University of Calgary family medicine rural residencies are based out of two main locations: Lethbridge and Medicine Hat. In these locations, residents gain experience in specialty rotations such as orthopedics, internal medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry and obstetrics/gynecology. While in rotations at their home site of Lethbridge or Medicine Hat, residents still have experience in their family medicine continuity clinic. Family medicine rotation locations are located throughout southern and central Alberta, Yellowknife and Whitehorse. Pediatric emergency medicine and ICU rotations are completed in Calgary. Each of the sites offer lots of opportunities for electives. U of C rural residents complete 10 months of training in rural communities.
"We want to attract residents who are enthusiastic about rural medicine,” says Dr. Jim Soetaert, Resident Physician (PGY-2) and Co-Chief Resident, U of C Rural Family Medicine. “Our rural residents want to try new things and explore unique communities throughout southern Alberta. Rural medicine requires a diverse set of skills, so a rural candidate must be driven and eager to take on new experiences.”
“Our residents are usually the only learner on a service,” adds Dr. Elaine Godwin, who is a family physician and the Lethbridge Site Director. “The training is learner-based as opposed to service-based. This situation creates flexibility for scheduling. There is less competition for procedures and there are many one-to-one teaching/learning opportunities.”
In the last year of a medical student's third or fourth year program, they have to apply to a residency. That is, they must choose a specialty to pursue, such as general surgery or internal medicine, in order to become licensed physicians. The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) is a national organization that provides the mandatory matching service for medical residency training throughout Canada. They do not decide who gets chosen or the criteria by which applicants are selected, but rather they provide the service and platform that makes the match possible.
Timelines for selection are set by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), which is essentially comprised of the deans of the faculties of medicine. The match period includes time for candidates to review all the information on the CaRMS website about the programs, a deadline for their applications and an interview period. Due to COVID, interviews will not be until March (they are usually in January). Applications for the desired specialty must be submitted to CaRMS by February 8.
If an applicant is interested in rural family medicine and joins an Alberta rural training program, they will be wholeheartedly connected to rural communities throughout the two years. The preceptors and staff embrace residents and allow them to act as full-fledged members of the team. Rural family medicine training is unlike anything in that it instills connection with a sense of belonging, purpose and responsibility in a resident from day one.
In summary, Dr. Morros stresses that rural communities deserve excellent family physicians. The U of A wants to attract applicants who demonstrate the skills and attributes necessary to become excellent family physicians. “This would include superior clinical skills, communication and professionalism. Additionally, of course, and very importantly, we want to attract applicants who show a genuine enthusiasm for training and subsequently practicing and living in a rural or remote community.”
On behalf of the U of C, Dr. Soetaert concludes: “People who apply to a rural program should genuinely see themselves enjoying living in a rural community. This residency gives you a great start to a career and lifestyle full of all-encompassing medicine, time in the outdoors and – depending on the location – exceptional access to the mountains.”
Banner image credit: Government of Northwest Territories