Med Students Take Regional Initiative

Fall 2010

“ There are only five practising Aboriginal physicians in Quebec,” says Lauren Hamlin-Douglas, BSc’06, MSc’08. “And while 20 per cent of Canadians live in rural areas, only 10 per cent of doctors practise in those regions.”

It was to address these stark realities that McGill’s student-run Regional Initiative was born. The program, which Lauren Hamlin-Douglas helped coordinate this year, encourages high school students from rural and Aboriginal communities to consider careers in medicine by offering them hands-on experience at McGill.

Members of the Regional Initiative organizing committee. From left to right: Ling Yuan Kong, Kyrie Yujing Wang, Lauren Hamlin-Douglas, Larry Wai Kiu Cheng.

“Simply increasing the number of doctors we produce won’t necessarily change the balance,” says Lauren. “It’s been shown that you need to train people from the areas you want to serve.”

This conviction motivated the McGill students to shoehorn a hectic round of project meetings into their already busy clinic and lecture schedules. They obtained sponsors, enlisted their fellow students as mentors, organized a full day of activities, and worked with Admissions, First Peoples’ House and high school guidance counsellors to invite students from Kahnawake, Drummondville, Gatineau, Rosemere and Chateauguay to McGill. Sessions were scheduled in both English and in French.

When the high school students arrived on May 17, they immediately plunged into the core experiences of medical education. First, they visited the McGill Simulation Centre, where they learned to draw blood and how to administer CPR. Then, still guided by med student mentors, they were introduced to the Anatomy Lab, a rite of passage that most students only experience in their first year of medical school.

This year’s group included 60 enthusiastic students. One week later, high school students attending McGill’s highly selective Eagle Spirit High Performance Camp were treated to a shortened version of the program. Thirty students from Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta took part.

“This year – our second – was a turning point,” says Lauren. “The Admissions office took a real interest in the fact that we are a student-initiated project and are encouraging diversity in medical admissions and recruitment.” For the future, Hamlin- Douglas says, “The idea is to get the most interested students very involved, not stopping with a single exposure. Maybe we can bring them to classes for a day, so they can really find out what med school is like.”

The Regional Initiative organizing committee is comprised entirely of medical students. Kyrie Yujing Wang and Larry Wai Kiu Cheung, who worked with Lauren Hamlin-Douglas and Ling Yuan Kong to run the 2010 Student Initiative, will be the coordinators next year.

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