By Heather Ramsay-Three years in, the University of Northern BC’s medical program has already had success attracting aboriginal students, including one young man from Masset, Peter Eppinga.
It’s his first year of medicine, but his sixth year of university (he already has a degree in kinestheology). He has four more years to go until he’s done, but Mr. Eppinga is in it for the long haul.
The 25-year-old medical student has known since he was five years old that he wanted to become a doctor. His first inclination came when his dad brought him a human anatomy textbook and he couldn’t tear his eyes from the pages.
Mr. Eppinga was fascinated with all the parts of the body and seeing how they work from the inside out.
“I love the human body and the science of it,” he said. But he also loves helping people, especially when it comes to issues of quality of life.
And he is very committed to practicing medicine in aboriginal communities and exploring aboriginal approaches to health.
He thinks he is uniquely positioned to offer help to the Haida community in Masset, because he grew up there and his mother is Haida.
He intends to become a family doctor when he finishes medical school, mainly because he wants to work in rural aboriginal communities and specialists don’t often live and work in remote areas, but also because he’d like to have a home life with a future wife and kids.
That said, he is also drawn to cardiology and he is very interested in the political side of medicine.
He is already on the board of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada and wants to help influence aboriginal health outcomes on a national level.
Mr. Eppinga saod young people on the islands should not be discouraged by outsider views, such as provincial school ratings. He remembers how devastating it was to hear that his alma mater, G.M. Dawson, was ranked the worst school in BC on the Fraser Institute’s list one year.
“I don’t want anyone there to ever think they can’t come to other universities,” he said. “I went there (G.M. Dawson) as well.”
His message to young people in Masset and other towns on the islands is to find others who like to do the same activities as you and to hang out with people who are doing positive things.
“Reach for the stars,” he said. “It doesn’t take a supernatural person to do something great. It takes passion.”
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