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    There’s no comfort quite like a quilt. Beyond warmth, quilts have long played a unique role in uniting people, from community knitting-groups to story quilts. Now, a group of students from UBC’s Northern Medical Program have joined together in their down time to knit blankets for cancer patients. Many members of the community have donated squares (and supplies) which the students incorporate in the quilts. Completed quilts are given to patients, accompanied by a note of encouragement to help them on their difficult journey through treatment and recovery. It’s a story sure to “warm” your heart.

    We are pleased to welcome Dr. Geoffrey Payne, Regional Associate Dean, Northern BC, as a guest contributor to the blog. Dr. Payne provides insight on how the Northern Medical Program and its partners are working to improve access to care in  rural communities.

    Re: Doctor shortage in northern B.C. ongoing concern By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun March 17, 2012

    We share the concerns of the community of Fort St. James over physician shortages, and recognize the challenges faced by Dr. Paul Stent as one of the community’s only care providers. Sadly, many communities in the north, like other underserved areas of the province, are under similar strain.

    The UBC Northern Medical Program opened its doors at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George in 2004 with the goal of educating physicians in the north, where young doctors-in-training can understand the unique challenges – and rewards – of working in rural medicine and become part of the community they may one day serve. We are proud to say that this May, the NMP will graduate its 5th class, with more than 130 MD’s having received their training in northern communities, and more than half of our graduates are choosing to pursue careers as family physicians.

    These graduates must complete residency training – typically spanning two to seven years – before they are eligible to be licensed to practice (editor’s note: see the Physician Training Timeline graphic) . We have already seen NMP grads from 2008 through 2010 complete Family Practice training and return to northern communities. Currently, thirteen NMP graduates are practicing family medicine in rural and northern areas.

    Furthermore, our northern family practice residency programs in Prince George, Terrace and Fort St. John demonstrate high-quality training, and offer MDs the opportunity to complete postgraduate training in these unique communities.

    Return of Service contracts have not always produced long-term results for recruiting and retaining doctors in rural communities across Canada and elsewhere in the world. We are convinced that distributed medical training – where physicians live, learn and establish strong roots in these communities – presents one of the most promising prospects of meaningful and long-term engagement and service of medical professionals in underserved areas. This, along with ongoing collaborative efforts with Northern Health, the Northern Medical Program and local physicians on projects to improve recruitment, retention and mentorship for new physicians, will contribute to a sustainable system and high quality care these communities deserve.

    Dr. Geoffrey Payne

    (For more info, see this  story on NMP grads in the Prince George Citizen, and a UNBC profile of several grads working in rural communities.)

    The first class from the distributed and expanded UBC MD program graduated in 2008. Many people, like the CBC’s Natalie Clancy, have wondered what happened to them.

    While obtaining an MD degree is a significant achievement, additional training is required before an MD can go into practice.  MD graduates enter residency training programs which range from two to seven years.

    Family Practice residents complete two years of training. Many choose to do an optional third year of enhanced skills training, in areas such as emergency medicine or obstetrics. Some may choose to do locums, filling in temporarily for physicians on leave, to gain additional experience before setting up practice. And some may pursue aid work in Canada, or around the world, before returning to a community to establish practice.

    For MDs choosing resident specialties such as orthopedics, pediatrics, surgery, internal medicine, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, training programs can take anywhere from four to seven years. Often, specialists will undertake additional fellowship training upon completion of their resident program to learn advanced skills, or conduct research. Some specialists will extend their training to focus on a sub-specialty, like forensic pathology, sports medicine, palliative medicine, or medical oncology (Here’s a handy list of specialties and sub-specialties).

    And it is important to remember that physicians, though special, are humans just like the rest of us. Many take time to get married, have kids, do a little traveling, live a little. After ten to fifteen years of advanced education, wouldn’t you?

    Thanks to the UBC Faculty of Medicine Evaluation Studies Unit for the Training Time Line graphic!

    The UBC Medical Journal is accepting submissions for the Fall 2011 issue. To learn more, visit

    The UBC Medical Journal (UBCMJ) is an internationally recognized student-run academic journal with the goal of engaging students in a dialogue in medicine. The UBCMJ provides an amazing opportunity to:
    • To publish a commentary, review or research in a peer-reviewed journal
    • To learn about the submission and review process
    • To stimulate dialogue on medical issues that matter to you
    • To enhance your resume and applications for graduate studies or professional programs

    Submission genres include:
    • Academic Research
    • Reviews
    • Commentaries with a medical focus
    • Global Health
    • Case Reports

    The UBCMJ publishes issues every March and September, submission deadlines for each issue are about six months prior to publication; see for deadlines

    First Nations Health Council Celebrates Partnerships Improving Aboriginal Health

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    The First Nations Health Council’s “One Body, One Mind, One Spirit: Pathways to Wellness” conference in February included a potlach to celebrate the completion of a carving project, which will be installed in the lobby at the University Hospital of Northern BC, in Prince George. Master carver Peter George and apprentice Clayton Gauthier worked with local artisans, children, youth, elders, band members and students from the Northern Medical Program to create the carving, and it is a beautiful work. There are number of UBC Faculty members in the video, including Dr. Gabor Mate, and Regional Associate Dean, Northern, Dr. David Snadden (who also receives a very nice blanket!), as well as Sheldon Kennedy, former NHL player. It’s great to see partnerships, such as those between the Northern Medical Program, Northern Health, and the First Nations Health Council, coming together to explore ways to improve health. Congratulations to everyone!

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    NMP Class of ’08 setting up shop in the North!

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    The Fall 2010 edition of UNBC’s Update magazine features profiles of several 2008 Northern Medical Program graduates who have completed residency training and have returned to Northern communities to practice medicine. Hear how graduates Shona Penhale, Heather Smith, Jennifer Parker and Brian Hillhouse are providing vital care to patients in Northern BC.

    [To download a copy,  click on the image.]

    The School of Population and Public Health now has a home!

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    The School of Population and Public Health (SPPH) celebrated the grand opening of its new building at 2206 East Mall Nov. 25.

    For more from the SPPH grand opening event, visit

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    Dr. Adele Diamond on APR’s Being

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    SoundSeen: In the Room with Adele Diamond from Being on Vimeo.

    Dr. Adele Diamond, a UBC faculty member in the Department of Psychiatry, and Canada Research Chair Tier 1, is a leader in the burgeoning field of developmental cognitive neuroscience. She recently sat down with Krista Tippet, host of American Public Radio’s Being to discuss what cognitive science can tell us about education. The full interview is presented here; visit the Being website to listen to, or download the podcast.

    Allies in Health Care: Thursday, October 28, 2010

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    On October 28, UBC will host Allies in Health Care: 2nd Annual Community and Patient Fair for Health Professional Education as part of UBC Celebrate Learning Week.

    Allies in Health Care is a one-day event that connects community-based organizations, patient support groups, and individuals involved in these agencies with students and faculty at UBC. The Fair recognizes the unique expertise and role of people from the community in the education of health professionals and promotes meaningful partnerships between UBC and the communities it serves.
    The Fair will include interactive patient panels, informative booths from over 30 community-based health and patient support organizations, a chance to learn about a wide variety of community resources and to speak with people living with chronic conditions. Register on the day and enter the door prize draw (winners announced every hour).

    We recommend that you sign up for the patient panels ahead of time, as spaces are limited. During these 45-min panels, 2-3 patients or community members talk about their experiences, after which you get a chance to ask your questions.

    The themes of the panels are:
    Experiences of Chronic Health Concerns (12:00pm-12:45pm, LSC 1410)
    Experiences of the Health Care System (1:00pm-1:45pm, LSC 1410)
    Barriers to Communication (2:00pm-2:45pm, LSC 1410)

    Panel sign-up will be available beginning 8 October, 2010 at; you can also e-mail the project coordinator at to reserve your spot.

    Feedback from last year’s Fair was overwhelmingly positive and this year’s Fair promises to be bigger and better—with more community organizations, more prizes, and fantastic speakers for the patient panels. Don’t miss it!

    What: Allies in Health Care: the 2nd Annual Community and Patient Fair for Health Professional Education
    Where: West Atrium of the Life Sciences Centre, 2350 Health Sciences Mall, UBC, Point Grey campus
    When: Thursday 28 October 2010: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

    amednews: New tactics for diversity: Creating doctors from all racial, ethnic groups :: Oct. 4, 2010 … American Medical News.

    I found Carolyne Krupa’s excellent article on diversity in medical education yesterday thanks to Twitter. The  topic is gaining importance and visibility as government officials, and medical faculties across North America look to fulfill their social mandates, and supply communities with physicians best suited to serve the people. Interestingly enough,  Dr. Joe Finkler, Associate Dean, MD Undergraduate Admissions, has also recently taken up this cause within the UBC MD undergraduate program. He made headlines this summer thanks to the Georgia Straight feature, “UBC medical school seeks less-affluent students”, where Dr. Finkler discussed his plans to make UBC the first university in Canada to address the socio-economic disparity among MD trainees.

    As Georgia Straight author John Azpini points out,  there is growing concern among members of the medical profession around social accountability and diversity, not just racial but also socio-economic. The Association of Faculties of Medicine Canada, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education have all taken up this topic in recent publications and discussions. UBC’s distributed MD undergraduate program has made great strides in training students in rural and under-served areas of the province, increasing the number of Aboriginal students in medicine, and incorporating the health needs of special populations in MD training–areas that will be further strengthened as the new MD undergraduate program Curriculum Renewal implementation gets underway.

    But correcting socio-economic disparity may prove tricky. Judging from the comments left by online readers of the Georgia Straight article, opinions and feelings are quite intense, and surmounting the cultural, and economic hurdles facing poorer students will not be easy. Despite the opinions around how “we” get there, it is hard to argue with Dr. Finkler’s closing remarks: “People should have access to be whatever their potential suggests that they could be,” he says. “We want a social project of mentoring and guiding high-school students. We want to go out and say, ‘Look at me—this is what I’ve done, and you can do it too. And we’ll show you how.’ ”

    If you find these articles thought-provoking, please take a minute to leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you!

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