Prasun Das wanted to find out for himself what it’s like to practice medicine in rural Saskatchewan. “I think there’s a lot of stigma about rural practice, and a lack of education about it. So it’s just a good way to get information.”

More than 50 first year medical students toured the Humboldt District Health Complex to get a first-hand look at the day-to-day life of a rural practicioner.

Das, a first year medical student from Saskatoon, was among 55 students who traveled to Humboldt on Saturday, August 20 to get a first-hand account of rural practice. The tour was organized by the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan (SMSS) and funded by the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA). The SMSS selected Humboldt as the site of their rural stop and the Humboldt District Health Complex as the focal point of the tour.

Even for Anna Steve, who grew up in Milestone, Saskatchewan, the prospect of practicing in a rural community is appealing. “I really enjoyed growing up in a rural community,” she says. “My rural upbringing is something that I’m proud of. If anything, it’s the rural life that would draw me there. But at this point, I don’t know where I’d want to work. I just want to keep all my options open.”

Kelvin Fisher, Director of Rural Health and Planning for Saskatoon Health Region, says this is an important step for students. “Even at this stage in their education, it’s important to show medical students the benefits of practice and life in rural Saskatchewan. They are the doctors who could be working in our communities in the future.”

The students also met with civic and Health Region officials over lunch before enjoying some of the amenities Humboldt has to offer. SMSS member Nikki Rewuski says it’s important for medical students to see communities like Humboldt before choosing where to practice medicine.

“The Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan organizes this tour each year to introduce regional, rural and remote practice,” says Rewuski. “Studies have shown that earlier exposure to rural settings positively impact students’ attitudes toward rural practice. Medical students need to be socially conscious and this is just one action we are taking, in collaboration with the SMA, to address current health-care challenges in the province.” Sixty-one University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine graduates currently work in rural locations in Saskatchewan. She adds “We think it’s important for home-grown talent and expertise to remain in Saskatchewan.”

Das says his mind is open to rural and he hopes over the next several years he’ll be able to determine where to set up his practice. Steve agrees that it’s much too early to decide, but that the tour helped give them a taste of the lifestyle that’s possible in a rural community.