Kajsa Heyes

Kajsa Heyes, Medical Resident, Family Medicine, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Kajsa Heyes
Family Medicine Resident, Yellowknife

Meet Kajsa Heyes, one of the first medical residents to be trained in Yellowknife!

Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Kajsa completed her medical training at the University of British Columbia’s Northern Medical Program in Prince George. She spent much of her clinical training in communities around northern British Columbia, learning about the rewarding and challenging field of rural and remote medicine. Through these experiences, Kajsa discovered her passion for generalist medicine and primary care.

“When you hear primary care and preventative medicine, they don’t sound that glorious. No one talks about them as being really glorious specialties. But they’re so integral to the system, to health and wellness, and cultural connection. It’s the basic system of the community functioning well.”

In the first two months of her residency, Kajsa has had the opportunity to learn a lot from her colleagues, and says that while residency is fast-paced and busy, the experience has been incredibly rewarding and the connections she has made thus far are unlike anything she has experienced in her previous training and employment. Most notably, she has enjoyed caring for patients from fly-in communities.

“They are so incredibly appreciative of me taking the time the time to listen to their story, asking them about where they came from, and what they like to do back home. Sometimes I help fix their medical problems, and sometimes I can’t. But I’ve been blown away by how accepting patients are of the fact that we try and we are doing our best, and are appreciative whether or not they get better. It is a privilege to care for them.”

It’s hard to ignore the fact that 2020 has been challenging, and as frightening as it may seem to begin residency during a pandemic, Kajsa says it has been relatively smooth-sailing for her in the Northwest Territories.

“Starting residency is stressful enough, but starting residency during a pandemic is insane! However I feel so lucky to be in the Northwest Territories where we have a zero case load. I get to learn medicine in a normal-ish context, where it’s almost business-as-usual, because we don’t have a lot of the same risks as my colleagues down south.”

During residency, Kajsa will spend two months each year in a rural NWT community, and expects to learn a lot during her rotation.

“It’s important to know where your patients come from in order to better treat them, and I’m so glad the Yellowknife Family Medicine Program is giving us the opportunity to get to know these communities better, so when we see them at Stanton or primary care in Yellowknife, we have a better idea of where they come from and how we can support them.”

Over the last few years, Kajsa had been living and working in Yellowknife during the spring and summer breaks from university, and during that time she was able to fall in love with the community and most importantly, plan her future here. She has been enjoying her time spent with friends and family, enjoying the beautiful capitol city of Yellowknife, and becoming a member of the community. 

“It’s nice to feel settled in the place that I had envisioned myself working.”

In July 2020, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority and the University of Alberta officially launched the University of Alberta Family Medicine Residency Program site in Yellowknife. The medical residents are based out of Yellowknife, travel to numerous NWT communities, spend time with our specialists, and travel to Alberta throughout the two-year training program.