Southern Medical Program students tour UBC campus

Dr. Allan Jones, regional associate dean, Interior, with some of the medical students who will be attending the program at the Okanagan campus in January. They are, from left: Ashley Shaw, Chase; Robyn Buna, Kelowna; Ellen Cai, Penticton; Christabelle Bitgood, Kelowna; Brennan Arduini, Kamloops; and Daniel Manders, Summerland. The students begin their training next week at UBC’s Vancouver campus before returning to the Interior in the New Year.

Getting their education in the Interior is important to future physicians

The Southern Medical Program (SMP) has arrived at UBC’s Okanagan campus and students are eager to start their education in the medical doctor undergraduate program. Six of the “MD Class of 2015” toured the campus this week, met with Dr. Allan Jones, regional associate dean, and were introduced to local media.

The intake of 32 students in the first year of the SMP join their colleagues from three other sites of UBC’s MD Undergraduate Program and begin their first semester in Vancouver, before returning to the BC Interior for the remainder of  their four years of medical education and training. Distribution and expansion of the MD program in the Interior is made possible by partnerships between the BC provincial government, the Faculty of Medicine and Interior Health.

“We consider UBC’s MD Program to be a provincial program now,” says Jones. “Instead of being limited to a single site, it’s four sites across the province.”

The four distinct regions include the SMP in the Interior, Vancouver Fraser Medical Program in Vancouver, the Island Medical Program in Victoria and Northern Medical Program in Prince George. The addition of the SMP brings the total number of annual medical seats in the province to 288 from 256. In their third and fourth years, the students will take clerkships at locations throughout the Interior.

The six SMP students on campus Monday say their education will benefit from studying close to home.

“I have a lot of family here,” says Daniel Manders, 20, of Summerland. “I’m really looking forward to this. It’s going to be a great career and I’ll have great family support.”

Robyn Buna, 22, of Kelowna says she looks forward to the small class sizes as well as connecting with her colleagues on other campuses via videoconferencing. “I hope there are different ways we can take our interests outside the classroom, through our learning teams and one-on-one,” she says. “I’m just excited to get started. These four years are going to go by fast.”

Christabelle Bitgood, 24, of Kelowna, says the Interior is home to her and she plans to live here after graduating as a physician. “If you are going to practice here, it’s just good sense to be taught by the physicians who are practicing here.”

Jones says this first class of the medical program in the Interior is breaking new ground. “Essentially, most of our students like the idea of being pioneers. They’re an adventurous group and I look forward to working with them.”