(This initiative was formerly the Mothers in Rural Medicine initiative. The title has changed to reflect the broad interest of all medical practitioners in this topic.)
For the first time in Canadian history, many of the most influential positions in health and medicine are occupied by women. Many of the women in these positions are exemplary models, having found ways to effectively balance having a family and medicine. Despite these advances and role models, young female professionals and their partners still face many challenges particularly around starting a family and a practice. In the context of rural Canada, this balancing act is more difficult because services needed to address problems that arise with delayed motherhood may be limited, such as care for high risk pregnancies and childcare. With most medical schools now graduating more women than men, and when nearly 40% of medical couples are both physicians, these challenges are of particular concern to rural practice recruitment and retention.
Drawing on the experience of successful women and mothers in medicine, we are developing a comprehensive strategy to support women and men in balancing their work and family responsibilities at all levels of their professional career. This family-friendly strategy is designed to address the following important aspects of parenting and rural medicine:
- Raise awareness of the consequences associated with delayed childbearing, empowering young men and women to make informed decisions about starting a family ;
- Provide supports and encouragement to enable women and men to start families at any stage in their education or work lifecycle;
- Raise awareness of the importance for rural healthcare to meet the needs of physician parents and those who want to start families;
- Provide informal mentorship, access to information and resources.
The manuscript describes research findings that emerged from the survey and interview data collected in 2012 and outlines issues and solutions discussed by physician mothers. The manuscript is currently under review at the Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine.
Talks between April and June 2013 will provide information and raise awareness about meshing parenthood and medical careers for four different interested audiences: medical students, residents, physicians and health authorities/recruiters. The talks will be held in Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna and Prince George.
The blog would be used to raise awareness about issues of motherhood in medicine: showcase research findings, discuss programs and support system available, as well as highlight some real-life solutions and strategies for dealing with commonly cited issues. The blog would be written by Dr. Parnell and Dr. Johnston and guest posts from interested women in medicine would be highly welcome and encouraged. Fathers too will join the discussion and have an active voice!
As a pilot project, we intend to recruit a small number of rural female physicians to serve as mentors. Their bios would be posted on this website and potential mentees would be encouraged to contact the mentors. This program would have an evaluation component to determine the interest in the program and the quality of mentorship possible with this type of mentorship arrangement.