Dr Judy Dercksen is the first to admit that trauma has made her the doctor she is today. As a family physician – she knows many physical symptoms can be manifestations or by-products of psychological damage. As she treats, she also explores all dimensions of her patients. She also personifies the very definition of a ‘do it yourselfer’, who knows how to make the most of bad situations, which is why she is so highly regarded by her patients and her northern BC community of Quesnel.
Originally from South Africa, at one point, Dr Dercksen managed doctors and nurses in 50 clinics across the country. “I actually studied during the early 80’s at the height of apartheid’s civil unrest. As a medical student, I was exposed to terrible travesties. It was only later, I recognized that in addition to my childhood trauma, I was quite traumatized by these experiences.” In 2002, Dr Derckson and her husband moved to Quesnel to escape the legacy of apartheid and its residual effects.
In Canada, Dr Dercksen thrived because “there is a health care system for everyone and everyone who came through the door got the help they needed.” This freedom allowed Dr Derckson to concentrate more on working with people who don’t know how to get to the door – how to access the help.
When the opioid crisis began Dr Dercksen’s ‘just do it’ attitude came to the forefront. She diligently worked to lower medications and in some cases eventually eliminate them for her patients with severe chronic pain. She also saw how difficult it was for these patients to cope and as is her nature, she was determined to do something about it.
She knew there had to be support systems in place – she was introduced to the GPSC’s PSP Pain Module through Margie Wiebe at Northern Health. However she wanted to find more resources – particularly around fascia, which up until 10 years ago was pretty much ignored when dealing with pain management.
In the end, Dr Dercksen learned how to create a website and she built painimprovement.com. The website contains curated resources on pain management from a variety of sources, as well as her blog.
“There’s no simple solution to managing severe chronic pain and people need help with the healing process before taking opioids away.”
This made it important to create a website that was easy to use and allowed for constant feedback. Her blog helps her stay connected and she often works with patients to feature their stories.
“There is a good percentage of my patients with severe pain who need opioids, but by using the website and the tools they are using less than before and getting more out of their lives.” Dr Dercksen didn’t stop there. She expanded her skills by getting her license to administer methadone and doing a course on naloxone – further enhancing her ability to help this very complex patient population.
Dr Dercksen works to maintain a balance in her own life – taking the time to pursue passions like creative writing, tennis, quilting or simply taking walks with her husband.
Her next work passion project is developing a way to address complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in First Nations peoples. Collaborating with indigenous leaders in her community and through funding from Divisions and First Nations Health Authority – she is at the beginning of another challenge, but as she notes, “I feel I get a lot more back than what I give in.” How lucky for us.
Dr Judy Dercksen is just one of many physicians who are going “above and beyond” to make a real difference for their patients and their communities in BC. Do you know a physician who should be profiled in our Doctors Making a Difference series? E-mail us at email@example.com and we will do our best to profile them in a future column.