In 2003, The Interior News interviewed 17-year-old Smithers Secondary graduate Brent Jim as he was leaving for McGill University in Montreal, determined to become the first medical doctor from Moricetown.
Almost a decade later, Jim is now Dr. Jim, MD, having just graduated from medical school at the University of British Columbia.
Jim not only achieved his goal of becoming the first physician from Moricetown, he also found time to get married and start a family.
Jim is the second Wet’suwet’en person to become a physician. A distant relative, Dr. Rose Lenser of Terrace, graduated from UBC medical school in 1999.
“He’s worked hard to get to where he’s at,” Lenser said.
“He’s dedicated himself to school and education but also balanced his family life with it, which is certainly good to see in a doctor.”
Jim remembers noticing McGill was always near, or at the top of, Maclean’s magazine’s yearly university rankings, that his father Victor would bring home for him.
“My father was probably the most influential person in my life,” he said.
“He received his MEd in 1995 and was my teacher at Moricetown Elementary School for a year.
“He always emphasized the importance of a higher education and I strived to emulate his educational achievements.”
In Grade 9, Jim said his English teacher, Mrs. Diane Mattson, pushed him to succeed in her accelerated class.
“I always used that class as a reminder I could do whatever I put my mind to,” he said.
By Grade 10, Jim had decided he wanted to help people by becoming a doctor, most likely a pediatrician, but plans change over the years and he’s now specializing in obstetrics and gynecology.
With a high school diploma in his back pocket, Jim received a $4,000 award from the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which he put toward his education costs.
The scholarship recognized his community involvement and leadership, in addition to academic excellence.
At McGill, Jim earned a BSc., with a major in physiology, and decided medical school at UBC would be a good fit because it was closer to home.
“In reality, I got to go back to Smithers less often than I did when I was at McGill,” he said.
Jim spent two years in Victoria and another two in Cowichan with the Island Medical Program.
The first two years, Jim spent most of his time in the classroom, while in the third year he moved onto an Integrated Clinical Clerkship in Cowichan.
“They have a similar program in Terrace,” Jim said, “But this was the inaugural year in Cowichan.
“I was one of two medical students in Cowichan that year and we got a taste of what community medicine was like.”
Describing medical school at UBC as “gruelling”, Jim said sometimes he didn’t think there was time for anything but studying, and has some advice for future medical students.
“During those times, make time for yourself,” he said.
“Eat healthy, exercise, watch a movie, and get a good night’s rest.”
Jim said the best day of medical school was March 6, 2012, the day he learned after 23 applications and scores of interviews across the country with various residency programs, that he had been matched to obstetrics and gynecology in Calgary.
“After the interviews, the students rank which programs they want and the programs rank the students they want to have in their residency program, Jim explained.
“Then a computer algorithm tries to match the student’s first choice to the program’s first choice.”
Jim’s wife is from Smithers and for the sake of both their families, he said, it was important they were close to home, making Calgary an ideal choice.
Jim was in Moricetown this past April, after the passing of his grandmother, who almost got to see her grandson graduate from medical school.
He has fond memories of growing up in Moricetown, surrounded by family and friends, and has many great memories of playing sports with “the boys.”
Jim’s residency, which starts in July, is a requirement to be able to practice medicine independently, as is the passing of licensing and more specialty exams.
It will take him another five years of hard work and persistence.
“I chose obstetrics and gynecology because it is an excellent mix of a surgical and medical specialty,” he said.
“Most of the time, there is a happy outcome with a healthy baby being brought into the world.
“Furthermore, I would be able to make a difference in Aboriginal communities where women’s health is often neglected.”
After his residency, Dr. Jim plans to head back to B.C. to set up a practice, though at this point it’s premature to say where exactly that will be.
“I may end up back on Vancouver Island, doing locums around the Bulkley Valley every once in awhile,” he said.
With files from Heather Ramsay, Interior News, 2003.