A recent session aimed at sharing tips on getting into medical school had widespread appeal with rural high school students across the province.
Over 90 students and teachers participated in the virtual Zoom session entitled “Let’s Go Rural – How Do I Get There? Medical School” that was co-organized by the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP) and the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives.
“We were certainly blown away at how well received [the session] was from participants looking for this type of information,” said Colleen Lindholm, a rural consultant with RhPAP’s Community Development and Engagement Team who worked along with University of Calgary representatives to deliver the event.
“This was a pilot project that will definitely lead to other events,” Lindholm added. “We realized that there is opportunity to not only offer more of these medical school sessions, but also hold [similar events] for other professions such as nursing and allied health.”
In 2020, the university received over 1,700 applications, with only 155 new students admitted into the medical program.
Leah Sullivan with the University of Calgary said the collaboration worked well, with RhPAP consultants promoting the event to rural high school students via their community connections, while the university provided speakers who shared their own medical school pathway experience.
“There’s no one scripted way into rural medicine,” added Sullivan, the communications coordinator with the University of Calgary’s Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives at the Cumming School of Medicine.
The session began with presentations from Assistant Dean of MD Admissions, Dr. Remo Panaccione, and the Associate Dean of Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives, Dr. Aaron Johnston, who provided detailed information to students on what they can start doing in high school to prepare for their medical school applications – including grades, course selections, and volunteering in their communities. They also talked about students pursuing undergraduate degrees in something they enjoy and are passionate about.
Three current medical students from the university, Zachery Gorham, Chelsea Barlow, and Kathryn Sutherland, spoke about their own personal journeys to medicine. Each of the students shared their passion for medicine and the value they saw in becoming a rural physician.
Dr. Reid Hosford, a recent graduate of the university who is now a rural physician and preceptor, rounded out the evenings presentations by discussing what universities are looking for in medical students today.
“I was feeling flustered trying to figure out all I needed for the pathway to medical school,” said one participant in a survey following the event. “This Zoom [session] was an extremely beneficial way to help plan my path.”
Others were happy to learn more about rural medicine.
“Before this presentation, I was not fully convinced that rural medicine was the path for me; however, this presentation definitely swayed me, and I will be seriously considering what steps to take to make it to medical school.”
“This was such a great learning experience for me,” another participant concluded. “Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity! As a high school student, you have made me very excited for my future!”
For any students who are interested in a future in rural medicine, the session was recorded and can be viewed at https://cumming.ucalgary.ca/ruralmedicine/learner-resources/highschool-student-information