Like many who come from small towns, the demand for family physicians in rural areas is very much on Dr. Jenna Paul’s radar.
Coming from a community of about 300, the recent Memorial graduate who hails from Whiteway, N.L., knows first-hand 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 that has excelled in producing graduates headed for a career in rural medicine in the Canadian Resident Matching Service 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 Newfoundland and Labrador where the hospital services a large area with only family doctors and no specialists for hundreds of kilometres.
“Family doctors play a huge role in their communities when it comes to advocacy and health promotion.”
During her rotation, Dr. Paul saw how family doctors practise a full scope: from minor procedures to long-term care and everything in between. Family physicians like Dr. Paul must 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 Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Dr. Paul says another benefit to practising medicine in a rural area is the resulting camaraderie of a close knit group who relies on each other for support, often participating in activities together like community events outside the hospital.
She also likes the pace.
“I found it a lot easier while living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador 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 Dr. Paul says she enjoyed during her education.
Dr. 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 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 the Rural Medical Education Award. The faculty first won the award in 2008 and has also been awarded the SRPC Keith Award seven times for excelling in producing rural doctors 10 years after graduation.
Faculty and students recognized
Dr. Peter Barnes, clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine based in Botwood, N.L., also received a Rural Service Award, a recognition given to an SRPC physician members of five years or longer who lives and works in rural Canada and has served their rural communities for 10 years or longer.
Memorial also received two Student and Resident Leadership Awards. Aanchal Ralhan, a third-year MD student from 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.