Rural communities across BC are facing a critical shortage of physicians. UBC is helping address this health care challenge by introducing students to rural opportunities at a time when they are forming decisions about their career paths. In 2013, Mike Bergunder was one of 250 students who travelled to a rural community as part of his third year of medical training. His experiences in the northern community of Hope became life-changing and career-changing.
Mike spent the majority of his rural placement in Hope and travelled to service the small 700-person town of Boston Bar every two weeks, accompanied by three specialty nurses. His most memorable and enjoyable experience during the rural clerkship was the continuity of care he was able to provide patients. Rotating between the local hospital’s emergency room and the community clinic, Mike was able to help patients in the midst of their most severe health crises while staffing the local emergency room and follow-up with them during his clinic hours. Since Hope has a busy emergency room, many procedures and decisions become the responsibility of the on-call family doctor, and Mike remembers the thrill and skill of managing the community’s diverse medical issues.
“The biggest difference between urban and rural practice is the breadth of work. Rural placement showed me how much a family physician can do,” he says. “It was an amazing experience!”
Mike appreciates the impact he was able to have on the community, not just in providing health care, but also as a role model and respected authority figure.
As he decides where to practice in the future, Mike hopes to maintain a connection with BC’s rural communities and his Metis background. He is considering practicing in Chilliwack, an agricultural suburb of Vancouver, and reaching out to Aboriginal and rural communities through his practice.
“The rural placement is one of the most important aspects of our education,” Mike recalls. “Being in a new community teaches students a lot about themselves: their likes and dislikes, and the kind of leaders they want to be.”