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Rural family med stream gives residents ‘the best of both worlds’

August 2, 2019 — 

Five medical graduates from the University of Manitoba recently completed their residencies in the Max Rady College of Medicine’s Rural Family Medicine stream in Brandon, where they were able to hone their procedural skills through a wide variety of clinical encounters and receive one-on-one mentorship from physicians and specialists. Three of the five graduates entered practice and the other two graduates are continuing with the emergency medicine training program in Brandon.

Dr. Charles Penner, associate dean, Brandon satellite program, Max Rady College of Medicine, said that residents are incorporated into the health-care community and the larger community in a more intensive way than in a larger city.

“Brandon is unique in that almost all of the training in the family medicine program is done in Brandon. Brandon is slightly larger and a little bit more isolated in terms of distance from Winnipeg than some of the other rural teaching centres,” he said. “The learning experience is thus a little broader allowing residents to explore some areas of medicine they may not be able to in the other rural centres; but at the same time, it’s a setting in which the resident is completely embedded in the local health-care community and known by all.”


Two of the graduates talked to us about what drew them to rural family medicine, some of the benefits of training in a rural environment and the best part about their experiences in Brandon:

Youcef Soufi [MD/17] – Currently doing temporary locums across various rural practice sites in Manitoba

Where did you grow up? Winnipeg.

Why did you decide to pursue a family medicine residency in a rural environment? A couple reasons went into my decision. One was that the scope of practice in family medicine in rural settings is much broader than in urban settings including providing acute care. Another was the work environment – you get to know your colleagues, nursing staff and specialists in other departments beyond professional interactions. 

Can you describe some of the benefits of the rural residency experience? In Brandon, you get the best of both worlds. It’s considered rural but has all of the benefits of large urban centers. Medical residents in Brandon have unique opportunities in that we receive one-on-one training and mentorship from highly esteemed physicians from a broad range of specialties. Working alongside surgeons, various internal medicine specialists (cardiology, neurology, nephrology and more), pediatricians and OBGYN specialists provided me the opportunity to develop a broad range of procedural skills and medical expertise.      

What was it like lifestyle-wise? It was very enjoyable with plenty of opportunities to be involved in the community. I am a lifelong practitioner of freestyle wrestling as well as Brazilian jujitsu. I began coaching at the local mixed martial arts club and it provided a great avenue for me to establish lifelong friendships outside of work.   

What was the best part? The opportunity to tailor your medical training to your own needs. Our program makes every effort to provide individualized training to each resident based upon their respective medical interests.

What is the next step in your career? I will be doing temporary locums across various rural practice sites across Manitoba. I will definitely stay in rural medicine – I like the broad scope of practice, the collegiality, and the sense of community.


Colleen Pitzel [MD/17] – Currently practicing at the Western Medical Clinic in Brandon

Where did you grow up? Headingley.

Why did you decide to pursue a family medicine residency in a rural environment? I knew I wanted to practice in a smaller centre and I wanted my training to reflect what my practice would look like.

Can you describe some of the benefits of the rural residency experience/lifestyle? In Brandon and southwestern Manitoba, the medical community is small, and you get to know each other better than you would in a bigger centre. I got to personally know, work and train with most of the specialists. Also, there is less competition with other residents for training opportunities in a smaller centre. There are many opportunities for one-on-one learning and I got the chance to do a variety of procedures while on rotations.

What is it like lifestyle-wise? Brandon is a small city and everything is a 10 minute drive away. You’re not spending 20-30 minutes or longer in traffic like in Winnipeg.

What was the best part? The best part was the training. I ended up getting to do a lot of procedures and I didn’t have to compete for learning opportunities. I also really enjoyed the collegiality between family doctors and specialists.

What is the next step in your career? I’m excited to start my practice at the Western Medical Clinic in Brandon. I look forward to seeing where my career takes me. I like that in Brandon you can practice small town family medicine but you have a lot of support. Also, I want to do obstetrics, which limits where you can practice. I initially thought I wanted to be in a smaller city but now it (Brandon) feels like the right size.

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