Rural round-up: Society for Young Rural Surgeons

January, 2018

Lauren Smithson MD, together with some American colleagues struggling with communication and isolation in wanting to train in rural medicine, started the society for young rural surgeons (SYRUS). This was something that came out of a need for people with rural interests in health care being able to find mentors, jobs, and training opportunities in rural medical careers. Basically, we need connectivity, and we need a strong rural voice in medical training. Lauren is a surgeon in St Anthony, Newfoundland and writes more about SYRUS.

The Society for Young Rural Surgeons (SYRUS) is a non-profit organization based in the USA that was created to increase connectivity between rural surgeons and increase awareness of the need for excellent medical care in rural communities.

In 2012, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) realized the need for an Advisory Council for Rural Surgery (ARCS), and from this initiative, more awareness and advocacy at the college level has begun to flourish. One of the main issues that came to light as the rural surgical issues were addressed was the lack of connectivity between isolated rural practitioners and the inability of trainees to find not only rural rotations, but also support for and information on rural careers. From this seeming gap SYRUS was conceptualized. Two rural-minded surgical trainees, one resident and one student, came together to form SYRUS, with a mission to increase communication at the student, resident, and young graduating surgeon level.

The research on rural medicine recruitment over the past 20 to 30 years concludes that most rural practitioners come from rural backgrounds, or from rural training programs, or with rural spouses. So in order to fill the gaps in our rural posts, and we believe at SYRUS that this is a world-wide issue, we have to start exposing trainees to rural opportunities from the grass roots of medicine: the students. By teaching students about the value of rural medicine as a career and a lifestyle, we can help to address the shortages that many of our countries will face in the near future.

SYRUS aims to bring medical students and residents together, providing them with contacts for mentorship in rural practice or global experience.

SYRUS website
Our website provides a place for medical students to seek out the ‘rural-friendly’ residency programs, and also lists locations for rural elective rotations for which they can apply. Most of these are in the USA or Canada, but we are aiming to expand the website to list global opportunities and volunteer medical trips. Most recently, rural conferences have been added to the site, and web links to other rural-focused medical groups exponentially expand the circles in which we can learn from and connect to each other.

We have already successfully placed an international medical graduate in a rural surgery rotation in Oregon, and have started a SYRUS newsletter, with a second issue soon to be released. SYRUS is looking to become a global force, although at present a majority of the members and executive are located in the USA.

In Australia, SYRUS has started to have a presence, but more members are needed. It is only by working together from all disciplines of medicine in all countries, that we can address the needs of the millions of patients in rural areas of the world who deserve excellence in health care not affected by the place in which they choose to reside.