Jess BeseltJeff Beselt

Family Physician

Jeff is driven by his passion for cultural humility, and he believes in culture change through compassion and inclusion. Much of his time as a family physician has been spent working in partnership with First Nations communities. Jeff and his family lived in Kwadacha, a remote village in Northern BC for three years, and he continues to provide care as a member of the health and wellness teams in Kwadacha and Tsay Keh Dene.

As Executive Medical Director for North Vancouver Island, Jeff’s vision of a welcoming and culturally-safe environment for Indigenous people was woven into the design of two new hospitals opened in 2017 in Comox Valley and Campbell River. Working with local Chiefs and Councils, Jeff helped create an Aboriginal Working Group which provided input on hospital designs, local First Nations traditions, developing Gathering Places, including local Indigenous artwork, and developing birthing rooms designed to better support the needs of local women and families.

Jeff’s current passions include being a better dad to his six kids, operating a small hobby farm in Campbell River, working as an emergency physician and partnering to improve care to patients in the midst of the opioid crisis.

Nadine Caron

Nadine Caron

Surgeon; Co-Director, UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health

Nadine currently resides in Prince George, where she provides surgical oncology care for those that call rural and remote Canada home. Nadine is also an associate professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Surgery where she teaches in the Northern Medical Program.

During her surgical residency, Nadine completed a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University and was awarded UBC’s Top Student Award. Nadine is also appointed as an Associate Faculty member of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University where she teaches for the Center for American Indian Health.

Nadine is Anishnawbe from Sagamok First Nation. Her work involves a variety of audiences and knowledge users including governments, provincial health authorities, national medical organizations, health research funding bodies, and several universities to achieve identified and overlapping objectives. In 2014, she was appointed Co-Director of the UBC Centre for Excellence in Indigenous Health located at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health.

Shelly & Gene Covert

Proprietors & Winemakers

Covert Farms has been operating just north of Oliver for almost six decades, with Gene and Shelly leading the way since 2004. They were given a BC/Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer award in 2010. Recently they turned their attention to organic winemaking.

A native of Oliver with a Bachelor of Science in Geography from UBC, Gene has over 25 years’ experience of mixed farm management. A student of ecosystem complexity and a natural engineer, he is always curious and frequently humbled by single cell organisms.

Shelly has hosted and directed a number of events on Covert Farms over the past 20 years including The Festival of the Tomato, which ran from 2001-2011 and hosted more than 2,000 people, as well as a yoga festival, family trail runs, weddings and special events.  She is also an avid marathon runner and triathlete, and is a three-time Ironman Triathlon finisher, in Penticton, Texas and Idaho.

Shelly has a Bachelor of Education from the University of Alberta. She has coached a number of kids’ programs and hosted organic farm camps. As a Canadian School of Natural Nutrition graduate with a diploma in holistic nutrition, Shelly is passionate about educating children and adults about wholefood nutrition. She has been hosting school groups for 15 years with her farm-to-table tours, where she teaches them about organic farming, eating foods as close to their natural state as possible, and eating local.

Jeff Harries Jeff Harries

General Practitioner

Jeff has worked in Penticton since 1990 as a full-service General Practitioner and recently began speaking to groups throughout the province about Alcohol Use Disorder and how people with this disorder can be cared for differently.

He has been the Head of Family Practice at Penticton Regional Hospital and Lead Physician for the South Okanagan Division of Family Practice, and served on various committees at Doctors of BC, the Canadian Medical Association, Interior Health and the General Practice Services Committee. Jeff and his wife Leona, who is also a GP, have nine children, ages 13 to 28, who were all born after the two arrived in Penticton; he thinks there is something in the water doing this.


Claudia Hopkins

Student, Emily Carr University of Art + Design
Winner, Health Talks Student Contest

Claudia is a fourth-year Interaction Design student at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. She is passionate in designing for social good by incorporating inclusivity into public services, including health care services. Her essay on service design and health care won this year’s Health Talks Student Contest.

For her graduate project, Claudia is collaborating with UBC’s Division of Continuing Professional Development, where she is an instructional designer. Through her project, she is developing processes to involve patients in creating medical education.

She has also worked with Emily Carr University’s Health Design Lab as a design researcher in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health’s Quality and Patient Safety team. And more recently, she spent last summer working for Ontario Digital Service as a user researcher with various teams, including their health team.

CeeJai Julian

CeeJai Julian

Peer Specialist

CeeJai is a peer support worker with Vancouver Coastal Health’s Women’s Intensive Case Management Team. CeeJai has been conducting outreach work for over six years, including improving access to health care for hard-to-reach women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

(Photo by Jennifer Gauthier for STARMETRO)

Pauline KongPauline Kong

Intensive Care Unit Registered Nurse

Pauline believes that even the smallest effort can make a difference in improving the quality of a patient’s outcome. She was six years old when she suffered a ruptured appendicitis and was put on life-support temporarily. Thankfully she survived, and the care and treatment she received inspired her to become a nurse so that she could give back to her community. After beginning her career as an ICU Nurse, she soon realized that her patients were sad, depressed and lonely – especially those who didn’t have visitors. It was during this time that Pauline saw a magician at the night market produce doves out of thin air, and she decided to begin using magic to cheer patients up. Now Pauline produces and performs in magic shows to raise funds for her community and hospital, in addition to working full-time in the hospital. So far, her events have raised over $20,000 for BC Children’s Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit to improve care experiences for patients and their families.

Lauren SundstromLauren Sundstrom

Social Media Specialist/Part-Time Trans Activist

Lauren isn’t a health care professional. In fact, she has never worked in the medical field at all. What she has done is navigate British Columbia’s health care system first as a transgender youth and now as a transgender adult. Lauren hopes that by speaking about her experiences and discussing her hopes and dreams for the future of trans healthcare in BC that physicians will take note. She dreams of a day where every physician is comfortable with, and knowledgeable of, the unique health care needs of an otherwise marginalized and often mystified minority group.

Until recently, Lauren kept her status as a trans woman on the down-low, but decided to shake things up by coming out in an op-ed for Teen Vogue – after all, what’s the point of living if you’re not doing so authentically? She currently works as a marketing professional for a large cosmetics company in Vancouver and enjoys annoying her partner, Matthew, in her spare time.