In its 21st year, Discovery Week will see 170 first-year medical students from Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry in 33 communities throughout southwestern Ontario to receive a hands-on learning experience in rural and regional healthcare.
Six million Canadians live in rural and remote communities, making up almost 20% of the population. The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports that less than 10% of physicians practise in those areas, but that number has been on a steady increase since 2013.
Research has shown that one of the four factors which increase the likelihood of a physician choosing to practice in rural and remote communities is a positive exposure to rural practice in medical school. At Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Discovery Week is one opportunity for medical students to work alongside healthcare practitioners and physicians in rural and remote areas to better understand what it means to practice there.
The experience offers a unique learning opportunity for these students by providing an intimate understanding of the diverse experiences which impact health and wellness in the centres within Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Distributed Education network.
This week there are 22 first-year medical students shadowing physicians and visiting patients across Lambton County as part of Discovery Week. At Bluewater Health, there are 16 students (12 in Sarnia and four in Petrolia), two at the North Lambton Community Health Centre, and four at the Rapids Family Health Team, who are gaining a better understanding of how patient care is delivered in this community.
“Discovery Week is our opportunity to showcase our hospitals and the practice opportunities that exist within our community,” says Dr. Mike Haddad, chief of staff, Bluewater Health and Western’s Medicine Academic Director for Sarnia-Lambton. “These future physicians will work side-by-side with local doctors and other healthcare providers and hopefully develop an understanding of and appreciation for the practice of medicine in Sarnia-Lambton.” The medical students will spend time in the Emergency Departments, Ambulatory Care clinics and Operating Rooms at Bluewater Health, and also in physicians’ individual offices.
“The North Lambton Community Health Centre welcomes students to learn about our comprehensive primary care model and to see the impact of how our team supports clients by including health promotion in their care and breaking down barriers of the social determinants of health,” according to its Executive Director Kathy Bresett.
“We are always so pleased to be involved with Discovery Week. This is the first real hands-on opportunity for these first-year medical students and we are proud to show them how physicians work within the team of allied health professionals to help our patients reach their most optimal level of health,” states Lynn Laidler executive director at Rapids Family Health Team.