Engaging Students and Young Doctors with Rural Health

Photo left to right: Ivana Babić (Croatia), John Wynn-Jones (UK, chair WWPRP), Claire Marie Thomas (UK), Mayara Floss (student, Brazil), Marita Cowie (Australia), Tanja Pekez-Pavliško (Croatia, Conference president), Ines Balint (Croatia, KoHOM president), Veronika Rašić (Croatia), Julia Pongracz (Austria, student), Rok Petrovčić (Slovenia, student), Beatriz Jiménez Muñoz (Spain, student), Jozo Schmuch (Croatia, student), Dave Townsend (Australia, student).

This montyh as part of a Rural feature, Veronika Rasic (left), a family medicine trainee, from Croatia and a member of the Vasco da Gama Movement for young doctors writes on her experience with the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice in Croatia recently.

Since starting my specialisation in family medicine I have become more aware of all the wonderful opportunities available in primary healthcare. One such opportunity came to my attention through the Vasco da Gama movement – they were looking for people interested in rural health for the WONCA World Rural Health conference, being held in Dubrovnik in April this year.

Up until then I had not really thought too much about rural practice as it had rarely (if at all) been mentioned during my medical education. But getting involved with the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice (WWPRP) I started to see how much this area of family medicine had to offer. Rural practice seemed to be more hands on, community based and called for a wide variety of skills, not to mention an adventurous spirit. These where all things that appealed to me and it seemed like an interesting direction to explore for my career.

With all of this going for it rural practice seems to be struggling in all parts of the world. One problem that kept being repeated during the conference in Dubrovnik was the difficulties in attracting and keeping young doctors in rural areas. It was also clear those countries that were having better success in this had well developed rural education tracks for students and junior doctors, as well as opportunities for academic advancement and CME.

The WWPRP recognised a need to involve students and young doctors in the discussion about rural health. During their annual meeting they brainstormed ideas on how to engage with this group of future rural practitioners. One idea that came from this meeting was to attempt to form an international rural group for students and young doctors.

We have started to gather students and junior doctors interested in rural health and have about 20 members at this stage. In collaboration with the FM change makers (@FMChangemakers) we have held two tweet chats on the topic of rural health – rural general practice and rural connectivity. Currently we are deciding on the aims and goals of our group. We hope to promote rural practice as a career option, help improve the opportunities for training and work conditions, with support from WWPRP and the wider WONCA family. Some of the projects we are interested in pursuing are establishing a mentorship program with WWPRP, facilitating training and exchange opportunities, gathering relevant information about a career in rural practice, and establishing a support network for rural practitioners. With the guidance of WWPRP we hope to share the voice of future and current rural practitioners and rural communities with a wider audience and policy makers.

The group is in its initial stages and is looking for young rural enthusiasts to join us. If you are one or know one, get in contact with us (@YDMRural).

See more articles from the WONCA Working Party on Rural Practice feature