Masset doctor returns from Ottawa with Order of Canada

  • Feb. 16, 2007 2:00 p.m.

By Heather Ramsay-Dinner with the Governor-General was a memorable affair for Masset-based doctor Harvey Thommasen, who was awarded the Order of Canada last week.
After the speeches, presentation of medals and mingling in Rideau Hall, he and the 37 other receipients were served a meal of Canadian delicacies including lobster, monkfish and oak leaf salad. But by the time they got to dessert, Dr. Thommasen didn’t think they’d even been served dinner.
“Each course is a piece of art, but not much food,” he said.
Kidding aside, Dr. Thommasen, a physician who has been working in Masset for the past year, said he was honoured to be at the formal affair and lucky enough to sit at The Right Honorable Michaelle Jean’s table on Feb. 9.
He said she is very interested in indigenous people’s health issues and wanted to talk with him about some of the research he has done.
The 49-year-old doctor’s work has focussed on the unique medical problems experienced by people who live and work in rural and isolated areas of BC.
He has published more than 60 papers in peer-reviewed medical journals on topics as diverse as salmon bite infections, grizzly bear maulings, rural lifespans, rates of diabetes in the north and rural physician burnout.
He also collaborates on books for a wider audience including two which won literary prizes – Grizzlies and White Guys: The Stories of Clayton Mack and River of the Angry Moon: Seasons on the Bella Coola.
He lived and practiced in Bella Coola for 12 years and as his children grew older decided to move north rather than south.
Then he spent time working with the University of Northern BC to establish their northern medical program and moved to Masset with his family last year, attracted by the coastal lifestyle and opportunities for fly-fishing.
He said one of the memorable things about attending the event was meeting other interesting people who received the Order of Canada that day, including a woman who sat beside him at dinner, whose father died just after she finished her elementary school teacher’s degree. She wound up running a huge shipping company instead of teaching. Another woman he met ran a bakery that sent 10 per cent of her profits to hungry families in Africa.
As for him, he thinks his receipt of the honour has more to do with the snowball effect of receiving several awards since 2000 when he was first given the Order of BC.
But he remembers one other thing from the elaborate affair at the Governor-General’s official residence. She would like to visit Haida Gwaii. All she needs is an invitation.

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