Office of Distributed Education: Linking students to the world beyond campus

Angela McInnes, BA’15

A first-year undergraduate student from the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry shadows a family physician in Sarnia as a part of Discovery Week. Meanwhile, in Clinton, a third-year student wraps up his clerkship rotation, and a postgraduate student begins to plan her residency, a portion of which will take place in Owen Sound.

As part of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Distributed Education program, undergraduate and postgraduate learners are afforded vital opportunities for hands-on learning throughout their medical education. For the Office of Distributed Education, this means that the majority of their work is focused off-campus.

As Manager Fred Ross explained, “our campus is Southwestern Ontario.”

Established in 1997, Distributed Education was created as a way to promote students’ exposure to medicine in rural and regional communities throughout Southwestern Ontario. Today, the Office of Distributed Education continues to build and develop the program’s rich partnerships with the numerous communities, health care facilities and hospitals that support the education of the School’s learners.

Along with Ross, the Office includes Brenda Hennessey as administrative coordinator, Mary Peterson as Distributed Education scheduler, and Kathy Van Dinther as community electives coordinator. Dr. George Kim is the assistant dean of Rural & Regional Community Engagement, and has been a key component in the enhancement of the program.

The team’s determination to facilitate Distributed Education on behalf of Schulich Medicine & Dentistry remains as strong today as when the program was founded nearly two decades ago.

From arranging student accommodations, holding education conferences for faculty members or meeting with regional academic directors, there is no element of Distributed Education that is too big or small for the Office to handle.

“We’re the operations and logistics of the program,” said Ross. “On most of our days we’re connecting with someone outside of the School to make sure that our partners, faculty and learners have everything they need to live, work, teach, and get the clinical experiences.”

While London hospitals boast a strong educational component, it can be difficult to ensure that a student’s learning can be prioritized in other facilities. Because of this, the Office is working to foster the School’s educational model within the program’s sites by focusing on outreach initiatives such as conferences and community engagement.

For Ross, one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is observing the positive impact that the program has on its learners and faculty.

“You hear through faculty members that they really enjoy teaching learners,” said Ross. “It’s a new generation coming through with a whole different knowledge base, making it a two-way learning relationship.”

In light of their past successes, he is eager to see what the future holds for the office.

“I would like to see our program be more visible in the School and nationally as well,” Ross shared. “A big piece will be sharing the great initiatives. Highlighting the fantastic work that is being done in Schulich Medicine & Dentistry’s Distributed Education will go a long ways to support this.”