Wild weekend for MUN medical students

Chris Ballard
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Chamber of Commerce hopes training exercise will entice new doctors to Clarenville

The Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its second annual Wilderness Weekend for Memorial University’s medical students June 1-2 in an effort to attract future doctors to the Clarenville area.

Twenty-three prospective doctors descended upon Camp Nor’West just outside Clarenville to enjoy a weekend of hands-on first-aid training, presentations and socializing.

Third-year medical student Gordon Stockwell helped organize the event and explains that this type of event isn’t as rare as you might think.

“We’re basically trying to get doctors into the Clarenville area,” Stockwell said.

“Other cities do the same thing. Gander and Corner Brook do a golf and ski weekend respectively. This is kind of a little more outside the box. You’re out for the whole weekend. The nice thing about it is we get wilderness first aid training as well. We’re not just going out for a party. You go out for some training and socializing.”

Local high school students volunteered to help set up mock disasters that the medical students would “treat.”

The students had some help dressing themselves up in makeup and outfits to truly look the part of the victim. Stockwell said the mock disasters helped the MUN students get a first-hand look at what problems they may face as potential rural doctors.

“One of them was a canoe accident,” he said.

“We simulated an ATV crash, a camping accident, a car crash and a plane crash, believe it or not. We had volunteers from the high school. They were done up by a makeup artist. All the kids had a plot and they acted it out. Some were dead. Some you could resuscitate with CPR and some you couldn’t.”

First and second year medical students typically spend 80 per cent of their time in class and 20 per cent in the field and the wilderness weekend gave them a perfect opportunity as students to try their hand at wilderness first-aid training.

“At no point do we get wilderness first aid training (in medical school),” Stockwell said.

“Plus, who doesn’t like camping by a fire? You’re gearing this event towards those who enjoy the outdoor activities and who are more likely to practice in a rural area, where they have those opportunities.”

Guest speakers included Dr. Oscar Howell, who spoke on opportunities to practice medicine in Clarenville, and town Coun. Keith Rodway, who felt the students quickly warmed to the idea of working in this town.

“This is an experience they don’t get through regular medical school,” Rodway said.

“It was very well received. We came in and explained what’s important to Clarenville. I went in as a councillor and talked about the politics of Clarenville and the economics and wearing my medical hat, I talked about the business of medicine. It wasn’t lectures, but it was a much more intimate session, and they were very open to the ideas.”

Both Stockwell and Rodway are confident the event will return in 2014 to help sway a new wave of future doctors to practice in the Clarenville area.

“Planning is already started for next year,” Rodway said.

“I certainly believe this will happen again next year,” Stockwell added.

“This kind of event gets grandfathered into the student activities and passed along within the student body. Things change through the years and I got lucky to be able to come this year. In your third and fourth year, you’re in and out of hospitals all over the province and in other provinces. First and second year is mainly classes, so you get more opportunities to take part in events like this.”

The Packet

Organizations: Clarenville Area Chamber of Commerce

Geographic location: Clarenville, Corner Brook

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