Warren Brock

Communications Manager

Southern Medical Program
Office: Reichwald Health Sciences Centre
Phone: 250.807.8601
Email: warren.brock@ubc.ca


Medical student Alex Bond with her preceptor Dr. Joey Podavin

Students learn in doctor offices throughout Central and North Okanagan

Second year Southern Medical Program student Alex Bond arrives at the Lakeland Medical Clinic in Kelowna every Thursday just before 8:00 am. Her weekly training session with Dr. Joey Podavin, a local family physician is set to begin as part of the MD Undergraduate Program’s Family Practice Continuum Course.  Together they map out new learning objectives for the week, discuss any research projects assigned the week prior, and get ready for the day’s patients. At 8:30, the doors to the busy walk-in clinic open and a steady stream of patients flow through the office.

Medical student spends roughly one half-day per week during their first two years of the program learning in the community alongside family physicians. Students are matched on a one-on-one basis with a family physician as they focus on developing their clinical skills and applying some of the book knowledge from their lectures at UBC’s Okanagan campus. Patients attending these clinics play an invaluable role in the student’s education by allowing them into their medical lives to assist in their care.

“The course is refreshing as we are able to learn from actual family doctors in their clinics as they care for their patients,” says Bond. “It’s so valuable to be able to supplement everything you are learning in the classroom and reinforce both the physiology and clinical skills aspects of being a physician.”

More than 100 family physicians from West Kelowna, Kelowna, Winfield, and Vernon are involved with teaching Southern Medical Program students. While the office environment and patient base can differ from clinic to clinic, the focus remains on providing students with a foundation of knowledge that encompasses all types of medical specialties including family medicine.

For many physicians like Dr. Podavin, they find the experience rewarding and appreciate the opportunity to incorporate students into their practice. “The course asks the teacher to ensure they have a common approach to medical problems and able to verbalize their thinking process,” says Dr. Podavin. “It’s a good way to ensure you are on top of your skills as a physician.”

The experience for Bond was both rewarding and often inspirational, adding “he is really passionate about teaching and provided a systematic approach to my learning.” Uncertain about which residency program she would like to pursue upon graduation, the door to family medicine remains wide open based on her experiences thus far.

UBC medical student Alia Dharamsi (Photo: Keith Leinweber)

Third year med student Alia Dharamsi is the recent recipient of the UBC Outstanding Future Alumnus Award for her work in the community and helping to provide a platform for youth to discuss global health issues.

She is also one of sixteen students from the distributed MD Undergraduate Program who volunteered to come to Kelowna and Kamloops to complete their third year clinical rotations with the Southern Medical Program (SMP). Students from the SMP’s inaugural class will begin clinical rotations at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH) and Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) later this year.

Dharamsi, a Vancouver native, jumped at the chance to move to the Interior and train in a smaller community. “I always knew I wanted to live in a smaller community,” said Dharamsi. “I like the idea of being able know your neighbours and work in a community-based hospital.”

So far, Dharamsi has completed surgery and internal medicine rotations at KGH and a pediatric rotation at RIH. “The RIH pediatrics rotation gave me an opportunity to see a community-based approach to pediatric medical care and experience working in a different hospital, smaller community” said Dharamsi. “The surgery and internal medicine rotations at KGH were equally impressive. I’ve had a phenomenal experience seeing how my preceptors are able to enjoy a great work-life balance—the groups had incredibly positive cultures and are very welcoming to learners. I am humbled by how open and encouraging the patients are – they are great teachers for us and make the experience even more enriching. These experiences have made surgery and internal medicine viable options for my future residency.”

As for the type of residency she plans to pursue, the door remains wide open. “I am so blissfully uncommitted to anything and really relishing the opportunity to see everything,” said Dharamsi. “I am fortunate to have the opportunity to be a learner in a community as opposed to an institution. To be able to really push yourself, be responsible for patients as a productive part of a team is how we as students grow the most.”

Dharamsi is currently continuing her involvement with the community through her mosque, providing mentorship and support to younger university students. She also has plans to connect with local high schools students to encourage their participation in the advancement of global health.

Volunteer Patient Tom Goldie.

Tom Goldie

Tom Goldie, a retired trucker from Vancouver saw the Volunteer Patient Program as opportunity to give back. After suffering a major heart attack in 2006, he credits the many medical professionals for saving his life and getting him back on the road to recovery.

Tom was one the first Volunteer Patients to get involved with the Southern Medical Program when it officially launched in January 2011. He learned about the volunteer opportunity from a nurse while visiting the Cardiology Department at Kelowna General Hospital. Since then, he has participated in 2 to 3 sessions each year and really enjoys the experience working with the students.

Throughout his various medical treatments, Tom has learned a lot of his condition. “My brain has become a sponge for new medical knowledge and it’s been great to be able learn alongside the students,” said Tom. “A lot of the students are nervous initially when the start each session, so I try and crack a joke and get them to relax.”

With plans to continue volunteering for the foreseeable future, Tom added “it’s fabulous that the medical school in here and hope that students will want to work here in the Interior and the North.” When not volunteering, Tom is an avid musician and can be found playing the base guitar at the odd house party in Kelowna.


Jane Crawford

Jane Crawford was excited for the opportunity to volunteer with UBC medical students – so much she was even willing to travel to Vancouver. When she got word that she could help here in Kelowna for Southern Medical Program, she jumped at the chance to participate.

In 2010, Jane was the successful recipient of a liver transplant. Through an online Facebook support group, she learned about the Volunteer Patient Program and how it relies heavily on community volunteers to assist in training future doctors. So Jane along with six members from her support group decided to sign up and have helped with two sessions to date with plans to continue for the future.

Jane has truly enjoyed the experience and appreciates the opportunity to learn alongside the students. “The students are so enthused and nervous, but so enthusiastic,” said Jane. “It’s great to see the students telling the doctor what they are looking for, why they are looking at certain things, and see their minds at work.” She laughed recalling a surprise encounter running into one of the same students during a visit to a local family practice clinic.

Through her own medical experience, Jane sees the value in teaching the students about how to interact with patients. Adding, “I loved it and hope to have brought something for them to learn from. I let them know that they are a human being and to not ever lose that.”


Thomas Cameron

Thomas Cameron is a fourth year Bachelor of Science student at UBC’s Okanagan campus. With the advantage of green card at his disposal, he has reached an educational crossroads whether to stay in Kelowna to complete a masters program or go to the United States to become a physician assistant. He also hasn’t ruled out the possibility of a future application to UBC medical school.

The Volunteer Patient Program piqued his interest as an opportunity to learn more about how medical students are educated. Thomas has participated in six different cardiovascular and musculoskeletal sessions for the Southern Medical Program so far and is already booked for more with our new crop of students that arrived this past January.

“I love interacting with the students and see how the instructors work with them,” said Thomas. “The instructors also had the sense that I was up for learning as well. I was able to learn a lot about medical terms and even how to turn an eyelid inside out.”

Thomas always tries to get the students to laugh and relax before each session. He has also seen a real progression in their approach over time. It’s been a really interesting experience and will be helpful in deciding his future career aspirations.

Learn more about the Volunteer Patient Program.

SMP student Jim Huang presents a cheque to Doug Rankmore, CEO, KGH Foundation and Beth Cole-Jackson, President, Kelowna Hospital Auxiliary.

Second-year SMP student Jim Huang was the ‘driving’ force behind a fundraiser early this year that raised $1,000 for the Kelowna Hospital Auxiliary. Local physicians, SMP students, faculty, and staff took part in the golf/dinner fundraiser including Dr. Allan Jones, Regional Associate Dean and Dr. Robert Halpenny, CEO for the Interior Health Authority. The event was held this past September at the Quail course at the Okanagan Golf Club.

Huang saw the golf fundraiser as an opportunity for SMP students to interact with the local medical community while raising some funds for a worthy cause. “The Kelowna Hospital Auxiliary was chosen because of its support for the hospital and I thought it was important for the students here to be involved in the local medical community,” said Huang. “Hopefully, this is only one avenue by which the SMP students can impact the community.”

The Kelowna Hospital Auxiliary is one of five local auxiliaries that work under the Kelowna Hospital Foundation that provides financial assistance to help purchase medical equipment, furnishings and services. Funds are raised primarily through the operations of the Perking Lot, The General’s Snackery, and The Centennial Mercantile which are run entirely by volunteers. To date, the Auxiliary has raised approximately $10M and the number continues to grow.

“The task of organizing this type of event, single handedly by a 2nd year medical student, all for the benefit of a whole community, is truly honourable,” said Beth Cole-Jackson, President of the KGH Auxiliary.

Plans are underway to expand the fundraiser for the next edition slated for the fall of 2013. With the arrival of 32 new SMP students each year, it expected many will help take on the event and ensure it become an annual tradition for the program.

Sandy Wright (middle) in the lab working on baseline testing with School of Health and Exercise Sciences students Tanis Burnett and Jessie Carmichael (left to right).

Sandy Wright is the first student from the Southern Medical Program to be enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine’s MD/PhD program.

The program which is jointly administered by the Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Graduate Studies, selects highly qualified students to combine their medical studies with intensive scientific training.

“Participating in the development and dissemination of new knowledge is an incredibly stimulating exercise in critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, developing technical skills, and effective communication,” said Wright.

Wright’s research will focus on determining if deficits in neurocognitive and sensorimotor function induced by sport-related head impacts are related to alterations in cerebrovascular function for youth contact sport athletes.

“I am interested in characterizing the similarities and differences between what happens in these domains following repetitive sub-concussive impacts, for example football lineman, and one-time injury events in which a concussion occurs,” said Wright. “My attraction to this sport-related research undoubtedly stems from my past endeavours as an elite athlete and subsequent work experiences in providing medical care to athlete populations.”

MD/PhD students have their curriculum customized to meet their field of medical expertise and expanded of a seven-year timeframe. Under the supervision of Dr. Paul van Donkelaar, Acting Director for the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, Wright will work closely with Dr. Phil Ainslie, Assistant Professor at UBC Okanagan and Dr. Brad Monteleone, a practicing Sport Medicine MD/PhD in Kelowna.

UBC MD grad Stephanie Hiebert presents Dr. Andreas Kluftinger with a cake for his 50th birthday.

UBC MD grad Stephanie Hiebert spent a better part of her third year and several fourth year electives training at Kelowna General Hospital.  During her third year, Hiebert helped pilot rotations for the Southern Medical Program’s traditional clerkship rotations including surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, and internal medicine.

“I have had so many wonderful experiences in Kelowna, said Hiebert. “The staff are very willing to teach, and you get much more hands on experience in a smaller centre such as Kelowna. The more time I spent there the more hands on stuff I would be allowed to do which has put me in a place to be very prepared for the beginning of residency training.”

One preceptor who had real impact on her experience was Dr. Andreas Kluftinger, a General Surgeon and Clinical Instructor with the UBC Department of Surgery. “Had I not come to Kelowna and met and been inspired by Dr. Kluftinger I am certain that I would not have chosen general surgery as my future career,” added Hiebert who is now completing her surgery residency at Dalhousie University.

In celebration of Dr. Kluftinger’s 50th birthday earlier this year, Hiebert constructed an elaborate birthday cake with a distinctive surgeon’s touch. A side hobby for Hiebert, she honed her decorating skills as a teenager working at her summer job at the Dairy Queen in Penticton. She noted this cake was the most time-intensive and meaningful one she has crafted to date.

“Stephanie was an excellent student and a pleasure to teach,” said Dr. Kluftinger. “Her medical skills are even better than her cake decorating and that is no small task.”

Hiebert says she would like to return to Kelowna upon completion of her residency in five to seven years and be involved with teaching for the Southern Medical Program.

Laura Kosakoski is one of four third-year UBC med students helping to pilot the Kamloops  rotation.

Royal Inland Hospital is the second largest trauma centre in BC with approximately 55,000 emergency visits per year. As a major tertiary care facility for the Interior, it is home to a depth of physicians across all medical specialities and serves a referral population of over 220,000 people. Combined that with a strong history of medical education, RIH presented a compelling choice for the Southern Medical Program to utilize as a clinical training centre.

RIH will see a steady flow of third-year SMP students starting in the fall of 2013. The hospital is one of the four primary clinical training sites for the program which also offers third-year rotations in Kelowna, Vernon, and Trail. In final preparation for the arrival of students from the SMP’s inaugural class – currently in their second year in Kelowna – four UBC students have recently begun a year-long pilot of the Kamloops rotation.

Laura Kosakoski, a third-year from the Vancouver Fraser Medical Program saw the Kamloops pilot as a great opportunity to learn one-on-one with a lot of different physicians along with the added bonus of returning to her hometown for a year. “Third year is critical to really developing your clinical skills in addition to figuring out which residency program to pursue,” said Kosakoski.  “I felt this was a great opportunity to gain a lot of one-on-one interaction with my preceptors which isn’t always an option in a larger centre.”

Brodie Rutherglen

Brodie Rutherglen, a third-year from the Northern Medical Program also viewed Kamloops as an excellent chance to get hands-on experience while living in smaller community setting.  “The uptake here is immense as there’s no competition from other students,” said Rutherglen. “As the only student in your rotation, you get the chance to be paged first and be the first assist on a lot of procedures.”

Students have felt tremendous support from the staff and program administration over the past two months. “Everyone involved in my learning has shown a real investment in my training,” said Kosakoski. “Their willingness to sit down at the end of the day and clear up any questions is refreshing as most medical students don’t get that much attention from their attending.”

Dr. Trent Smith

“It’s great that students are having the opportunity to train outside of the Lower Mainland and I am happy to be involved with the program,” said Dr. Trent Smith, a Pediatrician and Clinical Assistant Professor with the UBC Department of Pediatrics who has been teaching residents and undergraduates at RIH for over eight years. Thinking back on his own student experience, Dr. Smith noted “I really appreciated the learning opportunities given to me and feel we owe the effort to the students coming in behind us.”

“Everyone has gone the extra mile and given me the opportunity to be really involved in my learning,” added Rutherglen. “Kamloops is truly giving another aspect to the traditional program model.”

Premier Christy Clark, Professor Stephen Toope, and Professor Deborah Buszard join SMP students and Dr. Allan Jones to celebrate the official opening of the Reichwald Health Sciences Centre at UBC’s Okanagan campus.

Premier Christy Clark officially opened the new home of the Southern Medical Program that will see doctors completing their medical training for the first time in the Okanagan -benefiting B.C. students and families.

“Our government is focused on investing and expanding post-secondary programs to educate health-care professionals so that all families all across B.C. have access to quality health care,” said Premier Clark. “Students tend to practice where they’re trained, and now student doctors can complete their entire medical undergraduate program right here in the Okanagan.”

The Reichwald Health Sciences Centre at UBC’s Okanagan campus was constructed with a $32.7-million investment by the B.C. government. It accommodates 32 first-year, medical students, bringing the number of first-year medical students in the province to 288, more than doubling the number of spaces since 2001.

“With the start of the Southern Medical Program at UBC’s Okanagan campus, we’ve more than doubled the number of first-year spaces for student doctors in B.C.,” said John Yap, Minister of Advanced Education, Innovation and Technology. “In addition to the Northern Medical Program in partnership with UNBC and the Island Medical Program in partnership with UVic, UBC’s distributed medical education program is resulting in more doctors practising, in all of the regions of British Columbia.”

“The UBC faculty of medicine’s Southern Medical Program, housed in the beautiful Reichwald Health Sciences Centre, is teaching students using the best technology and learning resources available,” said UBC president Stephen Toope. “Just as importantly, it will enable collaborative learning and interdisciplinary teaching opportunities for all of the health sciences.”

Deborah Buszard, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC’s Okanagan campus said, “This innovative and purpose-built facility provides state-of-the-art teaching and research space for our faculty and students studying in the Southern Medical Program and the school of health and exercise sciences, and will ultimately enable them to make meaningful contributions to the health and medical fields.”

The 4,266-square-metre facility includes high-tech classrooms and lecture theatres networked with the other three medical program locations in Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George. It also includes small-group teaching rooms, teaching and research labs, administration and faculty offices and a human kinetics lab, part of the school of health and exercise sciences.

“The journey to becoming a doctor is an incredible one and I wish students and facility members alike every success in what is bound to be an exciting future!” said Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid. “Increasing the number of B.C. educated doctors through the expansion and distribution of UBC’s medical school is one of the ways we are ensuring there are sufficient physicians across the province to provide quality patient care.”

“This stunning building is the culmination of the Province’s commitment to ensuring that all parts of British Columbia share in the tremendous bounty of talent and ambition that flourishes in the province,” Dr. Gavin Stuart, dean, UBC faculty of medicine and vice provost, health, UBC. “The UBC faculty of medicine is proud to be part of that effort – through the learning taking place within these walls, and the knowledge that students will take with them as health professionals to surrounding communities.”

Robyn Buna, a second-year student in the SMP, said, “I am grateful to have the opportunity to complete my medical education in the Interior. It’s exciting to be a part of a new program and to learn alongside a medical community that is truly enthusiastic about teaching students.”

As part of UBC faculty of medicine’s distributed medical doctor (MD) undergraduate program, SMP students will spend the balance of the four-year MD program studying and training in communities throughout the B.C. Interior, having spent their first term in classes in Vancouver.

Quick Facts:

  • The Reichwald Health Sciences Centre features a green roof and several strategies for energy and water conservation.
  • Students will divide their study and classroom time between the new Health Sciences Centre at UBC’s Okanagan campus for academic courses and the Clinical Academic Campus, next to Kelowna General Hospital, for clinical skills training.
  • The SMP clinical training is delivered at Kelowna General Hospital, Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, Vernon Jubilee Hospital, Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail, and other hospitals and health centres in 22 Interior communities.

Third year students attend orientation workshop at the Clinical Academic Campus at Kelowna General Hospital

Starting in the fall of 2013, the UBC Southern Medical Program’s (SMP) inaugural class will begin their third year clinical training rotations at either Royal Inland Hospital, Vernon Jubilee Hospital, Kelowna General Hospital, or Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

To help prepare for the steady influx of SMP students, 20 third year UBC medical students from across the distributed MD Undergraduate program are beginning full-year rotations at these hospitals this September. Rotations at these sites are a direct result of the successful partnership between the UBC Faculty of Medicine and Interior Health, helping to deliver medical education in communities throughout the BC Interior.

Students are attending a 3-day orientation workshop at the Clinical Academic Campus at Kelowna General Hosptial and the Reichwald Health Sciences Centre at UBC’s Okanagan campus.



Aboriginal Pre-Admissions Workshop participants take a bike tour of the Kettle Valley Railway.

MD Admissions Office hosts three-day workshop for Aboriginal applicants.

By Dan Odenbach, Aboriginal Access Administrator,  Aboriginal Programs and Services

This year’s UBC Aboriginals Into Medicine Pre-Admissions Workshop was hosted by UBC’s Okanagan campus from July 11 to 13 .

For the first time, the annual workshop featured an outdoor adventure which took students away from a university setting and helped punctuate their three-day experience. For several hours prospective medical students enjoyed mountain biking the famous Kettle Valley Railway beds in Myra Canyon.

On the final day of the workshop, UBC Faculty of Medicine Aboriginal Programs Manager James Andrew fielded positive feedback from prospective medical students.

“The students like the campus, the city and thought the weather was nice. It’s the first time we’ve had an outside activity. But we thought it would a good chance to see the area and not be stuck in a classroom,” said Andrew. “Their reaction has been really positive. In future workshops, we may have more outdoor activities.”

Ellie Parton appreciated all aspects of the workshop. “It’s been quite busy. There were a lot of things planned for us and they’ve been valuable,” said the Campbell River resident while overlooking Southeast Kelowna. “I’m outdoorsy, so this was a great way to end it.

“I’ve met some amazing people here,” she added.

This spring marked the highest number of Aboriginal graduates in the history of the UBC Faculty of Medicine. Andrew believes there is a correlation between the Pre-Admissions Workshops and the number of graduating Aboriginal physicians.

“Eight of the 12 (Aboriginal) students who graduated this year attended our Pre-Admissions workshop in the past,” he said.

Workshops included how to prepare for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test), preparing for the multi-mini interview, an overview of the admissions process, medical curriculum orientation, small group problem-based learning and a mock Aboriginal panel interview.

“It was very helpful,” said Tarissa French of Prince George. “It provided a lot of information on the application process and dispelled a lot of the myths surrounding the MCAT.”

Helitsuk Nation member Gary Housty works as a registered nurse in the Emergency Room at Vancouver General Hospital. After being out of school for a decade, Housty found the workshops helpful.

“It was really informative. After going through the process, it’s much more manageable,” said the UBC alumni. “I was kind of intimidated about coming here. But I met some new people and it was good.”

Lauren Taylor and Travis Thompson, second and first year medical students, were on hand to answer questions and provide support.

“I believe it was beneficial to them because it cleared up a lot of the misconceptions of what it takes to be admitted,” said Thompson.

According to James, the Aboriginals Into Medicine Pre-Admissions Workshop was based on a model out of the North Dakota University and is slated to move to Prince George next year.