Medical students are now a common sight in Vernon Jubilee Hospital (VJH) and local family practice clinics. Officially launched in 2011, the UBC Southern Medical Program’s integrated community clerkship (ICC) program in Vernon provides a full year of front-line, in-depth clinical training experience for two third year medical students annually.
The integrated model was first introduced in Chilliwack in 2004 by UBC – one of the first medical schools to pilot the program in North America – as an alterative to training in a traditional, larger urban centre. Since 2004, the program has expanded to include six different communities across BC including Vernon, Trail, Duncan, Terrace, Fort St. John, and Chilliwack.
“The program offers a tremendous opportunity for physician recruitment and retention for the Vernon community,” says Dr. Allison Rankin, general practitioner in oncology and ICC Site Director. “We are able to provide exceptional learning experiences for our medical students while building a robust academic interest amongst our medical staff.”
Each Vernon student is matched with two primary family practice preceptors for the entire year as they work collectively to care for patients in the clinics and at the hospital. Students also learn alongside specialists at the hospital rotating through eight different clinical rotations ranging from emergency medicine to obstetrics/gynecology to psychiatry. An impressive number of over 60 Vernon physicians are actively involved with teaching in the program.
A key highlight of ICC program is patient continuity allowing students to follow patients through their cycle of medical care. “Family practice helps set the stage for patient interaction as we are often the first point of contact, able to track them through their treatments, and complete the cycle with a follow-up,” says Dr. Aisha Manji, family physician. “Pairing students with two different family physicians helps expose the students to a broad patient demographic, diversity of pathologies, a range of acute to sub-acute problems, and different approaches to solving clinical problems.”
Patients play a key role in the program by allowing students to learn from their medical conditions and treatments. “Patients love to share the stories and experiences and feel they are also teaching the students,” says Dr. Manish Bhatt, emergency room physician. “As physicians, we are always busy and on the go whereas the students are able to take a bit more time to learn from each patient.”
As one of only two learners in the ICC program, students are able to receive extensive hands-on training while building meaningful connections with the medical community. Current ICC student, Paul Dickinson recalls of one his most impactful experiences from the past nine months. Dickinson had been called in to assist with a caesarian section during one of his pediatrics rotations. The delivery had gone well, however the baby was in some distress. “I had been working with the pediatrician for two weeks – who I also play hockey with once a week – and knew the respiratory therapist and both nurses quite well,” says Dickinson. “Everyone knew each other’s preferences and all of the attention was focused on the well-being of this baby. It was one of the first times I felt like a real part of the team and contributing to the care of patients.”
Throughout the year, students have the flexibility to spend additional time in different rotations and hone their clinical experience and exposure to each of the different specialities. “We want the students to see each speciality to get an idea of what we do and learn different approaches to solving problems,” says Dr. Nicholas Half, gynecologist. “It’s fun to see them learn and we want to give them a good experience.”
By the end of their third year, students have gained exposure to a depth of clinical experiences and in most cases a clear preference for their residency path upon graduation from medical school. “Vernon is a great community and I have really appreciated the willingness of my preceptors to take the time to teach and explain things,” adds Dickinson. “I have always wanted to do a small town practice and this program has reaffirmed that.”