May 21, 2019

Cumming School connects rural Alberta to the changing landscape of health care

UCalgary Across Alberta: Physicians and researchers talk youth mental health, cannabis policies at House Call events

It started with an idea from the dean of medicine, Jon Meddings. He grew up in a small town, and finds a drive through Alberta’s countryside relaxing. “As soon as I start to see the fields, the mountains and the landscape, I can feel the tension slip away,” he says.

And Meddings believes that connection to rural Alberta is equally important to the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). “The research done at the school of medicine leads to impactful discoveries and better health care for all Albertans,” he explains.

In an effort to reach out to the smaller Alberta communities where CSM medical students and doctors-in-training learn their skills, the CSM started a series called House Call. The event features physicians and researchers speaking about topics of interest in the community, raising awareness of the connection between research and advances in medicine and health care available to rural Albertans. This event also highlights opportunities for rural students to seek careers in medicine.

On May 6, people in Three Hills, Alta. gathered at Prairie College to interact with CSM on youth mental health and cannabis policies. The Three Hills community members were highly engaged, submitting anonymous questions that were addressed by Dr. Paul Arnold, MD, director of the Mathison Centre for Mental Health Research and Education at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, and Dr. Fiona Clement, PhD, from the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

Presenting at the House Call community event in Three Hills were, from left: Aaron Johnston, Paul Arnold, Jon Meddings, and Fiona Clement.

Presenting were, from left: Aaron Johnston, Paul Arnold, Jon Meddings, and Fiona Clement.

Marchella Barbero, Cumming School of Medicine

Interacting with rural communities fosters awareness of topics that resonate with the public. The team discussed trending matters such as precision medicine, cannabis research, and mental health. Community residents asked how the legalization of cannabis edibles will affect the children of the community, and were interested in various methods of treating depression, like cognitive behavioural therapy. 

“These House Call events give us the chance to thank medical professionals and communities who help train the physicians of tomorrow, and provide cutting-edge information that the community is interested in,” says Dr. Aaron Johnston, MD, the director of CSM’s Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives. 

Fiona Clement's presentation on cannabis drew questions and discussion.

Fiona Clement's presentation on cannabis drew questions and discussion.

Marchella Barbero, Cumming School of Medicine

Distributed Learning and Rural Initiatives supports more than 4,000 weeks of rural education and experience in over 60 communities across Alberta. Through these experiences, medical learners gain valuable insight into the full continuum of care in a generalist setting, and may choose a rural location to practice in the future.

Dr. Rithesh Ram, MD, director of the University of Calgary Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship, notes how his rural training impacted him: “I was born and raised in a rural community but did not think I would practice there after my academic training. After just a few days in my rural placement, my wife told me that I had found my smile again. Rural medicine made me remember why I chose this career, because I want to help as many people as I can in the greatest ways possible.”

About 30 community members from Three Hills attended the event.

About 30 community members from Three Hills attended the event.

Marchella Barbero, Cumming School of Medicine