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. On Thursday, 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.
Biology Co-op education program
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 Pritchards’ commitment to working in partnership with both KGH and UBC-O. 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 Pritchards’ 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.”
INFO SHEET – NEW PCR INSTRUMENT AT KELOWNA GENERAL HOSPITAL
KGH DEPARTMENT OF MICROBIOLOGY
The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation’s gift supported the acquisition of a sophisticated piece of technology/ instrumentation that allows the microbiology lab at KGH to perform PCR, or amplify DNA, to detect and identify specific genome.
What is PCR and why is it important?
PCR stands for Polymerase Chain Reaction. Performing PCR has many practical applications and benefits including the locating of specific gene mutations and the diagnoses of viruses including HIV, SARS, H5N1, bacteria analysis for resistant genes in real time. This means the bio-medical team at KGH is able to make diagnoses faster than ever before, which allows them to treat these illnesses with greater efficiency.
In addition to influenza and other respiratory viruses and bacteria, this system provides capacity to test for gastrointestinal pathogens, resistance factors in superbugs and much more. While the new PCR instrument improves the capacity and range of testing that can be done at KGH, it is significantly more cost effective to operate.
With this acquisition, the microbiology lab at KGH is considered to be one of the most advanced in Canada.
The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation
Colin Pritchard, a retired lawyer and UBC alumnus and his wife Lois, founded The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation in 2007. A snapshot of the Pritchard Foundation’s philanthropy over the past ten years reveals a commitment to working in partnership with multiple organizations to profoundly impact the delivery of health care in our community both for today and for generations to come.
Over past 10 years, The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation has worked in partnership with KGH medical teams and medical faculties at UBC Okanagan to identify intersection points between the two institutions where provisions can be made for both the acquisition of state of the art equipment at KGH and learning and research opportunities for students.