Dr. Vivan Kilvert has wanted to be a doctor since she could read, and she grew up with two teachers for parents. So it’s pretty fitting that the Ladysmith family physician recently received an Award of Excellence from the British Columbia College of Family Physicians (BCCFP) for teaching.
The awards recognize family physicians who have achieved excellence.
“These members exemplify the best of what being a family physician is all about, including exceptional care of patients, combined with a significant contribution to the health and well being of communities and/or society in general,” according to the BCCFP.
Kilvert has been teaching medical students, residents and international medical graduates for more than 12 years.
“The BCCFP awards committee received many letters of support for Dr. Kilvert from family physician residents, colleagues and nurse practitioners in support of Dr. Kilvert’s nomination, which are evidence of why she is deserving of this award,” the BCCFP stated in its Annual Report.
Dr. Ben Williams of Nanaimo, who nominated her for the award, had this to say about Kilvert: “By the time I finished residency, I had many wonderful teachers along the way. None have left the inedible mark imprinted by Dr. Kilvert. She is a model physician and an outstanding educator.”
“Dr. Kilvert is a remarkably brilliant doctor, a fantastic clinician, an exceptionally compassionate and caring person and a devoted, inspiring teacher,” said Dr. Melissa Terlingen.
Kilvert, who practised at Ladysmith Family Practice Clinic until August, says the award was very surprising.
Kilvert feels that receiving the award validated something she already knew — that she loves teaching.
“I love being a physician, but I love the days when I’m a teaching physician even more,” she said. “Medicine is an exhausting profession, and I always feel inspired and invigorated on days I teach.”
Kilvert feels this award belongs more to her teachers than to her.
“Certainly, if I’m a good teacher, it’s because I had good teachers,” she said.
Everyone who studies medicine ends up teaching at some point, and Kilvert discovered that she really enjoyed teaching.
“When I went to medical school, most of us trained for a portion of our time at larger sites, and you go through the ranks,” she explained. “You’re usually teaching the stage below you every day, formally or informally.”
Nowadays, there are numerous residency sites where there are no medical students, explained Kilvert.
“Once you graduate your residency and you are a practising doctor, there are not a lot of opportunities to teach, unless you choose to — I did,” she said.
Kilvert became a clinical assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, and the university would send medial students to her for teaching.
Besides the academic details, there are three main points Kilvert hopes she is passing on to her students. One fundamental idea for Kilvert is that the patient is your best teacher.
“The patient is your teacher, and you are your patient’s teacher,” she said. “It’s easy to write a prescription, but people get more out of the visit if you teach them and explain things.”
Another point Kilvert thinks is important to pass on is that the art of medicine matters as much, or even more, than the science. This includes bedside manner, how you speak and listen to patients and colleagues and other aspects that students pick up more informally through day-to-day practice, she explained.
Kilvert also hopes to pass on the importance of communication to her students.
She can still recite an axiom from one of her favourite teachers, who used to say “If you don’t know the diagnosis by the time you finish the patient history, you probably never will.”
“If you listen really closely to people’s story, you should be able to tell,” she explained. “A lot of times, people don’t take the time.”
“I hope if you are a good and enthusiastic teacher, it makes someone else want to teach, both formally and informally,” continued Kilvert. “I hope the people I teach go out and are good teachers to their patients because that matters so much — that would be my biggest hope with it.”
Kilvert has always wanted to be a doctor.
“I can’t remember not wanting to be a doctor,” she said with a laugh.
When Kilvert was in kindergarten, she wrote in her class book under “career” that she wanted to be an obstetrician — and even spelled it correctly, she laughed.
“It actually had started earlier than that,” she said, recalling how, when she was three or four, she would rush out to meet the Book Mobile when it came to Saltair so she could be the first kid to get the book How Your Heart Works.
Kilvert grew up in Saltair, and her parents both taught in Ladysmith for years. She graduated from Queen Margaret’s School, then went to the University of Victoria and received her Bachelor of Science in the co-op program. She then went to medical school at the University of Calgary. Kilvert stayed in Calgary for her residency, and she returned to Ladysmith in 2003.
Kilvert practised four years at Ladysmith Family Practice Clinic until August. She is currently doing locums in Nanaimo and picking up some shifts in emergency at the Ladysmith Community Health Centre. Down the road, she says she may pursue higher education or look into finding a permanent practice in the area.