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Pritchard Foundation creates opportunities for UBC students while advancing health care in the Southern Interior region

May 17, 2017

Kelowna residents Colin and Lois Pritchard have long been recognized in the community for their outstanding contributions to advancing health care in the southern interior region. Today, the most recent of their foundation’s contributions was unveiled at Kelowna General Hospital.

Thanks to the generosity of The Colin and Lois Pritchard Foundation, the Larissa Yarr Medical Microbiology laboratory at KGH has new, sophisticated testing abilities with a real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) laboratory. These highly advanced diagnostic instruments allow laboratory staff to detect and identify specific antibiotic resistance gene mutations, bacteria and viruses faster than ever before.

Currently, most viral diagnostics must be sent to Vancouver for testing in a reference facility, with delays due to the transport required. The new PCR instrumentation allows for significantly increased capacity to test for viral illnesses directly at KGH. When time is of the essence, having immediate access to this kind of advanced technology can significantly impact the clinical course of a patient.

The gift also includes a generous provision to UBC Okanagan’s Department of Biology to support one microbiology student per year for the next five years. The student will have the opportunity for a four-month co-op placement in the Microbiology Laboratory at KGH. The gift has the dual purpose of supporting talented UBC-Okanagan students in real-world learning while also building capacity for the lab to undertake research on the PCR.

Since being founded in 2007, The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation has made possible some incredibly unique acquisitions at KGH including; the Endoscopic Ultrasound in 2015, which allows highly detailed gastrointestinal imaging; the MALDI TOF analyzer in 2013 that speeds bacterial identification; and Telehealth and Video Conferencing in 2012, allowing for remote specialist consulting and diagnostic work to be done where people live.

The gifts are remarkable on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the Pritchard’s commitment to working in partnership with both KGH and UBC Okanagan. Each gift is intentionally structured to fill less obvious but still critical needs within the hospital, while providing research and learning opportunities for students.

“These days, philanthropy in health care is often focused on cancer or cardiac care,” notes Dr. Edith Blondel-Hill, KGH Medical Microbiologist who has worked directly with the Pritchards. “Supporting the microbiology laboratory with new technology to improve the diagnosis of infections will ultimately result in better antibiotic use, to preserve these lifesaving medications for future generations. This donation demonstrates this family’s commitment to the present and future health of our community.”

“The Pritchard’s history of giving is really unique,” notes KGH Foundation CEO Doug Rankmore. “Over the years, they have been exceptionally engaged with our specialty medical teams to determine where needs exist that might typically be overlooked because it’s not top of mind in the media or even within the general medical community. Their gifts have had an incredible impact in this hospital.”

UBC Okanagan microbiology student April Mahovlic is the recipient of the co-op funding for this year. “Working with Dr. Wilmer at the Lab has been a tremendous learning opportunity for me,” she says. “I will be forever grateful to the Pritchard family for this gift. Because of them, I have the opportunity to work with some of the most advanced technology in Canada.”

Indeed, the support of advanced education in the medical fields has been a top priority for the Pritchards and has resulted in several gifts to UBC over the years including bursary support for Southern Medical Program (SMP) students, research opportunities for SMP students at the BC Cancer Agency, simulation equipment and ultrasound technology.

“Health is one of UBC’s top research priorities,” says Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President of Research at UBC Philip Barker. “The Okanagan campus is uniquely positioned to provide transformative learning opportunities for the next generation of innovators and critical thinkers. We look forward to continuing our work with Interior Health and would like to extend our sincere thanks to the Pritchards for their generous and ongoing support of our mission.”