Thomsen D’Hont is a 3rd year UBC medical student, cross country skier, and passionate about culturally competent and good healthcare for Indigenous peoples. Read our Q&A to learn more about Thomsen’s passion for medicine and what he hopes to achieve upon graduation.
What are you currently studying?
I am a 3rd year medical student at the Northern Medical Program in Prince George.
Describe what you like about studying where you do.
One of my favourite things about studying in Prince George is the work-life balance. The cross country ski trails and mountain bike trails are easily accessible for mid-week exercise. I am also able to get around town on foot or by bike for nearly all my transportation needs, further simplifying life.
What led you to choose to study medicine?
Medicine’s combination of science and humanities has appealed to me for a long time. More recently, I have learned of the shortage of Indigenous healthcare providers in Indigenous communities and this has further motivated me to become a physician in an under-served community in the NWT.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Competing in the World Cup of cross country skiing in 2012.
Please list a few of your current volunteer positions, past job positions, appointments and/ or awards received.
For volunteering, I am on the board of directors for the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, the winner of the $1 million Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2018. I am also a volunteer coach with the local Prince George cross country ski racing team. Recent paid work has involved a summer student position last year with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority researching emergency department surge and evaluating emergency medical travel.
Further, I have also recently worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in Yellowknife where I conducted a needs assessment for a territorial Indigenous wellness centre and did research into maternity care delivery in the circumpolar North.
Last year I also completed a two-year fellowship called the Jane Glassco Northern Fellowship, a public policy and leadership program with the Walter & Duncan Gordon Foundation, where I wrote a policy paper on how the Northwest Territories can address the need for Indigenous physicians in the territory.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
A lot of the best advice I have received doesn’t stand out in terms of specific things that were said, but more so in terms of the spirit of encouragement in the words from my mentors and how empowered I felt afterwards. To be a bit more specific, I think some of the more memorable advice I have received is to make sure I advance in my education and career in a stepwise fashion, making sure to accumulate a good base of knowledge and experience before taking on new roles that are more demanding. Another piece of advice that really sticks out in my mind was from an Indigenous leader and advocate in Ontario who told a group of us Indigenous students that it doesn’t matter how long it takes us to get our degrees, we just have to get the degrees. It seems simple, but I think a lot of people in the room, including myself, could derive their own significance from that quote.
What is your favourite UBC memory so far?
Recently, I was in the OR with a husband-wife duo, one of whom is Canada’s first female First Nations General Surgeon and is a force of nature for Indigenous health and the other is an ER doc and Olympic gold medalist. They are both integrated in the Prince George community in various roles and I coach their teenaged daughter in skiing. It was a moment that seemed rooted in a lot that I stand for: providing culturally competent and good healthcare for Indigenous people, while also prioritizing community-involvement and athletic achievement. It was a neat feeling of being in awe while also feeling totally comfortable around them based on our similar interests and similar field of work.
What is the biggest risk you’ve taken to date?
I am a pretty risk-averse person and wouldn’t say I take many risks. My mom would say I put myself at risk every time I go mountain biking or skiing alone in the bush. I also tend to do a lot of winter road trips for skiing, so I suppose driving on snowy roads is also fairly risky.
What advice would you give to those thinking of studying medicine?
I have a lot of advice for those considering medicine! One of my passions is mentorship. I especially try to mentor those who might not have easy access to mentors in the medical field, so I encourage anyone who thinks they fit that demographic to reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter.
What profession might you have pursued, if not for medicine?
Full-time hunter/trapper and traditional knowledge expert.
Please name a few of your favourite hobbies and activities.
Cross country skiing, mountain biking, road biking, fat biking, hunting, fishing, camping, and drinking good cappuccinos and IPA.
Name the last book you couldn’t put down.
“Endure” by Alex Hutchinson. I find exercise physiology and endurance sport fascinating and there are few authors who can weave this together with stories of real-life athletes.
Name something that is on your bucket list. Have you completed it?
To race some of the big ski loppets in Scandinavia, such as the 90 km Vasaloppet in Sweden.
What do you look forward to upon graduation?
Reintegrating with communities in the NWT. Being away from the NWT for education sacrifices my community connection and my development of traditional skills, such as hunting and traveling in the bush.
Have you thought about what you will pursue after you have completed your MD?
I am pretty set on being a GP in the NWT and in working with under-served communities.
Today in healthcare it’s important to…
Indigenize healthcare institutions and to dismantle power structures within these institutions that limit access to care for those who need it most.