Planting the seed of rural family medicine

Medical students at Community Week lunch with their preceptors at the Ash Grove.

Photos: Melissa Botz

For many years now, there’s been a need for more rural physicians. To help promote this type of family practice, first year medical students from both Queens University and Ottawa University participate in Community Week as part of their curriculum. Community Week is facilitated by the Eastern Regional Medical Education Program (ERMEP) and promotes and develops Distributed Medical Education (DME) by facilitating, funding, and supporting the placement of Medical Learners in community-based medical practices and hospitals in Eastern Ontario. Last week, five local doctors participated in the program and each took on a medical student for the week. Drs Dawes, Malinowski, Chen, Tiedje and Joo allowed the medical students to observe and be involved in their clinical practice. Pictured above from left: Dr. Ray Dawes, Kelly Salman, Sara Brade, Trevor Robinson, Alexandra Morra, Dr. Jason Malinowski (rear), David Di Fonzo, Dr. Henry Tiedje



From left: Alexandra Morra, Sara Brade, Kelly Salman, David Di Fonzo, Trevor Robinson. The students were paddling with Madawaska River Rental at McMaster Lake. All the students except Morra had paddled previously but were not avid canoeists.  Both Robinson and Di Fonzo were very excited to get into the water and Robinson even went cliff jumping. 

The five med students, all from Queens, had one-on-one experience with the clinical day-to-day practice of seeing patients. They also got to demonstrate skills they have learned in first year.

Medical Student Sara Brade of Toronto says this about the program:

It’s an opportunity to see what rural family medicine is like and hopefully recognize that a lot of these communities are under served and it sparks an interest.

A lot of us are from bigger cities and also none of us has done a full week of observing a physician yet. That alone is a good learning experience.


Medical Student Kelly Salman of Hamilton is impressed with St. Francis Memorial Hospital.

There is a lot that I didn’t expect to see in a rural area, like the dialysis unit and cardiac rehab. Things are pretty advanced and managing to have it for the local community is pretty cool.

The students also enjoyed time within the community meeting Pharmacist Chris Briggs and visiting the Valley Manor. They went golfing, canoeing, took a historical tour of Barry’s Bay and highly recommend the maple latte at Madawaska Coffee Co.


They had lots of fun golfing at Homestead Golf Club. “Even more than expected,” said Sara. Left photo: Checking her lie is Sara Brade, watched by Kelly Salman, Alexandra Morra, Trevor Robinson. Pictured at right: Medical team Alexandra Morra, David Di Fonzo.

Medical Student, David Di Fonzo, of Toronto has been here previously:

I’ve visited the area before to go to a cottage and I have friends up here. It’s been nice to come back in a different capacity.


From left: Trevor Robinson, Sara Brade, Chris Briggs, Kelly Salman, David Di Fonzo, Alexandra Morra shown with in-house bug bite cream made at Lorraine’s Pharmasave 

Melissa Botz, Physician Recruitment Coordinator for The Barry’s Bay and Area Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee states:

I wouldn’t expect any of them to have a clear idea of where and what they want to practice just yet. But if we plant that seed, maybe we can get them back in their Clerkship in third and fourth year. Then perhaps they’ll look at family medicine and hopefully we can get them back again in Residency. This is all about increasing our chances of recruiting them — this is where we plant the seed.

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