Contributing to the health of Aboriginal communities

Luke Hughson, Northern Medical Program Class of 2016, spent the summer researching gaps in cancer care experienced in isolated Aboriginal communities, such as Haida Gwaii.

Luke Hughson, Northern Medical Program Class of 2016, spent the summer researching gaps in cancer care experienced in isolated Aboriginal communities, such as Haida Gwaii.

Students participating in the Faculty of Medicine’s Summer Student Research Program gain valuable real-world experiences that inspire them to pursue careers in research, become life-long learners, and develop the skills needed to respond to the fast-moving world of health care.

In the summer of 2013, SSRP participant Luke Hughson, Northern Medical Program Class of 2016, and his supervisor, Dr. Robert Olson, Assistant Professor of Surgery, undertook a comprehensive retrospective chart review of all cancer cases diagnosed in the remote BC community of Haida Gwaii. This work is part of an ongoing project that aims to provide insight into the bottlenecks and gaps in care experienced in isolated Aboriginal communities, where coordinating cancer diagnosis and care is a major challenge. Delays in diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and palliation are common in isolated communities, potentially leading to inferior outcomes for Aboriginal Canadians.

Hughson’s participation in this project gave him the opportunity to work with a collaborative, multi-disciplinary team of health experts and community leaders in Haida Gwaii and Prince George. He helped to create and annotate an electronic health record database including all cancer diagnoses on Haida Gwaii since 1969, abstracting key pieces of information from patient charts and critically analyzing the data under the guidance of his supervisors in both Prince George and Haida Gwaii. “This was a valuable opportunity for me to learn how patients and practitioners approach cancer care in rural northern communities,” says Hughson. When the project is complete, the findings will be used to advocate for measures to address these issues in the study communities and to provide insight into issues that may be present in other Aboriginal and remote communities.