Education night helps high school students prepare for a career in medicine

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By Kaylee MacMillan

As a healthcare professional, Shannon Puna thought she had all the resources she needed to answer any questions her Grade nine son asked about medical school.

“I work in healthcare. I’ve asked the doctors I work with what my son could start doing now to make a difference when he was ready to apply to med school,” says Puna. “I shared what I had learned with my son, but what really inspired him was hearing it firsthand from current family medicine residents at an Education Night.”

Education Nights are an initiative by Barrie Area Physician Recruitment (BAPR), in partnership with Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH), the Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board. The evening provides local high school students the opportunity to discuss prerequisite courses, how to apply to medical school and what to expect while at medical school – all directly with local physicians.

“We wanted a way to share with students what it takes to get into medical school,” says Brittany Thompson, physician recruitment coordinator with BAPR. “We thought, if we could get current residents from RVH’s Family Medicine Teaching Unit, a partnership with the University of Toronto, to host an education night, we could help alleviate some of the unknowns for high school students. The residents could educate students, answer questions and even share personal stories from their journey to med school and becoming a physician.”

And the concept has taken off. Since 2012, more than 300 high school students and their parents have participated in an Education Night.

“As a parent, I found the evening to be informative and well organized,” says Puna. “The speakers were engaged with the audience and the information was relevant. They even provided a basic timeline from high school straight through to residency. When I tried to share the information I had gathered from my colleagues with my son, it did not have the same impact as this Education Night. I do not believe that there is another source – and certainly not a single source – that would provide as much info as this event did.”

Parents and students aren’t the only ones benefitting from the Education Nights either.

“It was a privilege to speak to the high school students and parents from the community,” says Andrew Kim, medical student at Queen’s University and presenter at a recent Education Night. “It was a great opportunity to share our experiences so far in our own medical education and hopefully inspire curious students to explore a career in healthcare. The process of getting into medical school is, and should be, unique to each person so we were able to address the misconception that there is a ‘right way’ to get in. The journey is challenging but extremely rewarding and filled with opportunities for fun and personal growth.”

Education Night presenters Andrew Kim, Queen’s University medical student; Brittany Thompson, physician recruitment coordinator, Barrie-Area Physician Recruitment; and Dr. Anastasiya Nelyubina, chief resident, RVH’s Family Medicine and Teaching Unit.

Dr. Anastasiya Nelyubina, chief resident in RVH’s FMTU, commented after the event that it gives her and other medical residents the opportunity to inspire future physicians to practice in the Simcoe Muskoka region.

In addition to Education Nights, another way physicians at RVH are sharing their medical expertise is through the health centre’s Observership program.

The program pairs students with a member of RVH’s professional staff for a 14-day placement in an area of the health centre. It provides an excellent opportunity for individuals who are passionate about healthcare to gain insight into how it’s delivered in hospitals as well as provide an understanding of various healthcare professions.

Medical education has always been a top priority at RVH. One of the health centre’s strategic directions is to Accelerate Teaching and Research and in May 2018, RVH opened its Centre for Education and Research (CER), creating a space within the health centre fully dedicated to learning and research. Beyond an official designated space for education and research, RVH is helping shape the next generation of healthcare providers by sharing its medical expertise.

For parents like Puna, it’s all about educating and inspiring the next generation of healthcare providers.

“I hope that events like the Education Night continue to happen. There is such a need for medical providers in our community – what better way to get them interested than when they are young!”

Kaylee MacMillan works in communications at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre.