It's farm country for med students
By Clare Elias
Western is expanding in its medical education with the implementation of the Rural Undergraduate Medical Education Week, designed to expose Western's medicine students to new opportunities and experiences.
The week-long program was put into effect on Monday. "All indications are that it's a success," said James Rourke, director of the Southwestern Ontario Regional Medicine Unit and associate professor of family medicine at Western.
SWORM has placed 97 first-year medicine students in 33 hospitals in the southwestern Ontario area in order to encourage more physicians to practice in rural areas.
"The government has a priority to get a greater number of rural doctors. These communities are short on physicians and this program will give training and more exposure to rural practice," Rourke said.
The experience in first year is a part of a larger program which will expand into upper years. Rourke said the hope is both third and fourth-year medical students will take rural electives to become well-rounded physicians.
"The rural hospital sees different things and manages bigger problems where the larger hospitals tend to get specialized," said John Howard, associate dean of undergraduate medicine. "In rural hospitals it's difficult to get access you can't always call upon a neurologist and therefore have to give a higher level of care."
Gabriella Ross, a staff nurse at Four Counties General Hospital in Newbery and coordinator of SWORM, deemed the week a success. "It gives a full spectrum of care, the students are exposed to different settings instead of the traditional hospital settings."
The undergraduates are not only exposed to the hospital environment but are also given a feel for the communal life. "Health care must be met locally. We're giving them exposure to the community itself," she said.
Jennifer Rossett, a first-year medicine student, said she enjoyed learning the different aspects of the rural surroundings. "The life here is very different from the family physician in Toronto hospitals I've started thinking about a rural setting," she said.