What We Do

The Centre for Rural Health Research began as the home for the Rural Maternity Care New Emerging Team (RM-NET), a CIHR-funded interdisciplinary research team whose goals were to:

  • Investigate the state of maternity services in rural BC from multiple perspectives
  • Improve understanding of the consequences for British Columbians trying to access, provide and administer maternity services in rural BC
  • Provide evidence-based research to affect policy and practice decisions for maternity services in BC
  • Support research that is relevant to rural BC communities

Currently, the Centre for Rural Health Research has an expansive program of mixed methods research investigating rural health services. Our work involves exploring innovative models of rural primary health care and conducting a program of knowledge translation for our CIHR-funded program of research on rural maternity care.

Other Research

Dr. Jude Kornelsen also conducts qualitative research in the areas of medical decision-making and modalities of birth.

Modalities of Birth

We are currently witnessing changes in our cultural and practical understanding of childbirth, resulting in a higher rate of interventions and lower rates of vaginal deliveries. As a response to this phenomenon there is a small movement of women who are choosing to labour unassisted, without any medical intervention, assistance, or presence.

Patient Initiated Elective Caesarean Section

Jude Kornelsen and Eileen Hutton were funded by the Canadian Insistutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research to investigate patient-initiated caesarean section (PIECS). Four papers were published from the results of this study.

Unassisted Home Birth

Jude Kornelsen’s more recent study looking at modalities of birth is on the opposite end of the spectrum. She is currently undergoing an investigation into the decision-making process of women and their families who choose to give birth unassisted, without a doctor or midwife present.

Policy & Planning

Our health care system is under stress. An aging population and increasing burden of chronic disease cannot be addressed solely through the antiquated system of hospital-based health care delivery. One clear solution is the better development and utilization of community-based primary health care (CBPHC) services that extend beyond the traditional primary care medical practice. Canada recognizes the need to foster transformative change in primary care if it is to curb health care spending and improve population health and wellness.

The Rural Community-Based Primary Health Care team co-led by the Centre for Rural Health Research consists of researchers, decision makers, clinicians, and rural communities and is currently engaged in a number of activities:

  • Partnerships with rural communities in British Columbia to develop innovative solutions for rural primary care services. We currently provide research support to care providers in the communities of Port McNeill, Vancouver Island, and Salt Spring Island for community-based health service research initiatives.

Medical Decision Making

Principal Investigators Jude Kornelsen (University of British Columbia) and Chloë Atkins (University of Calgary) with co-investigators Robert Woollard (UBC) and Keith Brownell (U of C) have been funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to study the best ethical practices in managing uncertainty in medical diagnosis.

This qualitative exploratory investigation will consider practitioner and patient response to the phenomenon of Medically Undiagnosed Physical Symptoms (MUPS) from the perspective of a trans-disciplinary team including social scientists, a general practitioner, and a specialist clinician.

The goal of this ethics-framed research is to examine how clinicians and patients conceptualize medical uncertainty within a disease-based framework.

This study is now closed, and reporting of the findings is now underway.


Atkins CGK, Brownell K, Kornelsen J, Wollard R, Whiteley A. Silos of Silence, Stress and Suffering: Patient And Physician Experiences of MUPS and Diagnostic Uncertainty. American Journal of Bioethics: Neurosciences, AJOB Neuroscience, 2013; 4(3): 3-8.