Queen’s family medicine residents participate in unique Falkland Islands rotation
One of the strengths of Queen’s Family Medicine residents is their ability to work almost anywhere. As a part of their two-year residency, these family doctors spend six months of training in a community setting, and at least two of those months are spent in a rural setting.
So, when a remote British overseas territory off the coast of South America found itself in need of medical professionals, a Queen’s alumnus knew exactly where the Falkland Islands’ government could find help.
“Thanks to a connection made by Andrew Pipe (Meds’74) of the Ottawa Heart Institute, Queen’s Family Medicine residents have been taking on placements in the Falkland Islands in recent years as part of a strategy to help the territory meet their need for well-trained family doctors,” says Geoffrey Hodgetts, Enhanced Skills Program Director, Rural Skills Program Coordinator and Kingston Residency Site Director in the School of Medicine.
While the Falklands previously relied on British and foreign-trained physicians, it has been more difficult to attract doctors with the necessary skills to work in a remote setting such as the small island nation, located to the east of South America’s Patagonia coast. Additionally, providing medical care to the population – which is divided up across several islands – requires medical experts who can work in the field with limited equipment.
Since forming the agreement, approximately six Queen’s family medicine residents per year have headed to the Falkland Islands with one or two residents making the trip at a time. During their rotations, residents work under the direction of the Falkland’s Chief Medical Officer, Rebecca Edwards, and her delegates.
“We are privileged to work with these skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced young doctors,” says Dr. Edwards. “I am always extremely impressed with the ability of these residents to travel across the globe, to a new country and unknown hospital where medical practices might be unfamiliar, and be able to just get on with the job at hand. The residents seem unfazed by the changes, meeting each new challenge with focus and dedication and asking appropriate questions when needed.”
This rotation gives residents an opportunity to experience the Falkland Islands, and assess their interest in the territory’s available enhanced training scholarship. The scholarship offers a post-graduate third-year training position provided the resident stays for a one-year return of service. Most importantly, it helps the island nation potentially recruit physicians to help meet their needs longer term.
Belle Song (Meds’15), a Queen’s family medicine graduate, is the first to take advantage of the Falkland Islands’ training scholarship. Dr. Song is currently completing her enhanced rural skills training. When she completes her training later this year, she will work at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital in the Falkland Islands.
She is already familiar with this setting, as Dr. Song was one of the earliest Queen’s family medicine residents to complete a two-month rotation in the Falkland Islands in 2016.
"From the moment I arrived, I felt that I was a part of the Falklands community. Some of the nurses, pharmacists, radiation techs, and physiotherapists have become close personal friends, and even residents of the island were incredibly welcoming,” she says. “I am certain that this year in the Falklands will help me become a stronger and more confident rural generalist, developing skills that will be useful when I come back to Canada. I've always believed that you can't learn and grow without pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.”
While rural medical training is an expectation among Canadian family medicine post-graduate medical programs, Queen’s Department of Family Medicine has had a long tradition of preparing family physicians for practice in various rural and remote settings.
“I know that the residents enjoy their time with us as we have received great feedback, and this is definitely a two-way relationship,” Dr. Edwards adds. “The constant flow of keen, intelligent, up-to-date young doctors that we get to work with and mentor provide our team with fresh and valuable perspectives on clinical scenarios.”
To learn more about the Falkland Islands scholarship for Family Medicine residents, visit the Department of Family Medicine’s website.
This blog originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette as an article by Phil Gaudreau, Senior Communications Officer.