Feature: Students prepare for the future through MD+ graduate training

MD+ banner featuring Curtis Jeffrey and Temitope Esther Akintola
By Suzanne Boles

Two Schulich Medicine & Dentistry School students will be taking part in the MD+ graduate training program this year. The program offers students the opportunity to pursue professional and graduate training while completing their Doctor of Medicine (MD) degrees.

The programs include a Master of Public Health, Professional Master’s in Interdisciplinary Space Studies, Master of Management of Applied Science in Global Health Systems, and a Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences. It also includes more traditional thesis-based master’s offerings in basic medical sciences.

The two students –Temitope (Temi) Akintola and Curtis Jeffrey – have both chosen the Basic Sciences Master’s in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (EBITA).

The program choices for both Akintola and Jeffrey closely align with their personal and professional goals.

A passion for rural medicine

Jeffrey said his life experiences with health care in his hometown of Goderich, Ontario, shaped his passion for rural medicine, particularly his first-hand awareness of limited medical resources in small and rural communities.

“When you live in rural areas you have reduced access to some services that those in urban centres may take for granted. One of the most important resources that can be limited in these communities is medicine,” he said. “For many years my family, as well as many others in the community, were on a waitlist to get a general practitioner. This shortage in providers forced us to rely on walk-in clinics for our health needs.”

In addition, many rural communities rely on locum healthcare workers to provide sufficient care, so there is not always a long-term commitment to the patient population. As a result, patients with chronic illnesses can suffer from discontinuous care. Those requiring specialized treatment may need to travel far distances to larger cities, such as London, which has a significant catchment area throughout Southwestern Ontario.

“I believe that research in the field of rural health equity can help policymakers devise strategies to dismantle some of the ingrained systems of inequity we have in health care. This sentiment is my main motivation for participating in the MD+ program and for my thesis, which addresses current access to safe, equitable surgery for rural Ontarians.”

The MD+ track enables Jeffrey to complete most of his master’s in one year and pursue something he’s passionate about while working concurrently with his medical training, as opposed to the normal two-year master’s degree commitment.

A focus on vulnerable populations

Akintola decided to participate in MD+ to help her gain the tools to conduct health research when she becomes a practicing physician. Her focus is on vulnerable populations and communities with health disparities, which align well with the epidemiology program and her personal and professional goals and values.

“Being a woman of colour, I've seen the disparities in health research related to people of colour and communities as well as the under-representation of people of colour doing health care research.”

The Master in Epidemiology will provide her with the expertise she feels she needs to perform health research in the future, and to identify and address health disparities in a meaningful way with greater impact on the individuals faced with these issues.

“MD+ will enhance my training by pushing me to be more adaptable in my learning. I do think it will be a challenging program, but I'm excited for the opportunity to be challenged and learn in a new and different way,” she said. “I think completing the master's program at this point in my training will enable me to build on the knowledge and experience I gain during the remainder of my time in medical school.”

Dr. Shannon Venance, Vice Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, says she’s excited about the opportunities ahead for the program’s first students.

“Temi and Curtis are already passionate advocates for health equity. Their MD+ track experience will solidify their roles as leaders and change-makers.”