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Vancouver family physician Dr. Melissa Lem has been an advocate for the nature-health connection for over a decade — and on November 14th, was announced as the winner of the 2022 Nature Inspiration Award, Adult category, for her pioneering work with PaRx.
Each year, the Canadian Museum of Nature recognizes individuals and organizations that show leadership, innovation and creative approaches that help connect Canadians with nature and contribute to its preservation. “At a time when our planet and society as a whole is confronting challenges from climate change and biodiversity loss, it’s inspiring to recognize the diverse ways that Canadians are connecting us with the importance of nature in our lives,” said Dr. Danika Goosney, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Nature. “Whether the impacts of their efforts are local, regional or national, all of these innovative projects remind us of the need to live in balance with nature and work towards a sustainable future.” In addition to the recognition, winners receive $5,000 that they can “pay forward” to a nature-related program of their choice.
Among this year’s recipients include Birds Canada, a not-for-profit whose podcast has inspired its listeners to get involved in bird conservation, and Fishing for Success, a volunteer-driven non-profit in Newfoundland that shares and celebrates traditional fishing knowledge and culture, especially with women and girls.
For spearheading the launch of PaRx, Dr. Lem was announced winner of the Adult Nature Inspiration Award during this year’s gala at the Canadian Museum in Ottawa. Backed by hundreds of studies, research suggests that connecting to nature is one of the best things you can do to improve your health, from decreasing risk of depression in youth to helping prevent cardiovascular disease in adults. Recognizing that a myriad of patients could benefit from a daily dose of nature, Dr. Lem launched PaRx in November 2020, Canada’s national nature prescription program.
“This award belongs to every health professional across this country who has embraced the nature and health movement along with PaRx over the past two years,” said Dr. Lem, “I’m deeply honoured and humbled to be in such incredible company.”
In addition to her role as Director of PaRx, Dr. Lem is also President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, winner of a 2020 Joule Innovation Grant from the Canadian Medical Association, 2021 World Parks Week Ambassador and Clinical Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
Studies show that patients are more motivated to make a change when advice is written down as a prescription, and PaRx makes prescribing nature easy with a standard, evidence-based “2+ hours per week, 20+ minutes each time” recommendation. Thanks to various partnerships with groups across the country, patients also enjoy better access to natural spaces, including free national park passes from Parks Canada.
“This award recognizes Melissa’s tremendous passion, energy and effectiveness as a leader,” says Andy Day, CEO of the BC Parks Foundation. “Her life mission to raise awareness of the health benefits of nature while being a practising physician and having a family has been truly inspiring and heroic. Everyone at the Foundation is very proud to work alongside her and overjoyed that she has received this wonderful, well-deserved recognition.”
Dr. Lem continues to show exemplary leadership to help connect Canadians with nature to better their wellbeing, as well as the health of our planet. With her fronting Canada’s national nature prescription program, only the second of its kind in the world, we can look toward a healthier and greener future!