Rural medicine is in crisis—with not enough doctors living and working in rural and remote communities in BC. There are many reasons for this—ranging from a need for alternative government payment models for family physicians to make their practices financially viable, to a reluctance by medical graduates to work in unfamiliar rural settings after training in major urban centers.
While not having a magic–bullet fix for such a complex problem, UBC Alumni Dr. Colleen Froese, BSc’75/MD’82, and Wayne Brown, BCom’81, feel one crucial part of the solution is familiarity with rural communities—and the need for medical students to experience this firsthand before graduating.
To this end, through a blended gift—a future bequest of their estate plans, combined with current-day giving— they have established the Colleen Froese, MD and Wayne Brown Award in Rural Health. The award is for third and fourth-year MD students interested in practicing in a rural community—with preference given to students from underserved communities.
As an MD and psychiatrist, Colleen feels training in a rural setting makes for an easier transition rather than moving there after graduation. “Otherwise, if you haven’t experienced it, it’s difficult to make that transition once you finish your residency training.”
The need for more doctors in BC’s rural communities is something Colleen experienced firsthand.
“I grew up in the north and looked after my parents in Terrace, BC, when they were elderly. I realized the difficulties people face with medical care in the north are everywhere,” Colleen says. “While it’s not a simple solution—I think many graduating physicians simply haven’t experienced what it’s like to live in small towns or the north.”
Colleen feels that giving more medical students the chance to work in rural BC would change attitudes and have beneficial knock-on effects for community health.
“If they went even for a small part of their training, they might be enticed to go longer or do more and give back to these rural communities in BC.”
Wayne agrees. Having accompanied Colleen on trips to Terrace, where she provided psychiatric treatment for patients, Wayne saw the urgent need for more doctors outside BC’s urban centers.
“Listening to Colleen talk about the need for younger physicians servicing rural environments—I realize there’s currently no stability in terms of people staying and working there.”
For Colleen and Wayne, it’s about impressing upon the next generation of physicians the vital role doctors play by personally working in the community.
“I think it’s essential because even though there’s remote medicine,” says Wayne. “having boots on the ground—where you have that face-to-face interaction with your patients—I think that’s important too.”
By making part of their gift now, to establish the award, Colleen and Wayne get to see the fruits of their philanthropy during their lifetime.
“Knowing your gift is doing something while you’re alive is a benefit,” says Wayne. “And not having children, we don’t have that expense—and we live fairly modestly—it made sense for us.”
The process of estate planning also meant peace of mind, knowing their wishes would be carried out as they hoped.
“I think the process has been wonderful,” says Colleen. “There has been lots of help getting our wishes down properly. And you need time for that process—so it’s good to start it as soon as you can.”
Reflecting on her numerous trips from Vancouver to her psychiatry practice in Terrace, Colleen is glad to continue supporting rural medical care with her and Wayne’s philanthropy.
“It’s been a great journey, and it’s nice to carry on something you care about—that you will never see if you leave it too late.”