Making strides for rural health care

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Bob Hall

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The fourth Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program cohort who will be focused on education with a rurally-based tone for the next three years.

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.

“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.”

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 prerequisites 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.

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 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.

Applications for September 2018 open soon and you can find out more about the Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program at: www.selkirk.ca/program/rural-pre-medicine