The McMaster Community and Rural Education program, known as Mac-CARE, has grown exponentially since its inception.
The program gives McMaster University medical students and residents exposure to community and rural practice outside of academic health science centres. This helps them develop a better understanding of issues related to community and rural practice, and opens their minds to it as a possible career pathway.
When created in 2006, the program was funded to support approximately 600 learners on four- to six-week rotations annually. Today, that number has quadrupled.
"Mac-CARE allows learners to live and learn in a community," said Dr. Dorothy Bakker, who was recently named assistant dean of the program after serving as director since 2010. "These communities embrace our learners, and we are seeing more and more stay in these sites upon completion of their medical education."
The Mac-CARE program is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and is one way that the Ontario government has been addressing provincial physician shortages. The program supports training residents in numerous specialties, as well as medical students in the clinical clerkship of their training.
The administrative team under Bakker's leadership works behind the scenes in collaboration with undergraduate and postgraduate medical education programs to ensure the program is successful and that it results in a positive experience for all involved, from the clinical clerks and residents to hospital staff and physicians.
Among the team's many responsibilities are: arranging funding for clinical preceptors, as well for learners for accommodation and travel; facilitating contracts between the university and health systems, and providing faculty development at each site. The team also oversees tracking of the days that medical learners spend in hospitals through a McMaster-tailored electronic database called Medical School Information System or MedSIS.
Mac-CARE's regional sites include Burlington Clinical Education Campus, Grand Erie Six Nations Clinical Education Campus, Halton Clinical Education Campus, Niagara Regional Campus and Waterloo Regional Campus.
The Mac-CARE program has recently expanded to include the William Osler Health System, Osler Clinical Education Campus.
"Our program stretches from Niagara to Mount Forest, from Simcoe to Brampton," Bakker said. "This vast geographical area offers a wide variety of sites and opportunities for our learners."
Bakker graduated from McMaster medical school in 1990 and completed her family medicine residency from McMaster University's North Hamilton Community Health Centre in 1992. She practised as a rural family physician in Port Elgin, Ontario from 1992 to 2001.
"I worked as a physician in a small town in the 1990s and spent many years trying to recruit and retain physicians in rural communities," she said. "As such, I fully understand the importance of communities having physicians and specialists and am pleased to be part of the Mac-CARE program that is helping address that challenge."
Bakker joined McMaster in 2007 as director of student affairs at the Waterloo Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. She subsequently became the director of Mac-CARE and an associate clinical professor in the Department of Family Medicine.
In addition to her work at McMaster, Bakker is a student health physician at the University of Guelph, and she recently published a research paper on student mental health.
She says she enjoys working with students as a health-care provider, instructor, researcher and administrator.
"I just love having the opportunity to connect with students in so many ways," she says. "My various interactions with students gives me perspective and insight that benefits each aspect of my professional career."
Bakker has received a mentorship award from the Waterloo Regional Campus of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, as well as Ontario College of Family Physicians Regional Family Physician of the Year Award for Region 3 in 2015.
In 2005 and 2012, the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine was awarded the Keith Award from the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada as the medical school that best selects and trains physicians who choose to practice in rural communities. The award was given for the school's emphasis on striving to select and train doctors based on where they are most needed.
The Mac-CARE program also works closely with the rural stream training program in the Department of Family Medicine.
"It has been tremendous to see the Mac-CARE program grow under Dr. Bakker's leadership," says Alan Neville, associate dean of health professional education of the Faculty of Health Sciences. "We are pleased with the success of this program that is helping teach and retain talented, McMaster-trained physicians and specialists to communities across southern Ontario."
For more information on Mac-CARE, visit http://maccare.mcmaster.ca.