Back to School: Meet our Students

Meet some of our students at the Northern Medical Program who are starting their fall semester courses.


Gurkirat Kaur Kandola

Hometown: Prince George, BC
Program Year: Two (Class of 2020)

What inspired you to pursue your program?

Many experiences and interactions have inspired me over the years to pursue education in the medical field. My family doctor has been a great inspiration and shown me how much of a difference a physician can make in someone’s life. My mom has struggled with many health problems for the past several years and having a physician who was both understanding and committed to patient care made an incredible difference. In addition, I wanted a career that offered a wide range of opportunities and room for professional development. The diverse nature of medicine offers all of this and more.

What are you looking forward to most this upcoming year?

I look forward to another year with an amazing group of people! All of my fellow classmates and faculty are very supportive and make medical school enjoyful. I also look forward to learning more and being able to practice my clinical skills in preparation for third year.

What’s one thing we might be surprised to learn about you?

You might be surprised to learn that I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do!

Best piece of advice:

Don’t ever doubt yourself. If you are passionate about something, don’t ever give up.

What superpower do you wish you had?

If I had a superpower I would love to be able to perform teleportation. As a full time student it can be hard to make time for yourself and get away. I love travelling and being able to make day trips to places half-way across the world would be amazing!

Where in the world would you like to get lost?

I would love to get lost in the streets of Paris, France. The history and beauty of the city of Paris has left an everlasting impression on me. Even though I have visited this city before, I would go back in a heartbeat.


Cirisse Stephen

Hometown: Parksville, BC
Program Year: Two (Class of 2020)

What inspired you to pursue your program?

I was working up in arctic Alaska on a geological exploration project at a major zinc mine, and started to notice that while the rocks were beautiful, the best part of my day was sharing stories with my Iñupiat colleagues! I decided to switch to a career where I could combine my love for science with the privilege of getting to really know people and their stories.

What are you looking forward to most this upcoming year?

Learning to cross country ski! I had a taste of it last year, then the snow went away - now I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a long ski season so I can learn more from my talented classmates!

What’s one thing we might be surprised to learn about you?

I love reading maps and charts.

Best piece of advice:

Be kind - we're all in this together.

What superpower do you wish you had?

Teleportation... or Apparition for my fellow Harry Potter fans! After many, many flights, I would love to simply will myself to a new location.

Where in the world would you like to get lost?

The British Museum... with keys to all the secret passages!


Bryn Fell

Hometown: Terrace, BC
Program Year: Three (Class of 2019)

What inspired you to pursue your program?

I have always been interested in the biology sciences. After high school, I completed a biochemistry and molecular biology degree at UNBC and more recently my medical radiography diploma at CNC. I even applied to UBC’s Faculty of Medicine program a couple of times. However, it was not until after the birth of our first child that I was certain about pursuing a career in medicine as a doctor. Our daughter was born half way through my second year of medicine and while trying to balance family and med is challenging, it is most definitely rewarding. Through this experience, I witnessed first-hand the impact a caring and understanding physician can have on a very difficult situation, a gift I hope to pay forward. Without question, the past three years of my journey through medicine has been an emotional roller coaster, but ultimately one of the best decisions I have ever made.

What are you looking forward to most this upcoming year?

The first two years of medicine are primarily didactic in nature, focusing on disease processes, clinical skills and case-based learning. Transitioning to practice in hospital has been challenging in many respects. However, the opportunity to be directly involved with the care of families is remarkable. I hope to continue to have a positive impact on the families whose care I am involved with.

What’s one thing we might be surprised to learn about you?

I have successfully landed a 25 pound halibut using a salmon fishing rod while in a canoe without a net.  Sounds crazy, but this adventure ultimately required paddling the canoe to the beach where I was then able to land the fish. Other adventures include skydiving, paragliding, scuba diving, snorkeling, bungee jumping, and sailing.

Best piece of advice:

If you are pursuing a career in medicine, or any of the health sciences – know why you are pursuing this field. There will be many occasions when you will question your abilities, your decisions, and your capacity; however, if you know your why – you will be able to push through the difficult times and recognize the opportunities along the way.  

What superpower do you wish you had?

As I am being asked this question two days before my first test for my clerkship, I'm going to need to go with never needing to sleep or perhaps pausing time around me.  

Where in the world would you like to get lost?

As long as I was with my wife and daughter, it could be anywhere... but if I needed to choose I would go with French Polynesia.


Dayle Ostapiuk

Hometown: Prince George, BC
Program Year: Four (Class of 2018)

What inspired you to pursue the program?

Medicine seemed like one of the most rewarding fields that I could go into while still satisfying my curiosity of science, desire to learn and plans to be involved in education.

What am I looking forward to most this upcoming year?

I miss my cohort so personally I am looking forward to January when all of the fourth year students rejoin in Prince George.

What's one thing that we might be surprised to learn about you?

This summer I met a wood carver in a Japanese bamboo forest and was offered Mamushi sake. I tried it and as it turns out it tasted pretty good.

Best piece of advice:

"Everything ends" was told to me by an old teacher. I found that comment inspiring when I was struggling through hunger during long shifts this past year; it was also a good reminder to make the most of my time with good friends and teachers.

What superpower do you wish you had?

Teleportation.

Where in the world would you like to get lost?

Probably somewhere in Europe. There seemed to be crepe stands on every corner in Paris so at least I would not be hungry.



Nick Brochez

Hometown: Burns Lake, BC

Why did you choose a career in medicine?

The big question. There are many reasons why I decided to pursue medicine, though I cannot say there was a certain moment or spark in which I just decided "Hey! I want to be a doctor." It was more of a gradual accumulation of events and experiences that came together convincing me that medicine was a good fit. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a part of healthcare, but I was never really sure in which regard. I have always had a passion for learning and challenging myself to do better, as well as a desire to genuinely help people and invest myself in them fully. Growing up in rural northern BC, I was exposed to the various difficulties faced by my community in regards to accessing healthcare services including long wait lists, a dearth of certain services, physician burnout, overwhelmed facilities, etc. I realize this is quite idealistic, but I want to be part of the solution for addressing health inequities in rural areas. I do not believe that rural areas should have to suffer poorer health and/or lack proper access to healthcare services simply because of their size and/or location.

By observing various family physicians, I recognized how integral their roles are to the life of the community. At a young age, I was exposed to the team dynamic of healthcare and how it can effectively serve patients and families when my mother was quite sick with Guillain-Barré syndrome. I saw the various roles each party held and I wanted to be part of this diverse team of caring individuals. I pictured myself in the role of a physician (not sure what type yet honestly) and how rewarding it would be as a career. For me, the ability to interact with patients and help them achieve their optimal level of health, improve their quality of life, and mitigate their pain is beyond what I could have hoped for even in my brief exposure as a first-year medical student. I am honoured and privileged to be pursuing medicine and hope that I will always keep my patients at the forefront. I would not be where I am today without the love and support of my friends and family.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I have spare time, there are a number of things and activities I like to fill it with. This varies from playing sports such as soccer to going skiing at Forests for the World, from scaring my roommates away with my cello playing to painting with watercolours. I love being outside and exploring the great outdoors, so I can often be found just enjoying the fresh snowfall or getting 'lost' in the woods. I also enjoy listening to music, reading, gardening, and experimenting with my camera. Or I can be found at The Salted Cracker or another of Prince George's amazing restaurants.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

If I could go anywhere, I would go to Iceland and drive the Ring Road, explore the fjords, and learn how to say "Áfram með smjörið".

What have you been enjoying about your time so far as a student with the NMP?

There are a number of things that stand out for me here at the NMP. One of the biggest being the sense of community and interconnectedness, not only with my wonderful classmates but also with other years, preceptors, faculty, and of course the welcoming community of Prince George. I have already had people come up to me and thank me for coming up to the North and my work, even though I am only a student. I can truly focus on why I want to become a physician up here and there is a lot to be said for being close to one's roots.



Patrick Seitzinger

Hometown: Kleena Kleene, West Chilcotin, British Columbia
Program Year: One

Why did you choose a career in medicine?

Medicine gave me the opportunity to pursue lifelong learning and the privilege to apply the skills and knowledge I gain to make a positive difference in patients’ lives. Aside from the scientific curiosity to understand people at a biochemical, psychological and social level, I think what really drew me to medicine (particularly rural medicine) was the chance to connect and really get to know my patients and my community.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I’m not studying I like to spend my time enjoying the beautiful landscape that surrounds Prince George. An outdoor lifestyle and activities including cross country skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, kayaking, and hiking played a important part in my upbringing in the backcountry of the Chilcotin. I appreciate the wide range of outdoor recreation opportunities that makes Prince George feel like home.

If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

The first place I would travel to is the high Andes of Peru. During my time volunteering with an NGO there called Desea Peru, I had the opportunity to work with remote and vulnerable communities to achieve wellbeing through health education and capacity building. Being immersed in a different culture, language and way of life put rural medicine into a new perspective for me and I would take the opportunity to travel back and implement some of my newly acquired skills and knowledge.

What have you been enjoying about your time so far as a student with the NMP?

What I enjoy most at the NMP is the sense of community, support and camaraderie among students, professors, preceptors and patients in the north. The combination of high caliber instructors, the wide range of opportunities available and the rural lifestyle have made the NMP an ideal learning environment for me.


Learn more about students in UBC's Faculty of Medicine, which includes those in the Northern Medical Program at UNBC... check out Back to School 2017!