Rural medicine interest groups at McMaster University: a pilot study.
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INTRODUCTION: Although rural medicine interest groups (RMIGs) are prevalent in Canadian medical schools, there is little research on their contribution to rural education, training and careers. METHODS: We explored 2 broad questions by means of an electronic survey to people who were RMIG participants at McMaster University from 2002 to 2007: 1) What are the experiences of undergraduate trainees in an RMIG? 2) What are the features of RMIGs that contribute to an interest in rural medicine? The survey itself contained 35 questions broken down into sections detailing demographics, involvement in RMIGs, RMIG features, core and elective experiences, careers and Canadian Resident Matching Service. RESULTS: Of the 63 participants who completed the survey, 13 (20.6%) were in postgraduate training and 50 (79.4%) were in undergraduate training. The mean (standard deviation) age of participants was 28.4 (6.5) years and 71.9% percent were female. Respondents indicated that rural placements had the most influence on their choice of specialty and rural interest. Of all the features and activities of the RMIG, rural medicine special events contributed the most to an interest in rural medicine (e.g., "rural medicine days"). CONCLUSION: At McMaster University, the responses of participants suggested that RMIG participation had more influence on career choice than did the medical school attended. Communities, government organizations, residency programs and others interested in improving access to rural physicians, will note the importance of RMIGs and the importance survey respondents gave to rural medicine special events and rural electives.