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Rural Week for First Year Medical Students Set for End of May

First-year medical students from the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine are once again spreading out across rural and northern Manitoba during the annual “Rural Week” (May 28-June 1). Rural Week 2018, coordinated by the Manitoba HealthCare Providers Network (MHCPN), the university and rural regional health authorities, provides opportunity for 114 medical students to gain first-hand experience of how rural and northern Manitoba medical practices function. It also showcases to students the many benefits of working and living in a rural/northern Manitoba area.

Interlake-Eastern RHA and physicians working within the region are once again actively partnering with Rural Week to support 21 medical students who are being placed in Arborg, Beausejour, Eriksdale, Gimli, Lac du Bonnet, Oakbank, Pinawa, Pine Falls, Selkirk and Teulon.

Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Kelvin Goertzen says the government supports efforts like Rural Week that are part of ongoing health care recruitment and retention strategies taking place province-wide.

“This is a tremendous initiative that provides great benefit to medical students,” Goertzen said. “They get valuable hands-on work experience through the clinical pieces and our health partners promote their communities as a great place to live and work. Work-life balance is such an important part of this which is evidenced by students participating in everything from fishing expeditions, nature hikes and recreational activities to learning about unique community events, festivals and other celebrated activities.”

According to Interlake-Eastern RHA CEO, Ron Van Denakker, hosting a successful Rural Week for the medical students is a combined effort.

“We’re all working to ensure these students get a real-life experience in rural practice and, at the same time, we want to ensure they have opportunities to explore what our communities have to offer in terms of recreation, relaxation and rural lifestyles. Some of these students have no idea of the benefits rural practice offers. It’s up to us to provide the memories they’ll recall when it’s time for them to consider where they want to practice,” Van Denakker said.

Students are paired with physicians who ensure they experience work in clinic, hospital and, in some cases, personal care homes and in the community. The hands-on experiences students receive are often noted as the most memorable in student evaluations.

“The experience wouldn’t be as rich for these students without the willingness of community leaders, physicians and health care staff who engage and make this a meaningful time for these students. We are thankful for this support that goes a very long way towards making the region attractive to new graduates,” Van Denakker said.

MHCPN project coordinator Wayne Heide says part of the organization’s goal is to provide medical students with exposure to the diversity that exists across rural settings.

“Rural Manitoba offers tremendous opportunity for a rewarding career and a great lifestyle, but it is only through direct experiences like Rural Week that students become aware of the possibilities,” Heide stated. “For students from an ‘urban-origin’ this may be their first real experience with rural life. For those from rural areas, it’s a chance to reinforce the positive aspects of rural life and to connect them to medical professionals that have chosen to practice rurally.”

Rural Week first started in Manitoba in 2003 as an optional experience, although it was selected by 70 per cent of the Medicine class. In 2004, Rural Week was officially approved as a component of the first year medical program and now the entire class spends one week within rural and northern Manitoba communities.
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