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Meet the physicians helping lead the journey to B.C.’s new medical school

Dr. Neufeld and Dr. Gill
Dr. Neufeld and Dr. Gill

In 2022, the BC government announced that it hopes to establish a medical school at SFU, which would become the first new medical school in Western Canada in over 50 years.

The SFU School of Medicine intends to train a new generation of physicians to add much-needed capacity to B.C.’s health-care system while re-envisioning medical education to better support community-embedded, socially accountable and culturally safe care. 

To support this new approach, SFU is collaborating with Fraser Health to ensure its laser focus on supporting communities in the Fraser-Salish region. 

In late 2023, Fraser Health hired two physicians, Dr. Navreen Gill, a family physician, and Dr. Anastasia Neufeld, an ophthalmologist and surgeon, to bring strategic medical leadership as the medical school moved toward Senate and Board of Governors approval, which was granted in May 2024. We sat down with these two leaders to learn more about their vision for this shared role: 

What attracted you to this role? 

Dr. Gill: “After my clinical traineeships in Abbotsford and Mission, I became even more passionate about the Fraser Valley. As a family doctor, I can advocate for my patients—but I realized I can also do more. This role is an incredible opportunity to contribute to get patients more resources and more physicians—because they deserve more.”

Dr. Neufeld: “As an alumnus, I have always been a huge SFU cheerleader. When I heard about the new medical school being at SFU, I kept looking for ways to be involved. When this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in the establishing a new medical school came up, I was very excited to be involved.

Why is the partnership between SFU and Fraser Health so important?

Dr. Neufeld: “The partnership between a health authority and a university is a huge strength, because it allows for a lot of flexibility. At an administrative level, it provides for a much more cohesive approach to education. On the ground, it allows for all clinical sites to act in unison towards better medical education and eventually better medical care for the population.

Dr. Gill: “In many ways, medical education is like an apprenticeship. But to have an apprenticeship, you need mentors—and some of the best mentors are in Fraser Health.”

How do we strengthen physician engagement? 

Dr. Gill: “The biggest thing is community outreach. We want to listen to the ideas people in the health system have and try to put them into action, and make sure that people know they can reach out to us at any time. Building this community is key to physician retention. We also want students to feel connected to the community, so they’ll stay and work in the Fraser Valley.”  

What makes SFU the ideal host for a medical school? 

Dr. Gill: “I love SFU’s inclusiveness. Whenever I hear that about SFU, it’s from people saying they feel accepted here. SFU is also very big on innovation, and in health care, innovation is where we have to be. Health care is changing every single day. Major issues like climate change are affecting health, and SFU is at the forefront of trying to find solutions.” 

Dr. Neufeld: “Firstly, SFU’s ability to provide an individualized education to its students is incredibly important, which I hope will translate to the medical school as well. In my experience, SFU faculty and teachers seek out each student’s individual strengths and encourage the development of those strengths. Secondly, SFU is known for its health and population health research, which I think will greatly complement the medical school at SFU and provide a non-traditional approach to medical education. My hope is that local population research guides medical education at SFU to help meet the specific needs of the Fraser Valley patients.   

What are some strengths you bring to this role? 

Dr. Gill: “I bring passion and an endless amount of energy for outreach. I also have extensive experience in many different settings (rural, urban, and international). Finally, I’m incredibly optimistic. I might sound idealistic at times, but I think that’s what you need when you have such a big project.” 

Dr. Neufeld: “I think it’s my ability to connect with people. I’ve always taken a keen interest in my colleagues, their interests and opinions. Between my position at Vancouver Coastal Health as well as my academic appointment at University of British Columbia, I hope to be a bridge to support connections and relationships among all stakeholders. Finally, I am excited to offer my perspective as both a specialist and an evidenced-based researcher.”

What are you most excited about? 

Dr. Gill: I’m excited to show our community of Fraser Health that we care. And I’m also incredibly excited for B.C. to have more doctors! When you have physicians trained in the community they’re likely to stay in, they better understand the patient experience and are able to provide even more holistic care.”

Dr. Neufeld: “We have the opportunity to establish a medical school from the bottom up. By creating a new school, we can look at the core curriculum and implement changes from the beginning. Right now, this project is breathing new life into clinical care and education. I can’t wait to capitalize on all of those positive feelings, and create something that complements what we already have in the province.”


Dr. Gill is a family physician with a passion for teaching and making a difference. Graduating from a rural family medicine residency at UBC Prince George, Dr. Gill's journey has been dedicated to the well-being of patients in diverse healthcare settings. Born and raised in Abbotsford, Dr. Gill carries a profound connection to the local community. This connection fuels a relentless commitment to primary and preventative care. Dr. Gill feels exceptionally fortunate to be engaged in cradle-to-grave healthcare, providing patients with comprehensive and compassionate support throughout their lives.

Dr. Neufeld is an ophthalmologist and an educator with experience of teaching learners across all levels (medical students, residents and fellows). She completed her undergraduate degree at SFU with a First Class Honours Joint Major in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry and Business Administration. She obtained her medical degree at the UBC and completed her ophthalmology residency at Dalhousie University and fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at the prestigious Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah. She has been practicing ophthalmology and neuro-ophthalmology in the Vancouver area since 2017. Dr. Neufeld is a clinical assistant professor at the UBC and holds active surgical privileges at Fraser Health Authority and active consulting privileges at Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. She also holds certifications as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada (FRCSC) as well as a diplomat of American Board of Ophthalmology (DABO).

This story is part of our summer 2024 edition of Engage, our magazine celebrating the impact of SFU’s donor community.
To read more stories, please visit the Engage landing page.