hold one practice session (we were not very coordinated). Despite that, on the day of the race we were able to connect and come together as a team, resulting in a win!  Memorable in terms of connecting with my fellow students and in terms of what people can accomplish when they work together.

What’s next for you?
I am very excited to be starting my Family Practice Residency here in Prince George. I would also like to express my gratitude to the community of Prince George for their support, my mentors for their guidance, and my patients for their inspiration. I look forward to the challenges Residency will bring.

As you look ahead, what (or who) inspires you?
I have many inspirations, too many to name here. The one I will mention is very close to my heart. I was originally in the 2018 NMP class, but during my third year my partner Jimmy, was diagnosed with lymphoma and unfortunately passed away. This was the hardest time of my life however, witnessing his strength in the face of his illness was inspirational. I cannot explain in a few short words the person he was, but he was incredible. This experience and others throughout my life have cemented in me a commitment and drive to truly understand and get to know my patients, their families, and their values.

Name one thing on your bucket list.
In the future I would love to work with Doctors Without Borders to provide medical aid in underserved/disaster struck countries. 


Victor Dikaitis

Hometown: Peace River, Alberta

What attracted you to your field?
At a young age I was interested in medicine as my mom was a nurse at the hospital in Peace River. She often brought me to work with her to meet the hospital staff and see the inner workings of hospital life. As I got older I was still exposed to health care through my mom but also began learning about biology and the human body in High School, which I found fascinating. This gave me a passion to pursue medicine, particularly in family medicine which would give me the opportunity to live in a small town and get to know my patients on a deeper level.

In 10 years, what UBC moment will you still be talking about?
The first month of clerkship where I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was both humbling and rewarding and could be one of the most challenging experiences I face.

What’s next for you?
I start residency in the Rural Okanagan Family Medicine program which entails a year of residency training in beautiful Kelowna, followed by one year living in two rural locations in BC. I also plan to make a conscious effort to develop outside of medicine in areas of art, music and the outdoor pursuits.

As you look ahead, what (or who) inspires you?
Nurses. Their compassion and hard work inspire me every time I enter the hospital and I believe those qualities are truly the backbone of our health care. As a kid I was always amazed at what they do, and that still hasn't changed today.

Name one thing on your bucket list.
To have a dog. During all these years of School I haven't been able to have a furry companion. As I get close to finishing residency, I get closer to having a jolly ol' pooch at my side.


Jenna Smith-Forrester

Hometown: Nanaimo, BC

What attracted you to your field?
I've always been fascinated by the complexity of the brain. I completed both a Bachelors degree and a Master's degree in Neuroscience. The first surgery I ever scrubbed into was an awake neurosurgical procedure at Dalhousie University - the patient was having a deep brain stimulator implanted to control a debilitating movement disorder.  Seeing the dramatic impact on the patient's quality of life, and the seamless integration of cutting edge technology (neuroimaging and neuronavigation tools) I was instantly hooked.  I knew this path would be a marathon (16 - 20 years of post-graduate education), not a sprint, but I have loved every step of the journey.

In 10 years, what UBC moment will you still be talking about?
There are two that really stand out. First, recognizing that I created and hosted an internationally recognized conference on Quality Improvement from scratch in my second year of medical school. Second, my Valedictorian speech at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and the recognition I received from Professor Santa Ono the next day as he referenced my own speech in his at the UBC Convocation! It was the perfect end to an era at UBC.

What’s next for you?
I will be returning to Dalhousie University for a six-year residency in Neurosurgery. I am excited to be the first student from the NMP to pursue this path - proving that our exceptional experience offered by the distributed sites can prepare you for anything!

As you look ahead, what (or who) inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by my patients and the pursuit of a more efficient, sustainable, joyous work environment for patients and providers. My mentors, Dr. Doug Cochrane and Dr. Daniel McNeely, are both outstanding pediatric neurosurgeons who have proven compassion, innovation, and surgical excellence can co-exist. I feel most fortunate to follow in the their footsteps. 

Name one thing on your bucket list.
I'm an adrenaline junkie - I am currently working through the list of skydiving on every continent (although I may need to get creative for Antarctica)!