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Doctors in the North: Vanderhoof’s Dr. Shannon Douglas

Dr. Shannon Douglas. Northern Health photo

Northern Health – Dr. Shannon Douglas has spent most of her life in the Lakes Omineca area and cannot imagine a better place to live.

Dr. Douglas provides care as a rural family physician to the many communities surrounding Vanderhoof. She has taken on various leadership roles in the medical community throughout her career, including becoming Medical Director for the Lakes Omineca region. This region includes Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St. James, Burns Lake, Southside and Granisle. She was Chief of Staff at the Fraser Lake Community Health Centre from 2015 to 2018, and is a key member of the Northern Interior Rural Divisions of Family Practice.

Dr. Douglas has a deep understanding of how consistency of care impacts patients, and is passionate about recruiting and retaining local physicians and medical staff in the North. As a single mother, she has greatly valued the support her communities have offered her family and is passionate about the value of community and the role that we all share in creating an environment that allows health care staff to thrive. She has collaborated with communities and physicians in this regard, and has championed a number of initiatives to help make the Lakes Omineca a great place to work for her medical colleagues and friends.

Woman and horse up close
Dr. Douglas is an avid horseback rider. 

“My life as a rural physician is busy. I could not do this without the support of my family, friends, neighbours and community,” says Dr. Douglas. “I am continually inspired by the people I am privileged to live with and care for. One time, when I could not drive one of my children to their drop-off for a school trip, the bus turned up at my front door to pick him up so he wouldn’t miss the experience. I cannot count the number of times friends and neighbours have dropped off warm meals or turned up to help. As much as I love my community and am committed to service, that love is returned and I feel entirely privileged to live as a part of my community in the North.”

In 2003, Dr. Douglas completed oncology training with BC Cancer and brought her skills back to the Lakes Omineca, where she helped to establish the Ruby Ellen Van Andel Community Cancer Clinic—one of the first Community Oncology Network clinics in the region—in 2008. In addition to her work at the clinic, Dr. Douglas also provides regular outreach oncology services to patients living in Burns Lake to help ease their burden of travel.

Prior to the pandemic, Dr. Douglas would generally drive around 40,000 km per year to provide medical care to her patients. This includes the work she does with Carrier Sekani Family Services to provide primary care services to the Saik’uz and Nadleh Whut’en First Nations. She enjoys working closely with local First Nations in their communities and appreciates the opportunities it provides her to develop a better understanding of local history, culture, and how these impact wellness. Dr. Douglas has also introduced many medical students, medical residents, and nurse practitioners to these communities to support their learning and understanding of culturally-safe care.

man and dog in winter
Delivering the mail by sled dog in Barkerville. 

While COVID-19-related restrictions have meant Dr. Douglas cannot drive between communities as much as she has in the past, she continues to provide outreach care in-person and virtually.

Outside of her work, Dr. Douglas has a family farm, coaches cross-country skiing with the local club, and is an avid horseback rider and dog-powered sports participant. Growing up, her family raised sled dogs and she has imparted these skills to her children. Every year, Dr. Douglas joins her parents and kids racing on the Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run, where she is sworn in as mail carrier to deliver Canada Post mail along Main Street in Barkerville. Life in the North is always an adventure. 


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