Haliburton hosted three medical students in an ongoing effort to recruit physicians through the Rural Ontario Medical Program (ROMP) June 3-7.
The first-years from the medical program at Queen’s University in Kingston visited as part of the one-week course.
The program places students in communities around the province where they learn from local physicians and experience the locale.
Shaun Lampen was one of the three students who attended. He said he enjoyed the experience despite having not known where Haliburton was beforehand.
“It’s been really interesting,” Lampen said. “Rural medicine is definitely different than city medicine. I think the doctors here are incredible, they have a lot less to work with in terms of referral services.”
Cheryl Kennedy was recently hired as the new County of Haliburton physician recruitment co-ordinator.
She was also previously involved in the ROMP program as an office manager with the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team.
She said ROMP, which has run in Haliburton for more than 15 years, is important for getting future doctors interested in the community.
“If we start there with these three young men, then maybe what they’ll want to do is come back again as a medical student. They might ask to come do their family medicine rotation here,” Kennedy said. “Plant the seed.”
But none of the students expressed a first preference for working in a small municipality. Matt Gynn has a family cottage in Haliburton but said he needs an urban setting to pursue the work he wants to do in cancer treatment.
“Being interested in cancer care relegates me to the city,” Gynn said. “If I were to change my mind, I really like the idea of rural medicine, especially if it’s family medicine.”
Gil Marutierrez said although he had not considered it much, he sees himself starting his career in an urban location based on the opportunities.
“I don’t have a strong preference either way but based on where I want to be in life … I really want to stay in an urban setting and eventually, probably move into a rural setting,” he said.
Kennedy said although some ROMP participants in Haliburton have come back to do residencies later in their education, none have become full-time physicians here.
But the program does have success stories in rural areas and it gets people to consider the region, she said. She added it makes students think about working in a small community.
Kennedy said her new position at the county will help in physician recruitment efforts. She noted she will have the time to do things like attend recruitment events, which local medical community members do not have the time for.
She added she is working on a unique tagline to attract physicians to consider the municipality.
“We want something unique (for recruitment),” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life. It’s really easy to sell Haliburton.”