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Rural roots

U of M to boost physician training throughout Manitoba

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Wave, May / June 2013

The University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Medicine is one of 17 medical schools across Canada – and one of only five in Western Canada.

Our vital role in Manitoba is broad: we are committed to research, community service, and educating and training physicians, physician assistants and rehabilitation professionals to meet the health-care needs of all Manitobans across the province.

We have been working closely with the Province of Manitoba to expand our distributed medical education sites. In early May, the Manitoba government announced 15 new medical residency positions, including eight new Family Medicine residencies in rural Manitoba in Brandon, Morden/Winkler and Steinbach.

This followed recommendations from the Brandon Medical Education Study announced last summer by Advanced Education and Literacy Minister Erin Selby and Health Minister Theresa Oswald.

The study recommended focusing first on post-graduate medical training in Brandon and other rural communities by creating more medical residencies. In addition to these new positions, we currently offer nine residency positions in our Family Medicine Rural Stream in Dauphin and Brandon, and 15 residency spaces in our Family Medicine Northern/ Remote Stream.

The Family Medicine Northern/Remote Stream Residency Program is an innovative initiative designed to address physician shortages and recruit and retain primary care physicians in rural and northern communities.

The residents in this stream complete two years of family medicine training, consisting of approximately 16 months of training in Winnipeg at the Health Sciences Centre-affiliated Northern Connection Medical Centre, and eight months of training in northern or remote communities in Manitoba, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

The Brandon Medical Education Study also recommended creating community campuses with clinical teaching units for third- and fourth-year medical students interested in rural practice.

As well, the study encouraged further assessment of whether additional medical school seats are required in the province and the potential for those seats to form a satellite medical campus in Brandon and possibly other rural communities in the future.

To that end, I am appointing two Brandon-based deans: associate dean and assistant dean of the Brandon Satellite Program, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba. They will be responsible for leading the implementation of an increased number of Brandon-area residency positions and enhancing the availability of elective learning opportunities for thirdand fourth-year medical students.

While family medicine residency training is expanding July 1 in Brandon, our new associate dean and assistant dean will be looking at the possibility of adding primary specialty residency positions such as psychiatry, opthalmology and surgery in the future.

We are at a critical time in the delivery of medical education in this province, and our Brandon Satellite Program offers an exciting opportunity for our students, residents and indeed for our rural physicians to take on academic roles in the Faculty.

The ultimate goal is to train physicians who will practise in under-served rural and northern communities across this province.

Over the last several years, the Faculty of Medicine has sought to enhance the representation of rural students in our medical school. A new admissions process, introduced in 2009, assigns positive value on applicants with "rurality" attributes.

"Rurality" is defined as graduation from a rural high school, rural roots, work experience in a rural environment, or rural volunteer or leadership experience. This initiative is supported by findings that medical students who come from a rural background are more likely to relocate and practise in rural areas after graduation.

Since 2009, approximately 40 per cent of each medical school class is comprised of students with rural attributes. A rural medical education working group is now being established, including representatives from our Faculty, Brandon University and other partners to support implementing recommendations from the study.

As we expand our distributed medical education sites around Manitoba, we are leading site visits for Faculty of Medicine department heads and program directors in the upcoming academic year to Brandon, Morden/Winkler, Notre Dame de Lourdes, Steinbach, Ste. Anne, Dauphin, The Pas, Thompson and Flin Flon.

During the site visit, we will meet with regional health authority CEOs, site medical directors, allied health, preceptors, and administrators of the respective rural and northern health authorities to establish ongoing collaborative relationships that will be in the best interests of training our medical students and residents.

I am confident our visits will enable our faculty leaders to better understand the geography of various site locations and identify any challenges that may exist for ensuring optimum clinical exposures during the learning experience.

I am also confident that our efforts, and those of the Province of Manitoba, will be a win-win for medical students, residents, rural physicians and, most of all, patients in rural communities throughout Manitoba.

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