Pediatric residency training moves to Vancouver Island

Matthew Harding and Steven Leung, the first residents to join UBC's new pediatric residency site on Vancouver Island.

Matthew Harding and Steven Leung, the first residents to join UBC’s new pediatric residency site on Vancouver Island. Photo Credit: Steven Leung

This year — for the first time in history — UBC pediatric residents will have the opportunity to complete their journey to becoming practicing physicians on Vancouver Island.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the Pediatric Residency Program expand outside of Vancouver,” says Mary Bennett, Associate Head, Education, with UBC’s Department of Pediatrics. “We recognize that there’s a need for more pediatricians on the Island, and with the launch of this new site, we’ll be better able to equip residents for the broad scope of practice performed by pediatricians in smaller centres.”

In July, the new Pediatric training site, based on Vancouver Island, opened its doors to its first cohort of resident physicians: Matthew Harding and Steven Leung.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to be part of the new Pediatrics residency site,” says Dr. Harding. “It’s exciting to think of ourselves as the pioneers of the site. We have the opportunity, and responsibility, to make an impact and help steer the site’s development for future residents.”

Over the course of the next several years, Drs. Harding and Leung will work alongside local pediatricians and physicians on Vancouver Island, gaining exposure to acute care and ambulatory pediatrics, as well as a wide range of specialties, like pediatric orthopedics and cardiology.

“One of the unique offerings of this training site is that we’ve introduced a longitudinal model, where residents will be exposed to a mix of general and subspecialty pediatric experiences over the course of their residency, instead of all at once, as is traditionally the case with a block format,” says Jennifer Balfour, the director of the new training site.

While much of their training will take place on the Island, Drs. Harding and Leung will also complete several subspecialty rotations in Vancouver, joining their peers at BC Children’s Hospital, which serves as the main training site for approximately 60 pediatric residents.

Like their counterparts in Vancouver, who gain experience in community-based pediatric wards across the Lower Mainland, residents on Vancouver Island will also gain experience working in smaller centres. This year, Drs. Harding and Leung are headed to Port Alberni and Campbell River for part of the year — outreach opportunities that Dr. Balfour hopes to see shape the residents’ understanding of what practicing in smaller communities is all about.

Baby“The new residency site is really designed to help grow pediatricians for practice in the community — including smaller centres,” says Dr. Balfour. “And, while there are a lot of factors that influence a trainee’s decision to stay in a community to practice long-term, increased exposure to training outside of large city centres is a great way to open up our residents’ eyes to practice possibilities in other communities, including those on Vancouver Island.”

In fact, for Dr. Balfour, who has worked as a pediatrician on Vancouver Island for close to two decades, the arrival of the new training site, which will reach steady state with 8 residents by 2018, offers new hope for the region.

“Not only are we going to see increased service capacity with the arrival of new residents, but also the potential for increased retention and recruitment of pediatricians for the communities of Vancouver Island,” says Dr. Balfour.

“I couldn’t be happier about the opening of the Pediatrics training site in Victoria and the arrival of the two Pediatrics residents who are joining us this year,” adds Bruce Wright, Regional Associate Dean, Vancouver Island, UBC Faculty of Medicine. “With the addition of this program, we now have even more opportunities for doctors to not only begin their training but also complete their specialties on the Island.”

A distributed approach to residency

While the distributed training model may be new for the Pediatrics residency program, it’s an established approach for many other residency programs, including UBC’s family medicine program, which offers training to residents at 17 unique sites across the province, including a new site in Kootenay-Boundary.

According to Roger Wong, Associate Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education, the university’s distributed approach to residency training not only prepares physicians for practice across diverse regions of the province, but helps meet the health care needs faced by B.C. communities.

“The new Pediatric residency site on Vancouver Island is evidence of our strong commitment to training more doctors to provide the best possible care for children and youth in B.C.,” says Dr. Wong, who welcomed the addition of two family medicine residency sites in Kamloops and North Vancouver, as well as an emergency medicine residency site in Kelowna just last summer.

Building connections with the Island community

Steven Leung_cropped

Steven Leung

For Victoria pediatric resident Dr. Leung, who completed an elective in Nanaimo during his MD undergraduate education at the University of Saskatchewan, the opportunity to come back to Vancouver Island as a pediatric resident to master his technical skills, and develop strong roots with the community was very attractive.

“We’re in a very unique position, with a lot of opportunity to engage on procedural skills and receive one-on-one training from attending physicians,” says Dr. Leung.

“The training experience has been fantastic and I’ve already had a lot of exposure to different learning experiences,” adds Dr. Harding, only days after coming off of his first rotation in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Victoria General Hospital.

While Drs. Leung and Harding won’t be joined by other pediatric residents until next summer, when the new cohort starts, they certainly won’t be the only trainees on the Island this year.

Matthew Harding_cropped

Matthew Harding

Vancouver Island is already home to a vibrant community of residents completing psychiatry, as well as family medicine, internal medicine, and emergency medicine residency programs. Vancouver Island is also home to UBC’s Island Medical Program (IMP), one of four distinct training sites for medical students completing UBC’s MD undergraduate program.

According to Dr. Balfour, the successful launch of the new Pediatrics site on Vancouver Island was largely due to the incredible support from Island-based faculty and staff working in postgraduate and undergraduate medical education, nursing and allied health colleagues, as well as those at Island Health.

“We have had real involvement, and commitment, not only from our general pediatricians, but also our subspecialty colleagues here on the Island,” says Dr. Balfour. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned about working in pediatrics, it’s that it’s a team sport — and I can definitely say that that rings true when it comes to the education of our residents as well. It really is a team effort.”

Over the past decade, UBC’s postgraduate training programs have witnessed steady growth, now with over 1,400 medical trainees in 70 different postgraduate programs at more than 100 clinical training sites across the province. This year, UBC welcomed 338 entry-level trainees — the largest number of entry-level postgraduate trainees in the history of B.C.