Combined research and clinical learning make rural summer studentship program a successful model
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CONTEXT: Many medical schools would like to provide students with opportunities to learn and perform practical research and to have positive rural learning experiences. Rural physicians often have research ideas, but may lack the skills or assistance to perform the research. PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: The unique Rural Summer Studentship Program (RSSP) at The University of Western Ontario (Western) places students with preceptors in small and mid-sized communities throughout Southwestern Ontario where they have an opportunity to perform rural health research, combined with clinical learning, for 8 weeks in the summer after the first or second year of medical school. Secretarial coordination, research assistant support and senior faculty supervision were provided. OUTCOMES: From 1999-2003 inclusive, 44 students have participated including eight who participated over two summers. Projects were carried out in more than 20 communities with over 30 preceptors. Already, two students have had their research published in peer-reviewed journals and six have presented at major conferences. Participating students indicated an increase in interest in rural and regional medicine and in their knowledge of rural and regional medicine and patient care. They rated the value of RSSP highly as part of their medical education, even compared with other electives/selectives. CONCLUSION: The RSSP model developed at Western provides a highly rated, successful combination of supported medical student research and clinical learning with preceptors in small and mid-sized communities.
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