PREP teaches students about rural medicine

Jodi Schellenberg
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Students from the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine took advantage of the Rural Externship Program (PREP) this summer.

Samantha Holbird, a med student at the University of Saskatchewan, recently did a Rural Externship Program (PREP) rotation in the Prince Albert area.

One of the students, Samantha Holbird, did a PREP rotation in Prince Albert and Shellbrook.

“PREP is a way in the summer for second-year medical students to experience rural medicine, mostly family medicine but also we get to see some of the other specialties we might be working on in the future as well,” Holbird said.

PREP is jointly delivered by saskdocs, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) and the U of S College of Medicine.

As Holbird is from the Prince Albert area, PREP was a great opportunity and gave her a chance to experience rural medicine in her hometown.

“I grew up on an acreage just outside of P.A. on the Shellbrook highway, so I am in between both, which is why I got to do both,” she explained.

Even though she is passionate about becoming a doctor, Holbird claims there was no defining moment that made her decide to go into medicine.

“It is something that everyone always asks us and it is a really hard question because I feel like I don’t have a wonderful story as to why I chose it,” she said. “It was something I always knew I wanted to do and I was going to do.”

In Shellbrook, Holbird worked with Dr. Ajogwu, who is one of the family doctors.

“We did normal clinic stuff as well as on-call stuff at the new hospital there as well,” she said.

In Prince Albert, she worked with Dr. Ramji, Dr. DuRussel and Dr. Bulat in pediatrics at the hospital.

“It was really interesting -- I got to do (and see) a lot of stuff,” Holbird said. “The pediatrics in P.A. was awesome because I got to spend a lot of time at the hospital and kind of get to know some of the kids there.

“In Shellbrook it was really good, so we got to work in the new hospital so I got to see a lot of different things there,” she added.

Shellbrook was a bit of a different atmosphere than working in a larger centre.

“It is kind of nice because it is a small community -- the people working at the hospital seem to know all the patients so that is interesting to see,” she said.

It was a more personalized experience, as the staff and clients know each other outside of the hospital or clinic.

“All the nurses seem to know who is coming in and where they are coming from and seem to know a lot more about the patients before they meet them because they have grown up in the same community as them,” Holbird said.

One of the most interesting observations Holbird made was that people visiting the doctor in Prince Albert and Shellbrook often were from out of town and came a long distance for their appointment.

“That is a little similar to Saskatoon because they see a lot of the specialized stuff that comes from all over the place, but just to see patients every day in the family med clinic was interesting,” she said

Although the entire PREP experience was amazing, Holbird said her time in Prince Albert was her favourite because she is very interested in pediatrics.

“The whole experience was good, just to form a mentoring relationship with the doctor,” she said.

Holbird recommends the PREP program to other med students because it is a great way to spend part of the summer but also get some experience in a rural setting.

“I think it is a really good experience for people to get to do the PREP program just because with us being in Saskatoon we don’t get to see a lot of rural medicine,” she said. “It definitely made me interested in it and it is something to look at for the future.”

Since she still has a few years left at the College of Medicine, Holbird said she hasn’t decided where or what she would like to practice.

“I’m not closing any doors yet as to what I want to practice in,” she said. “It is just nice to get experience all over the place, seeing different things because we have a lot to chose from in the next few years.”

Keeping graduates in Saskatchewan

This year 40 students from the U of S participated in PREP, which is the highest rate since saskdocs inception in 2011. A total of 114 students have gone through the program.

Although the program was designed to give students a taste of rural medicine, it also helps keep more graduates in the province.

“Our government is fully committed to keeping Saskatchewan-trained medical students here in the province to practice after they graduate,” Minister Responsible for Rural and Remote Health Tim McMillan said in a press release. “We want these bright young minds to stay, contribute to our growing province and help us build an exceptional, patient-first health care system.”

The program is funded by the Ministry of Health through the Saskatchewan Medical Association’s Committee on Rural and Regional Practice.

Organizations: College of Medicine, Saskatchewan Medical Association, Ministry of Health Committee on Rural and Regional Practice

Geographic location: Shellbrook, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

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