News at Medicine - July 2020 - Rural practice awards: Faculty of Medicine matches most rural residents in Canada

Rural practice awards: Faculty of Medicine matches most rural residents in Canada
July 10, 2020
Like many who come from small towns, the demand for family physicians in rural areas is something Dr. Jenna Paul has always been aware of.

Coming from a community of about 300, the recent Memorial University graduate knows firsthand that rural communities are not every doctor’s first choice. But Dr. Paul is about to become part of the solution. She’s just completed her doctor of medicine (MD) program and is beginning her residency in Central Newfoundland.
Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine is an exception when it comes to producing rural doctors and Dr. Paul is one of many graduating medical students who will be doing the next level of their education in a rural area. In fact, 66 per cent of family medicine residents at Memorial matched to rural areas; a fact that has once again earned the faculty the Rural Medical Education Award from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC).

Every year the SRPC awards the Rural Medical Education Award to a Canadian undergraduate medical program which has excelled in producing graduates headed for a career in rural medicine in the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) matching program.

Scope of practice

Dr. Paul has already had lots of practice in rural medicine. During her MD education, she completed her family medicine rotation in Port-Aux-Basques, a place like many in NL where the hospital services a large rural area with only family doctors and no specialists for hundreds of kilometers.

The Whiteway, NL native saw how family doctors practice a full scope; from minor procedures to long term care and everything in between. Family physicians like Dr. Paul get creative to avoid sending a patient from Port-Aux-Basques to St. John’s in the middle of the night.

“I really enjoyed how the variety in practice allowed each day to be completely different and I was learning something new every day,” Dr. Paul noted. “I also love how family doctors get to form lifelong relationships with their patients and provide care to a variety of age groups. Family doctors play a huge role in their communities when it comes to advocacy and health promotion, which is very important given our aging population here in NL.”

Lifestyle choice

Dr. Paul also likes the comradery of a close knit group who get to know one another and rely on each other for support, often participating in activities together like community events outside the hospital.
And she likes the pace of life in a rural area. “I found it a lot easier while living in rural NL on my core clerkship rotations to get into a daily routine, to eat healthier, to get outside and to schedule exercise around my daily clinical duties.”

Hiking in Port-Aux-Basques, downhill skiing in Corner Brook and Clarenville, and snowshoeing with friends in Grand Falls Windsor are a few of the activities Paul enjoyed during her education.

Unique program

Paul believes it was her education at Memorial that solidified her interested in rural medicine. Faculty of Medicine students are exposed early on in a first year, pre-clerkship community visit and a black bag placement in second year. In addition, the faculty’s postgraduate residency training program in family medicine is a unique training model that includes stream sites in Newfoundland and Labrador ranging from the eastern, central and western regions, as well as the NorFam training centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador, and the Nunafam residency in Nunavut, encouraging would-be residents to choose more remote areas.

This is the second year in a row and third time in 11 years that Memorial has received this award. The faculty first won the Rural Education Award in 2008 and has also been awarded the SRPC Keith Award seven times for excelling in producing rural doctors ten years after graduation.

Faculty and students recognized

Dr. Peter Barnes, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine based in Botwood, NL, received a Rural Service Award. A recognition given to SRPC physician members of five years or longer who live and work in rural Canada and have served their rural communities for 10 years or longer.

Memorial also received two Student and Resident Leadership Awards. Third year MD student Aanchal Ralhan of Torbay, and Dr. Kerry-Lynn Williams, a second year resident in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, are being recognized for their demonstrated interest in rural medicine.