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Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program Alumni Finding Success

Selkirk College alumna Cara Gallo (middle) with the Rural Pre-Medicine Program’s Class of 2017. Gallo has since graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry for the Medical Sciences from the University of Victoria and will start medical school at the University of Alberta in Edmonton this fall.

When Cara Gallo arrived at Selkirk College as a member of the first Rural Pre-Medicine (RPM) Program cohort in 2014, the idea of becoming a physician seemed distant. As she gets set to enter her first year of medical school at the University of Alberta, Gallo’s educational journey is now in full stride with an end-goal clearly in view.

“I have a real love for education, so it’s not difficult to be motivated for what I have already accomplished and what is ahead,” says Gallo, who graduated from J.L. Crowe Secondary in Trail in 2014 before coming to Selkirk College to start post-secondary. “When you break it down in parts and you see other students who have gone through it, that makes it seem like it’s achievable.”

The RPM Program was created with a goal of helping address the shortage of health care practitioners in rural communities. After nearly two years of research, study and preparation involving collaborative input from many branches of the health care sector both locally and across the province, the RPM Program admitted its first cohort at the Castlegar Campus in the 2014 Fall Semester.

This September, the program will welcome its sixth cohort and students like Gallo are proving that the right start at Selkirk College can lead to long-term educational success. 

“I was interested in science, but not exactly sure what I wanted to do after graduating from high school,” Gallo says of her choice to attend Selkirk College. “I came into the program in the first year to explore what is possible and also to stay close to home for a few years. The best part of the program is that it was built from the ground-up with people from the area that wanted to have a program that is unique and makes a difference for rural health care.”

The RPM Program hit a major milestone last year when Class of 2018 grads Adib Malas and Svetlana Hadikin were the first students from the program accepted into the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) MD Undergraduate Program. Both students are currently getting ready for a second year of medical school in UBC’s Southern Medical Program based in Kelowna.

The RPM Program saw continued success this past spring when Gallo and two more graduates received offers of acceptance to medical school. Rossland resident Brenna Mackay and Stanley Humphries Secondary grad Madison Morehouse will both put their RPM Program background to use at UBC in the fall.

As alumni of the RPM Program complete their chosen degrees in health science programs across B.C. and the country, they are finding continued success at gaining entry into professional academic programs and fulfilling careers including optometry, pharmacy, nursing and administration.

“The achievement of our graduates makes it clear that the program is accomplishing one of its core goals of helping students succeed in the health sciences,” says RPM Program Coordinator Jonathan Vanderhoek. “We have received tremendous support from members of the health care sector at both local and provincial levels because they believe that RPM can help students with rural backgrounds and affinities to become well-prepared applicants to professional health care programs. In the future, we will eventually see many of the remarkable alumni from this program helping to serve the health needs of rural communities.”

When Gallo graduated from Selkirk College in 2017, she headed to the University of Victoria to complete a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry for the Medical Sciences. She applied to medical school in both 2017 and 2018 where she made it to the interview stage of the process. The majority of students who are accepted to medical school are not successful on their first attempt and Gallo’s persistence paid off. Shortly after graduating with her BSc this past spring, she received the good news from the University of Alberta.

“There is a feeling of shock at first, then obviously I was happy,” Gallo says of her reaction to opening the acceptance letter.

Looking back on her post-secondary start at Selkirk College, Gallo says choosing the RPM Program helped her complete a degree at the University of Victoria and reach this exciting point in her education.

“I felt well prepared for the next step,” Gallo says. “Selkirk College instructors go above and beyond what they are teaching at other schools. Having small class sizes gives the teachers more time to work with you individually, so you get more out of what they are providing. When I compare it to other students who were in my classes after Selkirk College, I think the education I received made me even more prepared for the final two years of my degree.”

Applications for the Fall 2020 intake for the Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program open in October 2019. Find out more information at: selkirk.ca/rural-pre-medicine.