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New rural medical residency program aims to improve patient access and care

UBC has developed curriculum for delivering medical training in rural remote communities including the Kootenay Boundary.

Alicia Wallace

 

West Kootenay Advertiser

 

The University of British Columbia has decentralized the way it delivers medical education.

UBC has developed curriculum for delivering medical training in rural remote communities including the Kootenay Boundary and it has certainly been a big undertaking.

There is an innovative shift in UBC’s Family Medicine residency training programs from traditional urban academic structures towards a distributive model where the training is delivered in rural, remote sites and incorporates frontline rural family physicians and specialists as medical educators.

This change has occurred within both undergraduate and post-graduate educational programs and is evidenced by the many successfully established integrated clinical clerkships rural elective programs and rural family medicine residency programs.

Dr. Cheryl Hume, the director of UBC’s clerkships and residency program for the Kootenay Boundary, said these programs “provide a window of opportunity to mitigate the shortage of doctors (particularly in rural and remote communities).

“The community can be very proud of what we have developed,” she explained at a press conference in Rossland on Friday.

“This is a tremendously exciting and important development for our rural region and it has been enthusiastically embraced and supported by the local medical staff of the area. The establishment of these programs has been supported by collaboration between UBC, the local physicians and allied health care workers, the Interior Health Authority, the Divisions of Family Practice and the Selkirk College rural pre-med program,” said Dr. Hume.

An integrated clinical clerkship program is already on offer. Four medical students each spend a full year of training in the Kootenay Boundary. A rural family medicine post graduate residency training program is now being developed.

“We are expecting four family medicine residents to join us starting in July. These programs, together with the Selkirk College rural pre-med program, will bring significant opportunities for rural physician recruitment and retention,” said Dr. Hume.

The post-graduate rural training will provide real exposure to real medicine. Students will be involved in interdisciplinary training within the communities they are based throughout the Kootenays. Being a remotely based doctor means knowing a lot more and having to deal with a broad range of health care issues. Students gain the necessary skills required to confidently enter a rural practice on conclusion of their qualification.

Dr. Granger Avery, the BC candidate for president of the Canadian Medical Association, expands on this by describing how innovative this delivery model for medical education is for the health care industry.

“The value of this program is truly cutting edge in medical education,” he said. “[In terms of] the spiral way it is organized for going into specialties. The students get to experience things they would not get to do in other places. Those sorts of things are fundamental in how to practice.

This education delivery is a flagship model for medical education and how education can be delivered remotely. UBC has brought in information technology support for a virtual classroom.

“One of the really exciting things about being involved is the advanced technology we have available for teaching. We have seen this unbelievable buy in, enthusiasm an excitement of our clinical facility in this area all looking to improve their teaching skills. It speaks to the spirit of the work that is being done,” said Dr. Michael Purdon, the executive medical director for Interior Health and lead for faculty development at UBC.

The significance of these types of residency programs is that rural and aboriginal students can train in rural areas and not have to leave home for the city.

Nick Leinweber, a second year family medicine resident who has lived in Rossland for four years with his kindergarten-teaching wife, said that as a result of this program “I am now part of the community working from a Rossland-based and Christina Lake-based family practice. This is where my life is now.”

 

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