The more medical students know about practicing in rural Saskatchewan the more likely they are to settle in such areas after graduation.
At least that is the hope driving a new initiative by the Saskatchewan Medical Association.
Through a program organized by the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan and funded by the SMA, medical students from the University of Saskatchewan are taken out to rural area for a one-day look at local medical services, and at other aspects of the community, explained Dr. Brian Gelter Saturday.
The program is a way to at least put the possibility of practicing in rural Saskatchewan into the minds of students, said Gelter, who was with a group of about 25 second year medical students visiting Yorkton.
"We're just trying to introduce students to rural Saskatchewan," said Gelter, who himself practices at Meadow Lake.
The program of touring students is in its second year, taking those taking second year courses to four different areas of the province throughout the year.
Gelter said if students recognize there are positives to practicing in rural area, they are more apt to consider serving in such areas.
"We hope some of them will consider family medicine in rural areas," he said.
Gelter said the program introduces students to local area doctors and gives them some hands on experiences such as how to set a cast, or suture a cut using pigskin for practice.
The hands-on opportunity is a big aspect of the touring said Gelter who explained second year students are still very much focused on the sciences in class, meaning they do not do much practical work.
"So it's exciting for them doing things they went into medicine to do," he said.
But the visit also looks at what rural communities can offer outside of work hours.
The Yorkton visit included a skiing afternoon as Asessippi.
Later this year fourth year medical students will be brought to Yorkton for the Yorkton Film Festival, "to show there is cultural life outside Regina and Saskatoon," said Gelter.
Brendan Kushneriuk was one of the medical students visiting the city Saturday. Raised in Prince Albert, he said the SMA effort is a worthwhile one.
"It's been really good. They've treated us well," he said.
Kushneriuk said it is great to have local doctors working with them on some basic medical skills, but added it's good that the visits go beyond that to include a look at what a community offers. He said talking to local medical staff and "seeing their enjoyment for the community" means a lot.
As for his own plans Kushneriuk said his decision on where to practice will be made "on a combination of things," but he added rural Saskatchewan is not out of the question.
"I don't think I'm a person that wants to be the only physician in a community," he said, which would rule out smaller centres, but a community such as Yorkton might one day be a fit.
In terms of what will make the program a success, Gelter said given that at present it is rare for a new graduate to choose rural Saskatchewan "if two of these students do this is a success." He added "I'd love if all of them did, but we have not set hard targets on paper."
Ultimately Gelter said he just hopes participants "leave this with a good feeling about rural Saskatchewan."