Rural practice

(Edmonton) This weekend Bailey Adams will pack up and leave the city she grew up in for small-town Alberta. Adams is one of nine second-year medical students taking part in the Preclinical Networked Medical Education program put on by the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.

“I want to see how I handle being away from my support group, including my core group of friends at university and my family,” said Adams. “This [distance learning program] is nice though because we have classmates going with us.”

One of those classmates is Hayley Turnbull. She’s already made the move away from her family in Saskatoon, but wants to understand what rural life is like for physicians.

“I’m interested in doing rural and remote medicine in Canada, and I’m really interested in global health,” said Turnbull. “The whole concept of practising medicine with limited resources is something I’m sure I’ll be dealing with for my career. I just wanted to get more experience; you hear about [disparities in geographical health care] but I think it’s different when you’re living it.”

Turnbull is going to Hinton with three other classmates, while Adams will head to Peace River with four classmates for a month; they’ll study the gastrointestinal portion of their curriculum on site in rural Alberta.

Adams is particularly pleased with being placed in Peace River because of the French-speaking population in the area. She did her undergraduate degree in French at Campus Saint-Jean and has been thinking about wanting to move to Northern Alberta to help serve the French-speaking patients.

“I’m excited to work with patients and seeing the smile on their face when you change languages and start speaking French with them,” said Adams.

This is the second year of the Preclinical Networked Medical Education program. It is building on the Campus Alberta initiative as the PNME enables the faculty to deliver medical school courses at locations distant from the U of A campus, says Jill Konkin, associate dean, community engagement, in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The faculty is making every effort to develop initiatives which will help fill a void for rural physicians, she said, and that it has been shown that exposing these students to that environment early in their education has been shown to help influence their career decisions.

“The way to get city folks interested in rural living is to have them have a look at it and realize that [rural medicine] is a fun and exciting career,” said Konkin.

“I’m torn between becoming a generalist and working in pediatrics,” admits Adams. “If I become a generalist I either want to do rural medicine or, if I stay in a bigger centre, I want to focus my work, at least one day a week, on patients with Down syndrome.”