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Memorial University reaching out to Nunavut

Dr. Amy Pieroway and a young resident of Nunavut.

By Sharon Gray

Memorial University's Faculty of Medicine has a solid reputation for training family doctors for work in rural and remote areas. Now that expertise is being put to good use in Nunavut to develop a new program that will provide family medicine residents with a structured and longer-term educational rotation in the Territory.

Funding for the Nunavut Family Physician Residents Project (NunaFam) project is provided by the Government of Canada. In response to Nunavut's ongoing challenges to recruit and retain family physicians, the federal government will provide $4.9 million to support up to eight newly-graduated doctors to do their family medicine training in collaboration with Memorial University.

The NunaFam Project will also establish a Family Practice Training Centre based at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit, which currently serves as the main referral centre for the Qikiqtalluq Region of Nunavut. The training centre will provide additional educational and academic networking support for physicians practicing in Nunavut, as well as being a focal training point for residents in this project.

This extended exposure will encourage residents to stay and work in Nunavut after the completion of their medical training. While based in Iqaluit, the eight residents will conduct visits to several communities including those in the Qikiqtalluq (Baffin) Region.

"This collaboration will enhance support for family physicians working in Nunavut on an ongoing basis and will encourage their continuing medical practice in the Territory," said Dr. James Rourke, dean of medicine at Memorial University.

Dr. Amy Pieroway said practising medicine in Nunavut was completely different from any other clinical experience she's had.

"Having done rotations across Canada, in the Caribbean and Western Africa, I thought I might have an idea as to what to expect, but it exceeded my expectations in every way," she said. "The patients were challenging, and not having the backup of a bevy of specialists as we do in St. John's allowed me and the family physicians practising in Nunavut to really work through the full spectrum of a general practice. I delivered babies, did home visits with elders in Cape Dorset, worked in the emergency department and did work in the tuberculosis clinics."

Dr. Madeleine Cole, director of medical education for Nunavut, said the experience is beneficial for all residents training in Nunavut.

"The residents from Memorial have lived with and befriended residents from other family medicine and pediatrics programs who are also here, making for a collegial learning environment."