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NEWS RELEASE · 2nd September 2010
Northern Health
First radiation oncologist hired for BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North and appointed to the Northern Medical Program

Dr. Robert Olson, a radiation oncologist, is the first physician to be hired for the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North. He will be part of the provincial Radiation Therapy Program which will bring service to the North for the first time when the new centre is opened. The centre, now under construction, is expected to start treating patients by the end of 2012.

Dr. Olson has also been appointed as an assistant professor with the Northern Medical Program, his formal appointment being with the Department of Surgery in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. His academic responsibilities will be teaching and research within the NMP.

The BC Cancer Agency and the Northern Medical Program worked jointly on recruitment efforts to bring Dr. Olson to the North.

"The recruitment of Dr. Olson as our first radiation oncologist for the Cancer Centre is fantastic news. One of the most critical elements in the Northern Cancer Control Strategy is the ongoing recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals and this appointment is a significant step," said Prince George - Valemount MLA Shirley Bond. "The Centre is on schedule to open in 2012 and the hard work done by the entire strategy implementation team is paying off."

"Radiation oncologists are difficult to recruit positions world wide and it is very good news that we have been able to successfully recruit in this speciality area," said Prince George - Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell. "Dr. Olson brings dedicated expertise to his new role and will help to provide a foundation for expanded cancer care in the North."

Dr. Olson received his medical degree from the University of Calgary and completed his five-year residency and training in oncology at the BC Cancer Agency through the University of British Columbia. In addition, he has received a Masters of Science degree in epidemiology from Harvard University. Dr. Olson has started work in Vancouver and will begin regular consultation visits to the North as of the end of September. He will start his role with UNBC in September.

"I'm delighted that we've been able to attract a physician with the calibre of Dr. Olson to our Radiation Therapy Program, and in particular, to the new Centre for the North," said Dr. Ivo Olivotto, Vice-President for Radiation Therapy at the BC Cancer Agency. "He brings excellent knowledge and skills to this position, and also a compassionate approach to patient care."

"Dr. Olson will play a key role in the development of strong academic links between the Centre for the North and the University of Northern British Columbia."

"It is really exciting for the Northern Medical Program to have been part of recruiting someone with an academic interest in the needed area of oncology for the North," said Dr. David Snadden, Vice Provost Medicine, UNBC. "Our program continues to build a critical mass for sustainable health care in our region."

"Having medical training in the north, through the NMP, has enabled communities, health agencies, and the university in working together to recruit more widely and effectively to help improve healthcare across northern BC."

A radiation oncologist is a physician that treats patients with cancer predominantly using radiation therapy, but also prescribes hormonal and other cancer treatments. Radiation therapy is part of curative cancer treatment or symptom relief and is received by about 60 per cent of patients diagnosed with cancer in B.C. each year.

"We are very pleased that Dr. Olson has decided to come to Northern B.C.," said Dr. Ronald Chapman, Executive Director of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. "As part of the strategy, we have been working on various recruitment initiatives to bring needed specialists to our region. These have included advertising across Canada and the U.S, a targeted website, and also videos highlighting life and recreation in the North."

Other key cancer care positions that are being recruited for the BC Cancer Agency Centre for the North include additional radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation therapists, social workers and pharmacists.

The Northern Cancer Control Strategy is a joint partnership between the BC Cancer Agency, the Provincial Health Services Authority, and Northern Health. It is focused on enhancing the continuum of cancer services across the North, including screening, diagnosis, treatment, and patient supports.