Doctors Of BC: Our Stories

Dr Jennifer Vassel, family medicine, Langley

June 17, 2022

It never fails to surprise me, the hidden talents and life stories that our patients bring with them. 

Dr Jen Vassel and family I had been seeing a patient for years when one day, after seeing a painting I had done to decorate my office, commented "Oh, I paint too." We connected that day over our shared joy in trying to capture the beauty of the outside world – with only some paint and determination. 

She worked in oils, and I in acrylics, and we both lamented how sometimes a painting would be an uphill battle, while others seemed to flow as if from some other place. A painting would become something beautiful, with no real roadmap or explanation as to how it was conceived or produced.

A few days later, she dropped off a USB stick with a kind note saying, "thank you for taking an interest in my art.” Saved on the USB was a complete record of every painting she had ever done. Her artwork captured the light on flowers, nature scenes and the beauty all around us, if you choose to look for it. I was deeply moved by the intimate opportunity to look into her soul at her private collection that no one else had ever seen (or likely would see).

It's moments like these that I cherish the most. It is the connections we forge, the common experiences we share with our patients that weave together the trust and understanding we need to recognize when they truly need us. I feel so privileged and humbled, while still at times overwhelmed with the responsibility that I shoulder every day. And yet, it is the meaning I derive out of these moments, meeting a patient where they are at, sharing a story or a laugh, and being able to share my own experience that provides the most satisfaction.

Dr Jen Vassel's painting

Today, I reflect on how I didn't get to see her paintings in person before she passed. I was too nervous for many years to put my own paintings up in my office for fear they weren’t good enough. I finally had the courage in 2019 to pursue my art again, and decided it was high time to hang a painting of my own in my office. It was this painting that sparked a conversation with so many patients about pursuing their own passions and following their dreams.