January 21, 2020

Patient Partner Profiles

Lisa Ridgway, Co-Chair of our Provincial Patient Council, will be writing a series of articles to celebrate the patient partners on the Unit’s Provincial Patient Council (PPC). Read about our patient-oriented research (POR) champions and volunteers every month in our bi-weekly Bulletin!

Rita Wiebe

Written by Rita Wiebe

I was initially inspired to check into the BC SUPPORT Unit through the Northern Centre in Prince George. A new ( aged 40 something) Doctor Intern from the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) medical program overhearing my conversation with a community member about my experience with pancreatic cancer in my 38-year-old son, medical assistance in dying (MAiD) and that there wasn’t much for family supports anywhere locally, regionally or nationally. After my appointment left, she reached out to me at the next table and suggested I apply for a travel bursary to the 2018 BC SUPPORT Unit conference, of which I was successful.

Upon becoming comfortable and feeling welcome with what the BC SUPPORT Unit was doing. I thought it was time to bring up that other passion for preventative health of the 45-64 demographic, which is known as “Aging with Attitude” around Prince George. Still, I felt welcome and no one tried to get rid of me for not being part of the status-quo which sometimes even results in mockery by the keepers of the quo. I am somewhat known around Prince George for my outreach and being comfortable with pioneering new ideas.

Pioneering new ideas through events, media, writing web content and media releases are just some of my required talents. Others, such as my community TV and radio shows are also required and often used. My built-in natural talent for developing synergy through collaboration is a must and is how we do things in the North. Distances don’t stop us!

One of my most rewarding partner engagements was with the recent conference in Prince George for Older Adults, led by Tom Noseworthy, former CEO of the BC Academic Health Science Network (BC AHSN). My most important goal at the time was to keep the “S” word out of the title, if that was the last and only thing I did. My thinking, “there are too many young Boomers around here” that do not relate to the “Senior” terminology and would not be interested. I have since come to accept (and like) in myself, a strong sense of avoiding any of life’s “isms” which can take the form of ageism, racism, genderism, sexism, elitism, stigmatism and now, even sizeism. Not nice to stereotype anyone!

Because of my comfort with a National approach for this BC AHSN engagement, I was also encouraged to incorporate a “Citizen Approach” inspired through the Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) partnership side, and a Toronto TV studio! I was to roll that one out “Prince George style” at the conference and was comfortable doing, because of my professional background.

At each step of my involvement with various engagements, I kept thinking that someone was going to come and tap me on the shoulder and dismiss me. I am a national researcher on several different engagements with Dr. Lynn Gauthier at Laval University. Even my being accepted to presenting with my Quebec researcher (Lynn) at last month's council meeting, I worried I might be in conflict with provincial politics. Moving through all this with the BC SUPPORT Unit has given me confidence, that we are not limited and possibilities are great!

Moving forward, I think it important for others to be open-minded to where a personal journey might take them, and be prepared for it. Part of my being armed is in having personalized BC SUPPORT Unit contact cards with me at all times. I sometimes part with a card, but more recently allow the recipient to take a picture as I am running low on cards. That handy contact card allows a new, often influential contact to see a bigger picture and new horizons, which seems where we as an organization are going!

Rich Sobel

Patient Partner Profile - Rich Sobel

Lisa Ridgway, Co-Chair of our Provincial Patient Council, will be writing a series of articles to celebrate the patient partners on the Unit’s Provincial Patient Council (PPC). Read about our patient-oriented research (POR) champions and volunteers every month in our bi-weekly Bulletin, starting here!
Rich Sobel holds a PHD in Biology and Biochemisty. He came to BC as a postdoc at University of British Columbia and never left.  He loves being outdoors and is a committed Zen Buddhist with 30 years of practice. Rich was diagnosed with prostate cancer and treated in 2012. His cancer is in full remission – it could return, or not. 
“I bake bread, especially sourdough,” explains Rich. “One big goal I have is to live gently on the planet.   I love to teach and my blog Biology4Everyone is my latest effort. I create music and play the fiddle and the mandolin and a few other instruments. The Sybaritic String Band is my latest band, and we’ve hosted a monthly contradance since 2003!”

When Rich retired, he wanted to give back to the health community. Rich connected with the Patient Voices Network and through that became a member of BC SUPPORT Unit Patient Council. Rich’s research background means that he knows the ins-and-outs of the research process and his experiences with cancer have helped him understand the patient perspective.

Rich’s role with the unit has become harder for him to identify over time because it is always growing!  “I work with the Fraser Health Regional Centre for planning events, and I sit on their Oversight Committee,” explained Rich. “I lead workshops and participate in grant reviews for the Centre.  I’ve been to a lot of conferences in B.C. and the Summer Institute in Alberta.  And of course, I attend the PPC Meetings in person and online. As I said, it just keeps on growing!”

Rich is excited that the Unit is moving forward with a plan for the next phase of SPOR, especially with matching funding. He believes we need to keep asking questions of ourselves and other people about how best to incorporate and support patients and their engagement in the research process. Questions are critical — and so are answers — because we want to progress in the most efficient and direct way as possible to engage patients in POR. “It’s a road we are travelling on together as patient partners and as an organization."