Dr. Jacqueline Jenkins graduated from Bishop's University with Honors in Biology and Neuroscience. She went back to her home province of Nova Scotia and worked in Orthopaedic research before going on to complete her Master of Science from Dalhousie University in Human Factors and Ergonomics (Div of Kinesiology). Her thesis was with the Canadian Military developing the most effective training program for Underwater Helicopter Escape Training, and she proceeded to work with them before going to medical school. She graduated from Saba University School of Medicine in 2011, and the Rural Family Medicine Program in Saskatchewan in 2013. She then moved to Calgary because of family connections and a love for mountain activities. She continues to acquire new skills, including graduating from the STARS Critical Care and Transport Medicine Academy, and completed courses in Sports Medicine, bedside ultrasound, and functional medicine. She has worked most of her time since graduation in rural Alberta, and Calgary Urgent Care centres. She enjoys working with medical students and Residents and is a clinical assistant with the University of Calgary. She is passionate about preventive health and bringing optimal wellness to each patient in an individualized manner.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a tree-planter in rural Nova Scotia, where I lived in a trailer, and got to practically be eaten alive by mosquitoes and black flies, and shower every couple of weeks at the YMCA. The local newspaper wrote a story about my being the top female tree planter in Yarmouth County, thereby awarding me my first 15 minutes of fame. Tree planting taught me about hard work and the value of a dollar. I earned 8 cents a tree, which meant the price of going out for lunch was equivalent to 150 trees. I never was one to splurge on clothing or dining out and this job really helped me be financially conscientious. It also taught me about the value of showing up and getting the job done.
Why did you choose to become a doctor?
I love helping people find optimal health. I enjoy listening to their concerns and helping them find their own path toward hope and a healthy future. I also love learning. This is essential to being a good physician as new advances are constantly coming onstream. With this career I knew I would never get bored as there is so much new scientific and clinical information to know, learn and process. As a family doctor, I also get to form strong relationships with my patients and their families. As I am a people person, I find this aspect of my work particularly fulfilling.
Tell us something about you that not many people know?
I recently discovered triathlon and mountain bike racing after incurring an injury that had left me not being able to exercise for a couple years. This was definitely a down period and a friend who does Ironman competitions convinced me to join a triathlon club. I initially hesitated as I am not a good swimmer and don’t enjoy it. However, I found out how much I enjoyed the new challenge of improving a skill I was really not very good at. I completed my first half-ironman, then entered an Xterra competition (swim, mountain bike, trail run). I enjoyed my experience so much that I am now an avid mountain biker and enjoy competing when my schedule permits.
What is your most important piece of preventive health advice?
I have a keen interest in preventive health and wellness, and I believe people can optimize their health at any age. The biggest thing one can do is put good fuel in their body. The importance of healthy eating is not new but goes back over two thousand years when Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” I strongly believe this. We can fuel our bodies so they work like race cars and we feel energized, clear, and happy, or we can feed them low-quality “food” and feel like a cars that are sputtering along on tanks that are almost empty. The right foods can prevent so much chronic illness, and if you already have a chronic disease, there is no time like the present to start thinking about what you are putting in and on your body.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Recharging is as important as hard work. The body can only handle so much stress, whether it’s from work, exercising, family, or other commitments. You can only push yourself so hard before this backfires and leads to the loss of any gains you might have made. Too much stress leads to low energy and mood and oftentimes the type of negative attitude that leads to more self-neglect. It is important to keep things balanced. So recharging is a really important part of self-care, and will make you even more productive at work, and a better spouse, parent, friend, and athlete.
What is the secret to lifelong happiness?
Including a daily gratitude practice and meditation/mindfulness and also being kind to others are key to lifelong happiness. It’s also important to keep being curious about life, to keep exploring new things and accumulating new experiences rather than things. Being curious and open-minded will put you on a path of new discoveries; your next passion or best friend might be just around the corner. You only live once so you might as well live your fullest life possible!
What keeps you inspired?
It is gratifying to see people come back and look and feel better after having made just a few small changes in their daily lives. Observing people soak up new information and run with it, seeing how excited they about their improved health and wellbeing and how keen they are to continue making positive changes really keeps me inspired.
What is the one health lesson you have learned that you want everyone to know?
If you ignore an injury, it will usually get worse! I have tried to “push through” a few injuries only to make them worse and this has led to longer recoveries or chronic problems. It’s important to treat your symptoms early with rest, to seek medical advice if the pain doesn’t improve with reduced activity, and to listen to your body before attempting to resume physical activity.