A Selkirk College pilot program has gained an important foothold in improving health care services in rural British Columbia.
The fourth Rural Pre-Medicine Program class began its three-year educational journey at the Castlegar Campus earlier this month and are now following the trail blazed by the pioneer class that started in September, 2014. The cohort-based program aims to prepare rural students for a career in medicine and other health related fields.
The fourth Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program cohort gathered at the Mir Centre for Peace on the Castlegar Campus during the week of classes. The class includes 25 students who will be focused on education with a rurally-based tone for the next three years.
“We are thrilled to see how much our inaugural graduating class has achieved,” says Rural Pre-Medicine Program Coordinator Elizabeth Lund, the driving force behind the creation of the unique post-secondary pathway. “They are an amazing group who have taken the next steps in their educational paths. They have led the way for future students and I look forward to watching them move ahead with their goals and eventually embark on exciting careers. Their success is a great example of how we can foster rural and Indigenous applicants who are typically underrepresented in admission streams at medical schools and in other health professions.”
Strong Support from the Medical Profession
The comprehensive three-year Rural Pre-Medicine Program was developed in partnership with the Doctors of BC and the provincial Ministry of Health to provide one component of a proactive solution to the rural doctor shortage across Canada. Students wanting to pursue careers in medicine are provided the opportunity to acquire the pre-requisites and training needed to apply to medicine and other health care professions.
Banking on the knowledge that students who grew up or have spent significant time in rural areas are more likely to choose careers in rural medicine, Selkirk College’s RPM Program supports these students by offering a rigorous academic schedule and non-academic curriculum, as well as an opportunity to interact with and learn from health professionals in a rural setting.
The curriculum weaves together courses tailored to eventual rural medicine with courses recommended for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Extra training is provided in soft skills such as conflict resolution, Indigenous health and healing, small business training, addictions, and interview preparation that will support their futures as rural physicians and their medical school applications.
“Doctors of BC understands that health care in our province is delivered by multiple generations of physicians,” says Dr. Alan Ruddiman, Past-President of the Doctors of BC and Co-Chair of the Provincial Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues. “When we are thinking about succession planning, we know that we would like to attract the interest of those young minds that are committed to living and working in rural British Columbia.”
Ruddiman has been a strong advocate of the program since the beginning. Seven students from the first cohort received the first ever Advanced Diploma in Rural Pre-Medicine at the Selkirk College Graduation 2017 Ceremony this past spring.
“Students come out of this program rurally sensitized,” says Ruddiman. “By having built that into their DNA and the fabric of their education, whether or not they get into medicine, how they choose to serve in health care is going to benefit them and benefit the communities they end up in.”
Exciting Options and Future for Graduates
Students who graduate from the RPM Program have the option to transfer directly into the fourth year of Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops to complete their Bachelor of Health Sciences degree or into the fourth year of a Bachelor of Science degree at Victoria’s Royal Roads University. Other transfer pathways are available at universities across Canada which allow Selkirk College graduates to pursue a wide range of degree options.
The first cohort of Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program graduates included: (L-R) Micah Beatty, Helen Ling, Jaeger Nickson, Cara Gallo, Jesse McDonald, Keri Radcliffe and Spencer Paolone (missing from photo is Brenna McKay).
“The program was valuable because what we were doing was really interesting, we were on the forefront of what a medical education looks like,” says Jesse McDonald, a member of the first cohort who is now completing her Bachelor of Science at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George. “My first year in the program was an absolute scare for me, but everyone involved in the program took time to hear me out and treat me with major respect. I have been given the tools to succeed and now I am a successful student, really comfortable with where I’m at, and really confident that I’m going to get into med school and be a great rural doctor.”
The support from the medical community in British Columbia for the RPM Program is apparent in the ongoing scholarships provided to help students achieve their academic goals. The Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues funds $25,000 in annual scholarships that provides five students with $5,000 in financial support. There are also four $1,000 scholarships for local students provided by the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice and local physicians.
“Through supporting these rural and Indigenous applicants, we hope to establish one part of a long term solution to the lack for rural and Indigenous physicians in British Columbia,” says Lund.
Applications for September 2018 open soon.