The Northern Medical Program at UNBC held a celebration on April 21 for its 15th graduating class, the Class of 2022.
The 31 graduating students now move into two to seven years of medical residency and fellowship training, depending on specialty. One of those grads is Jennifer Vandenberg, who grew up in Telkwa and has a dairy farm with her husband in the Smithers area.
She’s doing her training in Prince George with plans to move back to the Smithers area once finished. Vandenberg’s interest in rural family medicine took her to Terrace during her third year of medical school and she also did training in Vanderhoof.
She said one of the things that attracted her to rural family medicine, as opposed to urban family medicine, is the diversity of rural practice for general practitioners.
“This is something that I witnessed in Terrace when I was in third year. Most GPs running their practice were doing shifts in the emergency, they were doing addictions medicine, and palliative care and maternity care,” Vandenberg said. “There are tons of different areas of medicine that rural family doctors get to keep as their scope rather than in urban centres.”
She said that’s also a benefit for patients who get to know their doctors with the continuity of having the same provider across different disciplines within medicine.
Vandenberg said there are also challenges for patients in northern B.C. communities who have to travel long distances for healthcare and pointed to a lack of primary care across the province.
“The bottom line is there has to be more doctors trained, more family physicians trained,” Vandenberg said. “I think virtual care is going to open up a lot of avenues for people, but you still need to see somebody in person if you need to.”
As part of their White Coat Ceremony the graduating students received their wood shingle and their long white coat to mark their transition from students to doctors. These graduates now move into two to seven years of medical residency and fellowship training, depending on specialty.
The Class of 2022 includes 10 graduates from northern B.C., including eight from Prince George. Sixteen of the graduates will be entering family medicine residency programs, with many training in rural and smaller centres in B.C. and across Canada. Three of those graduates will train in Prince George and one will train in Fort St. John.
Students have matched to a wide range of other specialties including anesthesiology, general surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, otolaryngology (head and neck surgery), paediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry, radiation oncology, urology, and vascular surgery.
The local celebration at UNBC in Prince George precedes the formal graduation for the students, taking place at UBC in Vancouver on May 24, at which they will receive their official medical degrees.
The UBC Northern Medical Program is a distributed program site of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia (UBC) delivered in partnership with UNBC.