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Taking it to the streets

From getting a GRIP on blood pressure to spinal cord mannequin design and building, 14 Schulich Medicine – Windsor Campus students were actively involved in 10 different research projects through the Schulich UWindsor Opportunities in Research Excellence Program (SWORP) this past summer.

One such project hit close to home as it endeavored to gain a better understanding of the socio-economic impact of a regional medical campus in Windsor. It was led by Dr. Gerry Cooper and Dr. Maher El-Masri and was supported by Kyle DeMars and Nathan Tam, Medicine Class of 2020.

As the days grew warmer, DeMars and Tam brushed up on their interview skills and hit the streets, recorders in hand, hoping to gain a better understanding of how the nearly 10-year-old Campus has impacted lives and health in the community.

While they came to the project with limited research experience, for different reasons, both students were keen to explore the topic at hand.

“I have an interest in rural medicine, and eventually want to deliver health care to rural communities,” said DeMars. “And Windsor-Essex has been a medically-underserviced community compared to other districts of its size in Ontario. So, we hope to uncover the details of how the Campus has impacted the community across health, education, economic and political sectors.”

For Tam, doing the research became a vehicle to develop the necessary skills to be an adaptable learner, and it gave him the opportunity to better understand and get to know the Windsor community.

The junior medical students were responsible for conducting interviews with individuals in the community across a wide range of sectors as part of the data collection. In total, they completed 22 interviews.

During the process, both students learned a good deal about the enormous effort undertaken to make the Windsor Campus a reality, and the benefits the Campus has brought to the community.

“What I’ve learned from these interviews, is that the Windsor Campus impacts the community in more ways than I comprehended previously,” said Tam. “From where it began to where it is now, the scope of the Campus has changed dramatically and it will continue to evolve.”

Through his interviews, DeMars was struck by the role the Windsor Campus has had on the economic landscape of the community.

For the first time, he also developed a strong appreciation for the effort required to develop and maintain a regional campus.

“I was truly amazed by the large undertaking that was made and how much work it took before and after the shovel hit the ground,” he said. “The narrative that I heard during my interviews is one of resilience and perseverance. It is an inspiring story and I hope to emulate these qualities as I progress through medical training.”

This research project also gave DeMars and Tam an opportunity to develop their own skills which they believe they can apply to their medical studies. At the top of the list for both was interviewing skills.

DeMars says that the interviews allowed him to step out of his comfort zone given the high ranking individuals he approached. And in doing so, he refined the soft skills he began developing during his first year. Tam agrees, and sees that his practice of interviewing this summer will be an asset when conducting patient interviews in clerkship and throughout his training.  

The research project provided DeMars and Tam with a greater appreciation for the community in which they are studying.

“At the beginning, I thought the Campus was just a place where students went to learn. I now realize that it is so much more than that, and it is really quite special,” said DeMars.

Tam agrees, and he hopes to find different ways in which his class can better engage with the local Windsor community.

The project will continue throughout the next year as research leads begin to analyze the qualitative data. Both DeMars and Tam hope to play a role in the project moving forward.

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