More than 60 Island Medical Program students are volunteering to help the Vancouver Island community during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Projects in the student-led initiative include assisting GPs conduct wellness checks with vulnerable patients over the phone, providing contactless grocery delivery to seniors, and helping an inner city response team address the impacts of COVID-19 on Victoria’s homeless population.
Volunteer coordinator Madelaine Beckett (IMP Class of 2021) says the students are also helping frontline workers at home. “We have quite a few students providing child care, pet care and grocery runs to frontline workers. We’ve tried to match one student to one family, just to minimize the total number of contacts and risk of exposure.”
Several students are also volunteering to help the University Of Victoria (UVic) and Island Health, two of the IMP’s foundational partners. One team is collecting PPE donations for Island Health. “We recognize there is a shortage of medical-grade personal protective equipment on the front lines and we want to help address that need.” says Max Moor-Smith (IMP Class of 2020), who is helping lead the donation drive.
Lisa Jeffery (IMP Class of 2020) volunteers with the UVic initiative 3D-printing face shields for local frontline health workers. “When this opportunity came up, I recognized it as a great opportunity to help. These folks are doing an incredible service,” says Lisa. The face shield project is lead by Stephanie Willerth, a cross-appointed associate professor in UVic’s Division of Medical Sciences (DMSC); DMSC faculty provide the majority of their teaching commitment to the IMP.
The students’ contribution to the Island healthcare community through Island Health and UVic help illustrate benefits of the IMP’s foundational collaboration between those institutions and UBC.
The IMP delivers the UBC MD program in collaboration with UVic and Island Health. Based on UVic campus and at affiliated healthcare centres across Vancouver Island, the IMP is part of Canada’s first fully distributed undergraduate medical education program, which was created in 2004 to help address regional shortages of physicians, particularly in remote, rural, and Indigenous communities.
“A program this complex, and a vision this bold, are possible only with the support of strong partners. Island Health and UVic continue to play a significant role in our success,” says Dr. Bruce Wright, Regional Associate Dean, Vancouver Island, Faculty of Medicine, UBC, and Head, Division of Medical Sciences, UVic.
This partnership will continue to impact the Vancouver Island healthcare system after the COVID-19 outbreak. IMP students have access to significant academic research opportunities that address specific health needs in the community through DMSC. Medical students also participate in more than 2,900 clinical rotations each year in hospitals, primary care settings and clinics across the Island and surrounding region. Studies show that patients receive increased levels of care with the presence of medical learners and that hospitals with training facilities help recruit more physicians.
Other studies also show that doctors are more likely to set up practice where they train and make community connections. “More than 450 UBC MD students who graduated between 2000 and 2017 are now practicing on the Island, 289 of which are family doctors,” says Dr. Wright.