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Discover how Helene Baldwin, Meds 2017, and Rachael Berta, Meds 2017, are helping launch a MedLINCS pilot project

Thursday, July 10, 2014

We are the two medical students working on the MedLINCS Aboriginal Pilot Project. Unlike other established MedLINCS programs, we have had a much bigger role in planning the camp for high school students, including contacting community youth workers, finding venues for the camp and planning the activities.

We have also contacted health care workers, such as PSW's and RN's, from the Aboriginal communities to be guest speakers and give the participants an idea of what it's like to work in their field. We have worked very closely with the steering committee to make the camp most accessible to participants, namely in their own community, unlike other MedLINCS programs which are run in central locations.

When we aren't working on planning the camp, we have had some excellent clinical learning opportunities at the Wiarton Emergency Department and the Grey-Bruce Public Health Office. We look forward to more placements in the coming weeks at the Owen Sound Hospital and the Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre.

The experience so far has definitely been more challenging than expected since we are beginning a new program which does not fit the traditional week-long structure and creating new partnerships in the community for clinical electives and camp support. It has been a learning experience in terms of addressing certain barriers such as transportation and registration of students in more isolated areas for beginning the camp. As well, we have learned a great deal about working on committees, program planning and working in Aboriginal communities to create educational opportunities that are relevant and well received.

It has been very rewarding because we have learned a great deal about all the services related to Aboriginal health in the Owen Sound area. Also, connecting with individuals involved with improving access to health services in the communities as well as youth workers passionate about educational opportunities for their students is very inspiring.

Further, we have learned more about traditional teachings in Anishinaabe culture and the different dimensions of the illness experience that are often not addressed by mainstream medicine.

Rachael Berta, Meds 2017:
I got involved in MedLINCS because I wanted to see what it was like to live and work in medicine in a regional hospital such as Owen Sound, since I am considering working in this type of community in the future.

I think MedLINCS offers youth a valuable chance to explore healthcare careers in a hands-on way that they don't get in their high school curriculum. I chose to work on the pilot project because it was a unique opportunity to help build a new program in an underserved population with whom I don't have much experience. I wanted to learn more about the social determinants of health in Aboriginal communities and the cultural competency necessary to optimize care of diverse populations.

Helene Baldwin, Meds 2017:
I pursued MedLINCS this summer as I liked the idea of rural clinical electives combined with working with local youth and educating on healthcare careers. I was fortunate to know in high school the career path I wanted to take and how to get there but not all youth know about the opportunities they have for a career in the field and MedLINCS is great practical learning to address this.

I chose the pilot program in the Aboriginal communities specifically because I thought it would be an interesting challenge to begin a program in a site where the community has expressed a genuine need for MedLINCS. There are barriers to accessing careers in healthcare in this population and I think MedLINCS can have a greater impact in these communities. Also, it was an opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal medicine and culture as well as the historical, cultural and social factors that affect delivery of care and health outcomes.