President's Message

Paul Sawchcuk, MD, MBA, CCFP, FCFP

Share your love of family medicine to ignite students’ interest

I recently had my first opportunity as CFPC President to address a Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG). Each medical school in Canada has a FMIG, which is composed of first- and second-year medical students who are keen on family medicine. The University of Manitoba’s FMIG invited me to talk about the joys and challenges of our field. I want to thank Siru Wang and Fernando Villaseñor, the medical student leaders who made this possible.

The topics we covered included social accountability, length of training, scope of practice, the differences between rural and urban training programs, physician compensation, continuity of care, and enhanced skills training programs.

We also discussed the concept of community adaptiveness. Fifteen years ago, when matching to family medicine was at an all-time low among medical students, we emphasized the wide range of practice opportunities available to family doctors: clinic care, hospital care, emergency medicine, palliative care, obstetrics, general practice or focused practice, you name it. What we forgot to include in that message was the importance of adapting our interests to the needs of our communities. Some new grads entered the workforce unprepared to be on call or participate in some areas of family medicine, such as obstetrics or hospital care.

I thought it was worthwhile to bring those two aspects of family medicine together for the students: a potentially broad scope of practice with lots of choices mixed with the importance of meeting the needs of our communities. I explained that depending on where you decide to work and which community needs you want to fulfill, you can pursue the training opportunities you’ll require.

The students seemed to appreciate this approach and my willingness to spend time with them talking about the field I love so much. They asked if I could help connect them with other family doctors to give future talks—those working in rural settings, ERs, palliative care, etc. It reminded me that specialists from other fields deliver the vast majority of lectures in medical schools. The students also see dozens of members of the university faculty but very few community-based family physicians. FMIGs are one attempt to address this discrepancy. Check out this CFPC web page to learn more about FMIGs and connect with a student group near you.

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