Delivering exceptional teaching may ease doctor shortage in Barrie

By Donna Danyluk

If you build it, they will come – doctors that is. And once they get here, they won’t want to leave.

That’s the thinking behind Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital’s Family Medicine Residency Program. Beginning in June 2009, RVH will become an official teaching site of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine. This program is the last stop for medical residents training to become family doctors.

“Statistics show that up to half of the residents stay in the communities they train in. That could make a huge impact on the doctor shortage we are experiencing,� said Dr. Stuart Murdoch, Chief of Family Medicine at RVH, as well as the medical director of the new program.

For a community where at least a quarter of the population, or a staggering 30,000 people, don’t have a family doctor, this is great news.

“Each of the medical residents will have their own caseload of 300 patients, many of whom don’t currently have a family physician. The clinic is going to mimic what real-life medicine is all about. And those medical residents will keep those patients when they graduate,� said Murdoch.

Mackenzie Blake says “this kind of program just makes so much sense.�

The University of Ottawa medical student is currently at RVH on a clinical rotation through the Rural Ontario Medical program (ROMP). She’s excited about the new program, planning to apply and passionate about the hands-on training aspect.

“It’s important to be well-informed and have a strong knowledge base in medicine, but hands-on, clinical experience is the glue that holds all the paper in the text books together,� said Blake. “Having an actual patient load automatically makes a learner, like myself, feel a sense of responsibility and a desire to be a good physician.  Family physicians play a large role in communities, and if they can train in that community right from the beginning of residency, I think they are ahead of the game.�

Residents will receive traditional classroom training from physicians affiliated with the Barrie and Community Family Health Team, while working alongside specialists at RVH. The Family Medicine Teaching Unit will be temporarily located near RVH, with a permanent clinic to be constructed as part of the Phase 1 Expansion Project.

Of course, teaching is not new to RVH or its staff. Last year more than 850 students, and 53 medical students, received some of their training at the hospital. Most of them will become nurses through an invaluable partnership with Georgian College, but other health professionals including, occupational and physiotherapists, audiologists, radiation technologists and paramedics also train at Royal Vic.

“I think working alongside medical residents makes you a better doctor,� says Dr. Murdoch. “You’re surrounded by eager students with fresh ideas. It stimulates you and encourages you to stay up-to-date. All RVH patients will benefit from that.�

Donna Danyluk is a Public Affairs Coordinator at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie.

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