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New video conveys the fun, friendships, and learning benefits of SMA Roadmap Program

A new video captures the camaraderie, communities, and clinical skill-building that are all part of the Saskatchewan Medical Association’s (SMA) popular Roadmap Program, which provides medical students and residents with a taste of life and practice in the province’s rural centres. 

The fast-paced video features interview clips of current medical students and the program’s two physician mentors, Drs. Chelsea Wilgenbusch and Stephanie Nyberg -- family doctors in Melfort who met, became best friends, and chose rural medicine after taking part in the Roadmap Program. The Roadmap Program is funded by the SMA’s Committee on Rural and Regional Practice.

Through the program, which has been running for over eight years now, medical learners make weekend day trips to smaller centres around the province, where they spend time with local physicians and other health-care providers, tour local health facilities, and practise basic clinical skills such as casting and suturing. As well, students get to sample the local community and its culture through tours and social activities.

The SMA’s new video also features still photos and video clips taken at different Roadmap events over the past few years. In addition to rural visits, the program includes a variety of appreciation events - such as dinners, Rider and Rush games, a Casino Night, and more - as well as contests and sponsorships. The Roadmap Program is intended to support recruitment and retention of physicians in rural Saskatchewan. 

Dr. Daniel Garcia got a taste of Estevan on a Roadmap tour, which led him to choose that community to begin his medical career. “I felt a level of familiarity with Estevan because of the Roadmap tour,” says Garcia. “There was a feeling of comfort having seen the community in person before deciding where to start my practice. The community of Estevan, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and the foundation have been extremely helpful in facilitating my transition to practice and welcoming me and my wife to their community. They ensured Estevan would be a place we both could call home for the future.”

Garcia’s initial visit to Estevan also established a connection with Greg Hoffort and his team at St. Joseph’s, which led to additional site visits during his last year of residency and rural placements. Those gave him a better sense of what rural practice would be like. 

Hoffort, who is executive director at St. Joseph’s Hospital, said once Garcia started showing interest in Estevan, he and his colleagues worked to establish a relationship with the then first-year resident. The back-and-forth increased the closer Garcia got to completing his residency. “It truly started with the Roadmap trip,” says Hoffort. “I’m quite sure Daniel would not have come here had it not been for the tour.”

Most medical students who visit Estevan as part of a Roadmap tour don’t know much about the city, the hospital, or the surrounding region, according to Hoffort. “They’re surprised we have a hospital with the services that we do, full diagnostics, including CT scan, that we have a fully independent obstetrics ward in a district hospital, and even the recreation facilities in our community.”

The visits also expose students to the community and surrounding area. “We make an effort to get them out to see the lakes, the camping, the outdoor opportunities there are here,” Hoffort said. “We do have some real gems here in southeast Saskatchewan. We maybe open up a few minds to the fact there might be a little more here than they first thought.”

Delilah Dueck, the SMA’s coordinator of community engagement, says the rural visits that are part of the Roadmap Program provide medical learners with a better sense of some of the benefits and opportunities that come with pursuing a career in rural medicine. “While we’ve had to pause the trips and other events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this new video will whet medical learners’ appetites to sign up and participate once things resume.”

A native of Ontario, Garcia says the Roadmap tours helped him gain an appreciation for all that rural life and practice in Saskatchewan has to offer. “It opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of rural generalist medicine where communities rely greatly on the services of their health-care providers,” he says. “It also shed light on the outdoor beauty and endless opportunities for everyone in rural communities – whether it’s time at the lake, hiking in a regional park, or golfing at the golf course.”

For more information about the Roadmap Program, contact Delilah Dueck by phone (306 657 4568 / 306 230 7587 cell) or email (delilah.dueck@sma.sk.ca). 

 

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