Nick Leinweber considers himself the luckiest medical student in Canada.
For the last 10 months the third-year student from the University of British Columbia’s distributed MD undergraduate program has had the sole attention of the “faculty” of Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH).
Unlike his UBC academic cohorts who have to compete for doctor’s time and attention with numerous other students at Lower Mainland hospitals, Leinweber was the only medical student in the first year of the program at KBRH.
As a result, he was able to get some practical practise on procedures and into scenarios he would not have come close to in any other medical learning atmosphere.
“I think there is a bigger discrepancy between a bigger centre and here as far as hands on are concerned,” he said Wednesday, on one of his last days in the Integrated Community Clerkship (ICC) program in Trail.
“As far as what I can gather from the procedural, hands on approach, you get a lot more of that here because you are essentially the only student. Whenever there is a procedure to do, the doctors are always game to include you.”
Leinweber was one of two third-year medical students selected to take part in the southern medical program’s year-long ICC in Trail.
Based in Kelowna, the new southern medical program is the fourth UBC MD undergraduate program, which aims to improve upon the number of rural students seeking medical careers.
And for the Kimberley native, staying in the Kootenay region and continuing with the lifestyle he grew up with and loved, is a likelihood.
“I’m from the area and I totally intend to come back. If I could stay here and I didn’t have to go back to the city, I totally would, but I have to finish training,” he said.
The ICC partnership between UBC’s southern medical program and the Interior Health Authority allows budding medical students to obtain clinical training and practice medicine in a smaller, rural community.
The program functions as a conduit to give students a chance to complete their training in rural and underserved communities—like Trail, Nelson or Castlegar—where they are more likely to return to practice after their studies.
By 2013, it’s anticipated that 32 students will be entering their third year of the MD undergraduate program with an anticipated four to six students participating in a clerkship in Vernon or Trail.
“The big piece of this is you get people to come and experience everything the hospital and the area has to offer,” said Clare DeWitt, the ICC program assistant for the UBC southern medical program.
“Then there is better likelihood they will call Trail, Nelson or the Kootenay Boundary home once they are done all of their studies.”
Home is where the heart is and for Alexander Ednie and Katie Eddy—the next two students in the program—they have already fallen in love with the West Kootenay.
The two are completing a four-week rural family clerkship at KBRH but they spent the last year in Kaslo, working odd jobs and volunteering in the community.
Prior to that they had crossed Canada in search of interesting places to live, and fell in love with Kaslo on one sunny Sunday morning.
“You feel like you are part of something bigger (here),” said Ednie. “In Vancouver you are walking around and you are just a number. We found there was a little more to life in the Kootenays.”
They found that answer outside. As avid hikers, bikers, skiers and runners, the easily accessible outdoors appealed immeasurably to the couple, and it will be one of the alluring aspects of life in Trail as well when they return for their third year at KBRH in fall.
“Where we are living right now, we can walk to the bike trails, drive a short ways to the ski hill, stuff like that.
“It’s about balancing out life with academics so you can spend more time on academics and more time enjoying life and less time spent in the car commuting,” said Ednie.
The appeal of the lifestyle means the two could return after they are done school to set up medical practice.
“Specifically, the medical aspect the size of this hospital is pretty much what we are looking or in terms of a career eventually as well,” said Eddy.
In the coming year, Ednie and Eddy will be working with patients throughout the entire care cycle, from diagnosis to treatment and follow-up, unlike the traditional block rotation where a student works in one area of the hospital for a time then moves on to another.
The students will shadow family physicians out of Riverside Family Medicine, Columbia Family Medicine and the Beaver Valley Clinic, and work alongside a number of specialists at the Trail hospital.