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Impact of a Regional Distributed Medical Education Program on an Underserved Community: Perceptions of Community Leaders

Toomey, Patricia MD, MSc; Lovato, Chris Y. PhD; Hanlon, Neil PhD; Poole, Gary PhD; Bates, Joanna MDCM

Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318290f9c7
Research Reports
Abstract

Purpose: To describe community leaders’ perceptions regarding the impact of a fully distributed undergraduate medical education program on a small, medically underserved host community.

Method: The authors conducted semistructured interviews in 2007 with 23 community leaders representing, collectively, the education, health, economic, media, and political sectors. They reinterviewed six participants from a pilot study (2005) and recruited new participants using purposeful and snowball sampling. The authors employed analytic induction to organize content thematically, using the sectors as a framework, and they used open coding to identify new themes. The authors reanalyzed transcripts to identify program outcomes (e.g., increased research capacity) and construct a list of quantifiable indicators (e.g., number of grants and publications).

Results: Participants reported their perspectives on the current and anticipated impact of the program on education, health services, the economy, media, and politics. Perceptions of impact were overwhelmingly positive (e.g., increased physician recruitment), though some were negative (e.g., strains on health resources). The authors identified new outcomes and confirmed outcomes described in 2005. They identified 16 quantifiable indicators of impact, which they judged to be plausible and measureable.

Conclusions: Participants perceive that the regional undergraduate medical education program in their community has broad, local impacts. Findings suggest that early observed outcomes have been maintained and may be expanding. Results may be applicable to medical education programs with distributed or regional sites in similar rural, remote, and/or underserved regions. The areas of impact, outcomes, and quantifiable indicators identified will be of interest to future researchers and evaluators.

Author Information

Dr. Toomey is a medical resident, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Lovato is professor, School of Population and Public Health, and director, Evaluation Studies Unit, Medical Education, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Hanlon is associate professor, Geography Program, College of Science and Management, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Poole is associate professor, School of Population and Public Health, and senior scholar, Centre for Health Education Scholarship, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Dr. Bates is professor, Department of Family Practice, and director, Centre for Health Education Scholarship, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

First published online April 24, 2013

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Lovato, Evaluation Studies Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Diamond Health Sciences Centre, 2775 Laurel St., 11th Floor, Room 11221, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1M9; e-mail: chris.lovato@ubc.ca.

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges