Wingham hosts medical students on Discovery Week - June 8, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Four first-year medical students toured North Huron and all it has to offer inside and out of the hospital and those few days left quite the impression.
The Wingham and Area Health Professionals Recruitment Committee hosted a special meal and outreach event for the students on Thursday, June 1 at the new Royal Oaks Medical Centre (the former Wingham Public School). Present were members of the committee, local politicians and the students themselves, who said they were impressed with what they saw in Wingham and its surrounding area.
The four students came to Wingham through Discovery Week, which is an important outreach activity that occurs every year through the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry. The annual tradition sends over 150 first-year medical students to 30 communities in southwestern Ontario. The program aims to get students hands-on experience in communities beyond large city centres like London, Sarnia and Windsor.
The students are Aaron Truesdell, Sahil Sharma, Brian Robertson and Gaya Sivakumar.
Truesdell is a British Columbia native who attends the school’s Windsor campus and has an interest in practicing in the emergency room and perhaps specializing in ear/nose/throat, internal medicine or cardiology.
Sharma is from Windsor originally and attends school in his hometown. He has an interest in general surgery.
Robertson is from Woodstock. He attends the London campus and is interesting in pursuing psychiatry and neurology.
Sivakumar is from Windsor originally and attends the school’s London campus. She has an interest in emergency room practice, family medicine and OB/GYN.
Jan McKague, the committee’s physician recruitment officer, says she is facing a challenging time in bringing doctors to the area. Not only has her budget been slashed for this year, but she says that with a modern doctor’s patient roster, she’s having to find two doctors to replace one current practicing doctor.
This is due to a number of factors, including an emphasis on a doctor’s quality of life and anticipated free time, as well as smaller patient rosters to ensure they don’t get overrun and overworked.
The four students arrived in North Huron on Monday, May 29 and their journey began with the tour of the new Wingham medical centre.
Throughout the following days, the students would shadow a number of doctors at the medical centre and at the Wingham and Area Hospital, while also attending dinners at the homes of several local doctors.
During their free time, McKague showed the students around the municipality, taking them for a tour of a modern dairy barn, a meeting with a local Mennonite community leader and a tour of the community’s church and horseback riding at Turkey Run Ranch.
Sivakumar said she found the week particularly interesting. Learning about a specific, rural community and its individual nuances and challenges is an important part of community medicine.
For example, she said, one quarter of the patients treated out of the Wingham catchment area are either Mennonite or Amish and are not recognized by the Ministry of Health. Knowing about that community and specific challenges associated with treating those patients, she said, was a real eye-opener.
Sharma said that in school, students are taught that everything in today’s world of modern medicine is so specialized. In a rural community like Wingham, doctors serve as jacks of all trade and serve more purposes than specialists in large city centres.
This community approach to medicine is one that excited Truesdell. A community-based doctor in a rural community is exactly the direction in which he hopes to take his career.
Originally from a small town, Truesdell said he has always hoped a career in medicine would facilitate a return to small town life for him. He said he found the Wingham experience to be very helpful and a completely different type of learning than what is done in a medical school classroom.
Truesdell said that at the students’ current point in medical school, things are very specialized. For example, they just finished a period where they learned everything there is to know about blood. They will now move on to cardiology.
Coming to Wingham and working with family doctors and emergency room doctors, both practices where literally any issue could come through the door on any given day was a fascinating way to learn about medicine, he said.
The students agreed that the committee did a great job of arranging the visit and showing off the North Huron community.
In an interview after the Discovery Week visit, McKague said that she felt the whole four days went well. She said that the students reacted well to the experiences presented both in and out of the world of medicine, which hasn’t always been the case.
She said she felt some promise with the group, but added that it can be difficult with first-year medical students, who are so early in their educational journey. McKague, however, felt that the students were really engaged in the process, even to the extent that some returned to the hospital after-hours on their free time to spend more time with emergency room doctors.