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  • Calling all female volunteers -- Island Medical Program students need your help

    Jun 27, 2017 | Posted by: Rhys Mahannah

    The Island Medical Program (IMP), which delivers the UBC MD Undergraduate Program in partnership with UVic, is looking for female volunteers to help train the next generation of doctors.

    Each year, from September to October, second-year medical students learn how to conduct gynecological and breast exams in their clinical skills classes. These classes, which take place at Royal Jubilee Hospital Coronation Annex, the IMP’s clinical campus, involve three to four students; a physician tutor; and a healthy female volunteer, known as Female Clinical Teaching Associate (FCTA). FCTAs are trained as both instructor and patient, and together with the physician tutor, they help students develop the sensitive communication skills and techniques required for an effective exam.

    These sessions are essential to medical education. They allow students to practice in a safe, supportive, professional environment, said Dr. Dr. Alex Henri-Bhargava, the Year 1 & 2 Site Director for Clinical Skills. But, just as important, they give patients a voice about the treatment they receive.

    “Without FCTAs, there would be no way for students to practice properly,” said Dr. Henri-Bhargava. “It’s absolutely crucial that doctors-in-training work closely with, and listen to feedback from, the people they’ll soon be serving.”


    The community shares this sentiment. Since the FCTA program started in 2006, the response has been powerful – nearly 20 volunteers have participated, and nine of them are now senior FCTAs (meaning they’ve come back in subsequent years).

    “We’ve been blessed with a dedicated number of women who teach these sessions,” said Karen Basi, the IMP’s Patient Programs Coordinator. “They’re passionate about the quality of medical care provided to females, and as clinical teaching associates, they help shape what care can and should look like when performing these sensitive exams.”

    One of the IMP’s most senior FCTAs, Michelle, has been with the program since 2008. Besides the students, what impresses her most is the quality of education and the focus on the patient experience.

    “The work is powerful. It is authentic, holistic learning at a level rarely seen,” she said. “As a woman and mother of a daughter, I am a strong advocate of this unique clinical skills environment; not only are medical students gaining clinical skills, but they’re also learning how to be respectful, supportive, and woman-focused during sensitive examinations that are essential for lifelong wellness.”

    IMP students actually begin clinical skills training in first year, where they start with the basics – how to build a rapport with patients, for instance, and the skills to conduct simple physical exams.

    Students then advance to more complicated, and more sensitive, exams in their second year, including the gynecological and breast exams. Last year, the IMP also unveiled the male equivalent to the FCTA – Male Clinical Teaching Associates (MCTAs), who help students with urogenital assessments.

    Erin Coates, now a third-year student, has had experience with both the FCTAs and MCTAs. Their feedback has been invaluable, she said, in her training to become a patient-centric physician.

    “It’s been a real privilege working with the CTAs,” she said. “They’re very knowledgeable, and I appreciate their focus on communication, specifically as it relates to making them feel comfortable, respected, and in control of their treatments.”


    If you or someone you know would like to get involved as a Female Clinical Training Associate, please contact Karen Basi, the Patient Program Coordinator, at karenpri@uvic.ca or 250-370-8111 ext: 12386.

    Recruitment for FCTAs ends in August. Training will take place in early September; classes run from September to October. Volunteers receive an honorarium for each training and exam session.

    For more information on the Clinical Teaching Associate programs and other volunteer opportunities, check the clinical teaching associates website: imp.uvic.ca/community/clinical-teaching-associates/index