News at Medicine - April 2015 - Big impacts in small places

Big impacts in small places
April 2, 2015
With more than half of Newfoundland and Labrador’s 525,000 residents living in rural communities, rural medical education in the province is vastly important. 
From its beginning, the Faculty of Medicine has had a sharp focus on rural medicine as both an opportunity and a unique need.
Spearheading this mandate has been Dr. Mohamed Ravalia, assistant dean of the Faculty of Medicine’s Rural Medical Education Network (RMEN). A native of Zimbabwe, he came to Twillingate, N.L., more than 30 years ago and never left. He fell in love; not just with his future wife, Dianne, but with the community, too.
“Twillingate offered a unique practice environment and I was fortunate enough to meet Dianne there,” he said. “We felt that the community had many of the qualities that would be ideal for us to raise our family.”
The RMEN is an important network that provides oversight for the distributed educational activities carried out in the regional/rural settings. Dr. Ravalia began to recognize a pattern: students from both rural and urban backgrounds are more likely to enter rural practice if they have good rural learning experiences. It is for this reason that medical students spend time in rural and coastal locations in all four years of their medical education in the MD program at Memorial.
Dr. Ravs, as he is known around the hospital, is fully committed to Twillingate and rural medical education. This commitment is evident in the medical education milieu at the Notre Dame Bay Memorial Health Centre, where, with the additional support of dedicated colleagues, students and residents practise in a supportive, empathic environment.
“The expansion of our medical school and our rural mandate translates to the continued growth of RMEN,” said Dr. Ravalia. “Our hope is that as students and residents are afforded greater exposure to practice environments in rural and remote communities, many will choose to pursue careers in rural medicine. Creating a pipeline to practice has been successful in several communities, and having a network in place that offers support to our trainees is a crucial part of this equation.”
Dr. Mike Keough, a class of 2008 Memorial graduate, is a testament to this. He has been working in Twillingate ever since he finished his family medicine residency in 2010. 
“I was here in Twillingate as a resident and fell in love with the community. Dr. Ravalia played a large role in that – he’s a wonderful preceptor and creates a comfortable, supportive environment for residents and his patients.”
It’s not just the medical students who have noticed Dr. Ravalia’s dedication and exceptional work – the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada has consistently viewed Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine as a leader in rural medical education and bestowed its prestigious Keith Award to the faculty three times since its creation in 2000, most recently in 2010. In 2008 the faculty also received the society’s Rural Education Award in recognition of excellence in producing MD graduates headed for a career in rural medicine. 
While the RMEN has helped to increase opportunities for physicians to become an integrated part of the medical education and experience rural medicine, Dr. Ravalia feels there is still more to be done. 
“My team will continue to work diligently to ensure that the health and welfare of our trainees and preceptors is maintained and that the educational experience meets accreditation standards. We are a rural province and we have a social justice mandate to ensure that our citizens are afforded equity when it comes to health-care access and provision.”