After many years of living, studying, and working in Prince George, including developing the Northern Cancer Control Strategy, Dr. Dan Le, MHA’09, MD’13 is currently a medical oncologist based in Surrey, B.C.
What is your current role?
Medical Oncologist, BC Cancer – Surrey
Managing Director, BC Cancer Medical and Dental Staff Association
Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia
What drew you to the Northern Medical Program (NMP)?
Prior to medical school, I had grown up in small towns and had lived in Prince George for several years. I started my career working for Northern Health in Prince George, and was part of the team that developed the BC Cancer – Centre for the North and the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. I was fortunate early on in my career to have had several mentors in northern B.C. (Dr. Ronald Chapman, Dr. Winston Bishop, Dr. David Snadden, to name a few) who inspired me to pursue a career in medicine. When it came time to apply for medical school, my choice to begin my medical journey in northern B.C. was natural.
Tell us about your favourite memory about studying in the NMP.
Problem-based learning at the NMP every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 am. We would make a habit of bringing in a variety of snacks and baked goods to keep us energized through the morning. We also had local problem-based learning tutors that would keep us engaged and would ensure a northern B.C. context would be integrated into whatever we were learning at the time.
What is your biggest takeaway from the NMP?
The Northern Medical Program provided an unparalleled opportunity for me to experience, and develop an understanding of, practicing medicine within northern, rural, and remote communities. The program excels at integrated learning, and enables one to learn from the full spectrum of healthcare professionals in northern B.C. including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and allied health. I developed an appreciation for the importance of team-based and patient-centred care early on during my time at the NMP, and this has translated into my current practice as a medical oncologist.
Do you have any advice for students in the NMP?
Keep an open mind and try to immerse yourself in as many clinical opportunities across northern B.C. as you can. As you progress through your medical training, recognize that it is not just important to figure out what area of medicine you wish to practice in (primary care vs. specialty medicine), but also what types of communities you enjoy working in, whether you prefer an office-based practice versus a hospital-based practice, and whether you wish to have a more academic/research or community-based lens to your practice. All of these factors will help guide your decisions and set you up for a fulfilling career in medicine.
Who is the most influential person of your life so far?
Dr. Winston Bishop, who is now a retired medical oncologist in northern B.C., was a very important influence for me prior to, and during, medical school. I met Dr. Bishop in 2007 when I first moved to Prince George and at that time, he had already been practicing in northern B.C. for 20 years as the first and only medical oncologist. He inspired me with the way he eloquently communicated with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals. I was impressed by his tremendous dedication to the community, and his exceptional clinical skills. My experience getting to know Dr. Bishop significantly influenced my choice to specialize in medical oncology.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you?
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it challenging to continue to offer cancer treatment in a way that maintains social distancing and minimizes potential COVID transmission amongst cancer patients who are often immunosuppressed. We have adapted by implementing strong infection control practices and being innovative in the way we use virtual care.
What do you consider your greatest achievement or what are you most proud of?
Being part of the initial team at Northern Health and BC Cancer that developed the BC Cancer -Centre for the North and the Northern Cancer Control Strategy before I started medical school. Then returning after my oncology training to work at the BC Cancer – Centre for the North as a medical oncologist prior to starting my current role at BC Cancer – Surrey. I came full circle!
Name one thing on your bucket list.
My wife and I are avid rock climbers, but we have not yet explored the rock climbing that northern B.C. has to offer. It is on our bucket list!