Bulkley Valley doctor receives lifetime achievement award

After finishing her degree, Dr. Daphne Hart came on holidays to B.C. — and then never really left.

“I went home packed my car and came back,” she said in an interview with the Interior News.

Hart is the recipient of this year’s Excellence in Rural Medicine: Lifetime Achievement award presented by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.

Hart received the award along with three other physicians from rural B.C. communities.

She said that she was honoured to win the award, adding that it was a little surreal to be asked to write up her own biography for the ceremony.

“[It felt] kind of funny but when [I] wrote it up, the feeling I had when I was finished and I looked at it and I read it a few times [was] boy how lucky am I,” she said.

“I recognize that I had a very interesting career and that I’m very lucky … and I’ve appreciated it all along the way.”

Hart provided medical care to the people of the Bulkley Valley for 38 years.

She began with her own family practice in town, eventually moving towards HIV primary care and oncology.

When asked about what drew her to these areas, which very often deal with people in terminal situations, she said that she sees them as patients who require care and kindness just like anyone else.

“[They’re] just people with a very big need.”

Recalling her own childhood, Hart said that she feels it was her father and grandfather, both of who were doctors, that instilled her sense of ethics.

“My parents were ‘part of the solution’ kind of people, they didn’t just look after themselves, [it] mattered to them what was going on and what they could do … I think that was important.”

Towards the end of her career Hart was responsible, along with a colleague in Prince George, for developing Northern Health’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) program.

She said she remembers the moment she heard the news that the Supreme Court had overturned a previous ruling and Criminal Code provision denying Canadian adults who are “mentally competent and suffering intolerably and enduringly” the right to physician-assisted suicide.

“I was thinking … boy, if they do this they’re going to have to do a really good job.”

The other thought she had was that someone was going to have to make sure the system was set up correctly.

It ended up being her, alongside a colleague from Prince George.

Discussing her career path, Hart said that she finds it interesting how certain people are drawn to specific jobs or positions that many would not want.

“Sometimes you’re drawn to do things that other people can’t do [or] don’t wish to do but you see that it’s needed … I just think it has a lot of meaning to be able to relate to people in that depth and with that care.”

Sitting in her log cabin home in Telkwa on a wet, June morning where the rain was sporadic enough it would be on one side of your yard and not the other, Hart said that she had no plans to leave the Bulkley Valley.

“I sort of assumed that when I finished practicing medicine I might move to the city … but I prefer not to leave the — it’s not simplicity, that’s not the right word — there’s something right about being here.”

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