Homegrown doc program addresses physician shortage

Suzanne Legue

image“If we can just get them to spend some time in our community, they will never want to leave!�

And who can argue with that logic?
Janice Skot, RVH’s President and CEO made that comment to elected officials recently while announcing that Royal Victoria Hospital has been chosen as an official teaching site of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine.

Beginning next summer, medical residents will train at RVH as part of the new Family Medicine Residency Program – their last stop of the way to becoming a family doctor.
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. And it’s news that has Dr. Stu Murdoch very excited.
Dr. Murdoch is Chief of Family Medicine at Royal Victoria Hospital, as well as the medical director of the new program, and he’s passionate about bringing new doctors to Barrie. He describes a program where medical residents will spend two years working closely with RVH’s specialists, while receiving hands-on, real-life experience in a family medicine clinic.
“They’ll have their own caseload of 300 patients, many of whom don’t currently have a family physician,� Dr. Murdoch explains. “The clinic is going to mimic what real-life medicine is all about. And those medical residents will keep those patients when they graduate.�
Over the past few years, the Barrie and Area Physician Recruitment Task Force has done a yeoman’s job of bringing family docs to the area. With support from RVH, the Greater Barrie Chamber of Commerce, the City of Barrie, Town of Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Springwater Townships, the Task Force has successfully recruited 129 family doctors since 2001.
But it’s not enough.
Christie Cadotte, physician recruitment coordinator, estimates the Barrie-area still needs as many as 20 more family physicians. That’s where the Family Medicine Residency Program comes in.
According to Dr. Murdoch, statistics show that up to half of all medical residents stay in the communities where they receive their training. By 2012, 18 residents will be training at RVH and if half those doctors hang out their shingle somewhere in our region, the impact on our ‘doctor drought’ will be significant.  
This exciting partnership with the U of T also means the hospital will have access to university resources and research opportunities, and it will ensure physicians and hospital staff remain up-to-date with technology and knowledge.
“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.�
Nothing like a keen, young medical resident to keep doctors on their toes!
Of course, teaching is not new to RVH or its staff. This year over 800 students will receive some of their training at the hospital. Most of them will be 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.
The Family Medicine Residency Program will be housed in a temporary location beginning next July, but will be located on hospital property once the Phase 1 Expansion Project opens in 2011/12.
• Suzanne Legue is Royal Victoria Hospital’s Senior Director of Corporate Communications.

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