Here’s a quick snapshot of some important updates from VIDC.
UBC iCON South Asian CPC
On November 28, 2015 the VIDC team held its third special CPC. VIDC Community Pop-Up Clinics are are constantly evolving to accommodating different communities that would benefit from point-of-care testing for either HIV, HCV, or both. This year we have done a CPC at the World Hepatitis Day Vancouver Event 2015 for attendees, one for the Chinese community at the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Health Fair 2015, and now a one for the South Asian Community. Just like the first two events, VIDC provided point-of-care HCV Testing, FibroScan® Testing, and a specialist consult for those who test positive
As a medical and research clinic, VIDC is involved with a number of clinical trials — specifically trials in HIV and HCV. One of which is AMBER, an AbbVie clinical study focused on treating chronic hepatitis C infection for genotype 1. Consequently, the VIDC team — led by Dr. Brian Conway — successfully enrolled the very first patient for the study.
Clinical studies like these are a very integral part of the cascade of care we provide at VIDC. These studies allow us to further engage patients in care, and provide them access (when applicable) to treatment options that are only available through clinical studies.
Red Ribbons for Life (RR4L)
Red Ribbons for Life 8 last November 29 was a huge success! Community organizations and its supporters, local politicians, pharmaceutical company representatives, and amazing performers came together to help raise money and awareness for HIV.
And of course, VIDC was there to support the cause — and to listen to our President and Medical Director, Dr. Brian Conway, give the keynote speech for the evening.
It was a lovely evening filled with music, laughter, and show-stopping performances shared with friends and family all present to support the fundraising efforts of RR4L.
Last Thursday (September 10) our President and Medical Director, Dr. Brian Conway, was on the CBC Radio show On The Coast as the Hepatitis C Expert.
The interview was a response to the recently published study from UBC with shocking results concerning Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) residents.
According to the study, DTES residents are dying at a much higher rate compared to the national average, and not due to HIV/AIDS or substance overdose.
“We were somewhat surprised because most people thinking about the Downtown Eastside think about HIV/AIDS or the possibility of overdosing on opioids like heroin,” said Dr. William Honer, professor and head of UBC’s Department of Psychiatry and co-author of the study. “Our system is not doing as well in getting treatments out there for psychosis and hepatitis C in this group, and it’s interesting that those two illnesses are causing risk for early mortality.”
— UBC News
Dr. Conway came on the show to speak on these findings — findings that, as VIDC’s President and Medical Director, does not surprise him. These results, as he mentions on the interview, parallels what we see when on our regular visits to the DTES for our Community Pop-Up Clinics (CPCs). The surprise that came with the results confirm one more important reality: there still isn’t enough awareness about hepatitis C.
According to Dr. Conway, the prevalence of HCV in the DTES community is because of a number of things. However, the main factors are: prevalence of injection-drug use, lack of awareness and education about the cure available for HCV, and the social situation of the residents. Not only is a very vulnerable population not aware of the disease and its cure, most of them have difficulty even accessing basic health care. It also does not help that HCV is asymptomatic (does not show symptoms) until about 20-25 years after infection.
This is one of main driving forces behind VIDC’s CPCs and the health-care model that we have at VIDC. By heading out into the community, we promote awareness and education while making health care a lot more accessible to the community members. Also, at VIDC, we understand that often treatment for a disease that is asymptomatic is the last thing on their minds. Why would they seek treatment when they are worried about where they can spend the weekend and how they will eat for the next couple of weeks? This is why our patient care takes all these into considerations. Often our nurses, research coordinators, clinic staff, and physicians would help patients with their housing application, or contact shelters and soup kitchens for them — all these on top of getting them started on treatment, applying for treatment fundings, and providing general health care.
To find out more about this, here a couple of very useful links:
Various organizations came together at the event to bring awareness to the threats of hepatitis and the advances we have made against them. There were also guest speakers lined up for the day, from patients who have lived with hepatitis, to health care professionals discussing the advancements made to combat the disease.
And, of course, VIDC had to be there! As part of our commitment to a community-based holistic approach to treatment, being at the World Hepatitis Day event is our way of engaging and learning from the community.
Pictures speak louder than words! Check out the photos below to find out how else was VIDC involved at the event.
It is through events like these that communities are brought together to teach and learn from each other. And it is through these events that allies are brought together to fight towards a common goal: health and wellness.
The more people we reach, the more staff we need to continue to provide the same quality care to everyone. As such, we welcome our new HCV Clinical Research Nurse, Yashna Bhutani RN BSN.
To introduce her to all of you, we did a brief — but insightful — interview with her and here are excerpts from that interview.
Everyone, here is Yashna Bhutani.
Let’s start with a generic question, tell us about yourself.
Y: I have been a science geek for as long as I can remember! What drives me each day is being able to learn new knowledge and keep challenging myself with a new task, goal or mission. I have always been extremely fascinated about learning and gaining more knowledge in various avenues and fields, whether it is an educational subject, or related to general knowledge in nutrition and fitness, or learning about the art of wine-making or the different styles of dances. I am especially passionate about health care; I feel that there’s never a dull day in the field of health care and science. Providing patient care and thriving to take on a leadership role in the health care system is what drives my passion.
After spending undergraduate years in UBC studying microbiology, immunology and psychology, I realized that the field of nursing would suit my interest in providing direct patient care, so I decided to pursue my BSc in Nursing at BCIT, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have had the privilege to work in surgical and medical units at Richmond Hospital and the Acquired Brain Injury Unit at GF Strong Rehab Center, both of which have allowed me to gain a copious amount of knowledge and develop various strengths in the field of nursing.
I hope to continue persevering towards my aspirations in the field of health care and continue to tackle different challenges to reach new heights in my career and the health care field.
How did you first learn about VIDC? And what drew you to us?
Y: I had never heard about VIDC until I saw the job posting, but I couldn’t stop myself from learning more about this center after discovering it! What drew me is their multidisciplinary and holistic approach to health care with a passionate team of health care professionals. I was captivated with their approach of non-judgmental patient care and research in such a balanced form in which both aspects are focused on but patient care takes utmost priority. The more I read about VIDC’s mission and initiatives, the more I visualized myself with the VIDC team and hoped to get the opportunity to contribute to their mission and advances in health care and research.
What aspect/s of your role at VIDC are you most excited about?
Y: My role at VIDC is of a Clinical Research Nurse, I will be closely working with clients for the treatment of Hepatitis C and HIV. I can’t begin to write what aspects of my role I am most excited about! There isn’t one aspect that I am any less excited about! This opportunity will allow me to further develop my nursing career to a whole new level, put me in the place to gain a lot of specialized knowledge about current and upcoming HCV and HIV studies, allow me to contribute to health care research and bring me one step closer to leading change as the health care field continues to grow with new discoveries in treatments and pharmaceuticals. Overall, it’s the journey of going from surgical nursing into clinical research nursing that I am most excited about.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to know the Yashna that’s not just a Clinical Research Nurse.
What’s the ONE thing you can’t without?
Y: I can’t live without education. I feel that there is so much in life that can be learned, and I wish that I could keep learning something new each day of my life.
THREE things most people don’t know about you.
Y: 1) I have a strong passion for dancing! I have gotten the chance to learn different forms of dances (Bollywood, Jazz, Salsa, Hip-Hop etc.), do various stage performances as well as choreograph dances.
2) I am terrified of honeybees and moths! I will jump out of my car in the middle of the highway or run off to the road into oncoming traffic to save myself from them. — That’s saying something because I really love my car! (Yes, I’m a car enthusiast too!)
3) I am an extremely indecisive shopper! Sometimes I am more indecisive after buying something than I am before buying it.
If you can only eat one meal, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Y: Fruits! I can live without protein but I can’t live without fruits!
Do you have a motto or a personal mantra?
Y: Dream, Believe, and Receive
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Y: In my spare time, I love giving back to the community and supporting some of the causes I am most passionate about. Volunteering at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and Canuck Place Hospice for Children is especially close to my heart and I like spending my spare time at these associations as much as possible.
Y: I can’t stand people being arrogant.
“Being humble means recognizing that we are not on Earth to see how important we can become, but to see how much difference we can make in the lives of others.” – Gordon B. Hinckley
Lastly, do you have any hidden talents?
Y: I write poetry! Due to my curiosity of interpreting poetry and its hidden metaphors, I began writing to express my inmost feelings. I experiment with various topics and forms such as: sonnet, ballad, lyric and free verse and incorporate them into my poetry portfolio.
Here’s an excerpt of a poem she’s written:
Immersed in melancholy, my tranquility and path have gone astray
Handcuffs bind my body, but the spirit marches ahead and away
Freedom seems as exotic as a stranger’s first steps on a new land
As a ray of light protrudes, I vision the changed world stand
As you can see, at VIDC we are made up of a team of interdisciplinary individuals with diverse backgrounds. This — again like everything else we do — is to further our commitment to providing community-based holistic care for our patients. We are very different individuals working towards one goal!
As part of our commitment to a holistic approach to medicine and to spreading awareness and education, we close our clinic doors (almost) every Friday afternoon. Yes, we stop clinic operations — or at least those that require the doctor to be present – to pursue our commitment!
On Friday afternoons, the VIDC team can be found on different locations in the Downtown East Side (DTES) holding our Community Pop-Up Clinic (CPC). We can be found at various drop-in centres, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens in and around the DTES. At these CPCs, we register anyone and everyone interested in getting tested for HIV and HCV. The goal of is to bring awareness and to engage patients who would otherwise not have access to diagnosis, treatment, and/or care.
The clinic is set up such that from the very beginning, engagement is the main goal. Our team of research assistants and coordinators are on the front line doing registration. We talk to anyone and everyone who shows interest and explain to them how the tests work, help them with registration, and direct them as necessary. Following that, our HCV Nurse, Yashna Bhutani, takes over. She sets up the clinic part of our CPCs. She will have her own room – or corner, whichever is available – and does the testing. We use OraQuick® Tests for HIV and HCV. Basically? Yashna just needs to swab the insides of their cheeks – no blood involved – and the results come out in about 10-15 minutes. The test checks for the presence of antibodies, your body’s response to infection. If the test comes out positive — which indicates that your body has fought or is fighting either HIV or HCV — then we recommend more thorough blood tests. (To find out more about how OraQuick® works, click here.)
The final part of the process involves the revelation of the results. If anyone tests positive for either HIV or HCV, Dr. Brian Conway is right there to provide immediate specialist consultation. Additionally, our HCV Research Nurses, Shawn and Yashna, would also have counseling sessions with these patients. Often these patients are unaware of their infection — let alone the treatment options and care available for people dealing with Hepatitis C. This is why it is very important to have Dr. Conway, Shawn, and Yashna available at the site to provide counseling, support, and consultation for these people. Sometimes hearing the news — both the good and the bad — from someone well equipped to help is all they need to have hope and feel better.
The idea with the rapid tests is for individuals who do not need extensive (and sometimes expensive) blood work done to not have to do it. If the test for antibodies is negative, why else would you need further confirmatory tests? The hassle in getting a doctor to sign off on a lab requisition form, the trouble of going to the lab to get your blood drawn, the long wait at laboratories, and the agony of waiting for your results — these are the things we try to eliminate through our Community Pop-Up Clinics. Basically, our CPCs are geared towards lessening inconvenience, hassle, stress, and fear involved with getting tested – the goal is to make it as simple and accessible as possible to get as many people tested and engaged as possible.
The main goal of our CPCs: There is a problem, there is cure available, let’s get the word out and stop the spread of these diseases.