The Northern Medical Programs Trust (NMPT), established in 2002, found and early and eager supporter in the Burns Lake community. Fund raising in Burns Lake made it the second community in Northern B.C. to reach its funding goal, which was determined based on population size.
To date, Burns Lake has contributed $72,000 to the fund in support of the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) Northern Medical Program (NMP). The NMP represents the UNBC faculty of medicine’s commitment to addressing the need for medical professionals in rural and northern B.C.
After spending two semesters at the University of British Columbia, students complete the rest of their training at UNBC in Prince George, with opportunities for placements in northern communities as part of their practical studies. Thirty-two students arrive in Prince George every year as part of the program. Some of the first graduates of the program are choosing to remain and work in Northern B.C.
The $7 million NMPT fund is an endowment fund. On current investment returns – NMPT only spends the interest earned – the fund supports an annual disbursement of approximately $150,000.
The fund money goes towards assisting any student in the NMP, and not towards students specifically from Northern B.C. But the program does draw a lot of students from across the north.
“About two-thirds of the students in this year’s first-year NMP cohort are from Northern B.C.,” said Robert van Adrichem, UNBC vice-president of external relations.
Some of the larger grants include $5000 awards to NMP students who complete an academic year in either Terrace or Fort St. John, with other communities being considered for future placements. Seven students received this award this year.
Students placed in rural communities for two to four week placements receive grants in the $2000 range, depending on the distance from Prince George the rural placement.
Nursing students receive support through Nurse Practitioner Grants, which averages about $1800 per nursing student to participate in a rural placement.
The NMPT also supports community projects like last year’s Travelling Rural Health Roadshow that spent a few days in Burns Lake familiarizing medical students with the area, and area students with the possibilities of a career in medicine.
The northern medical program and the innovative programs the trust supports have increased the draw of UNBC for Northern B.C. students considering a career in medicine.
Burns Lake has two students in the UNBC medical program, Jocelyn and Christopher Unger.