Health Minister Terry Lake announced a $5-million endowment to establish a new chair at the University of British Columbia (UBC) to help enhance the delivery of rural health-care services throughout the province.

Dr. Dave Snadden has been appointed as the founding rural doctors’ UBC chair in Rural Health. Dr. Snadden was also the first leader of UBC’s Northern Medical Program in Prince George.

The $5-million endowment is funded through the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues, a partnership between the Ministry of Health and Doctors of BC that advises the Province on matters related to rural medical practice.

In addition, operational funding of $350,000 per year will be provided over the next five years to support the development of a distributed provincial network of rural health researchers and the establishment of a Dean’s Advisory Committee on Rural and Remote Health. These components will form an integrated and innovative world-leading strategy to improve health outcomes for rural citizens.

Based out of Prince George, Dr. Snadden will provide academic leadership in rural affairs, establish relevant research, and address rural physician recruitment and retention.

The chair was created following a proposal by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC, which works on behalf of the Joint Standing Committee, and seeks to improve rural health education and advocates for rural health in British Columbia.

While the position falls under the UBC department of family practice, it is intended to be a resource to the university’s faculty of medicine as a whole, including specialty departments and other professional education schools.

Prior to his role as founding chair, Dr. Snadden was the executive associate dean of education with the UBC faculty of medicine. Before that, he spent eight years overseeing the expansion of UBC’s medical education and training programs to northern B.C, including the Northern Medical Program, a partnership between UBC and the University of Northern British Columbia. He trained and worked in Scotland as a rural practitioner for a number of years before furthering his training at the University of Western Ontario. Upon his return to Scotland, Dr. Snadden developed a collaborative master’s program in primary care and helped create the first integrated undergraduate and postgraduate department of general practice in the United Kingdom. He is a fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. His three-year term is effective Nov. 1, 2016.

The rural doctors’ UBC chair in rural health is one of many solutions to address health-care access challenges in rural communities. The ministry is committed to improving rural health care in B.C. by: understanding population and patient health; developing quality and sustainable care models; recruiting and retaining engaged, skilled health-care providers; and providing strong tools and processes that allow flexibility in responding to the diversity of geographies in British Columbia.