IN the small, northwestern town of Smithers, Dr. Mallory Quinn has been busy setting up shop as a new family doctor – one of a growing number of University of British Columbia-trained doctors choosing to practise in smaller communities across the province.
“It’s an incredible experience to open a new medical practice that can help support the health care needs of patients and families in my hometown,” Quinn said.
The growing number of UBC medical graduates in towns like Smithers is due partly to the Faculty of Medicine’s province-wide medical education program. More than a third of this year’s nearly 300 graduates were educated and trained outside Vancouver, in classrooms, hospitals and clinics in northern B.C., on Vancouver Island, or in the Interior.
The innovative province-wide program – one of the first programs of its kind in Canada – was created in 2004, in partnership with the University of Northern British Columbia, the University of Victoria, and all of B.C.’s health authorities. In 2011, the program was expanded to UBC Okanagan in Kelowna.
This May, marks the tenth anniversary since the first class graduated from the distributed medical program in 2008. The program is supported by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.
“We’re improving the health of British Columbians by giving our medical students the opportunity to train – and make connections – in rural and remote areas,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “Many factors influence where a doctor decides to practise. But by broadening our students’ horizons, more of them are choosing to practise in communities where doctors have traditionally been scarce.”
More than 100 doctors now working in northern B.C. have been trained in UBC’s programs there, either as medical students or medical residents.
Quinn spent most of her four years of medical school in the North, an experience that informed her decision to return home.
“The program was invaluable. I gained a lot of exposure training in smaller communities and these experiences really opened my eyes to the challenges and benefits of rural medicine,” Quinn said. “It has always been really important for me to give back, and now, being back in Smithers as a family doctor, I’m looking forward to providing care to the community that gave me so much growing up.”