Flex Program – Medical Students



The RHSRNbc fund travel bursaries to be awarded to year 1, 2 and 4 FLEX students who are working in projects that involve rural and remote health activities. Year 1, 2, and 4 bursaries are funded up to a maximum of $1000 each. These bursaries are intended to subsidize the costs of travel and accommodation related to your FLEX Project. Allowable expenses include: transportation to rural communities and accommodation. Funds will be reimbursed after submission of original receipts and final report for RHSRNbc.

FLEX (Flexible Enhanced Learning) is a series of courses that offer medical undergraduate students unique opportunities to pursue a variety of scholarly activities in Year 1, 2 and 4 of the renewed curriculum.  In FLEX, students develop and pursue activities that allow them to explore individual learning interests in greater depth.

FLEX activities can take place in academic settings or communities anywhere in British Columbia, Canada or the world.”

Past Projects


Student Testimonials

MED 419 (Year 1 FLEX)



"We are two second year medical students working on a project for the Centre for Rural Health Research (CRHR), under the supervision of Dr. Jude Kornelsen. The overarching project is called: Building Blocks to Sustainable Rural Maternity Care – The North Island Project, and it is an initiative aimed at improving rural maternity services on northern Vancouver Island. There is a clear disparity between the system goals of supplying maternity care within rural communities and the reality of providing these services on the North Island. Because of the geographic isolation and lack of availability of local services in these communities, the necessity travelling long distances for their baby’s due dates has been realized by most mothers. This poses social and financial challenges associated with leaving a familiar environment and community supports. Additionally, compared to BC averages, a relatively large proportion of women on the north island experience heightened social vulnerability, including teen, substance using, single, and indigenous mothers. Providing culturally and socially responsible care for these women is of particular importance. Understanding the experiences of these high-risk mothers has been identified as a clear gap in current literature.Our project, Voices of the North Island, is a participatory health research study, focused on hearing birth and pregnancy stories from mothers and families, facilitating the data feedback loop with communities, and we plan to document our findings into literature. We have been on two trips so far; the first introducing ourselves to the community, and the second for data collection. We have conducted interviews in many communities in the North Island region, including Port Hardy, Alert Bay/’Namgis First Nation, Gwa’sala ‘Nakxwada’xw First Nation, and Kwakiutl First Nation. We are now analyzing our data back at UBC. Our goal is to provide evidence to act as an instigator for change in community policy on maternal healthcare."

Virtual Healthcare Roadshow – Taking the Traveling Healthcare Roadshow Online – Zhao Xuan



“The Virtual Healthcare Roadshow is a video showcase of healthcare careers targeted towards rural high school students, ranging from medicine and nursing to midwifery and medical radiography. It is part of the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow run out of UNBC and UBCO, which features week-long road trips to various rural high schools across northern and central BC where students from various healthcare fields present about their respective professions. I was the videographer for the Cassiar Roadshow which travelled to Smithers, Dease Lake, Watson Lake, and Fort Nelson from April 29th to May 5th. It was eye-opening to see the northern communities and to interact with students from other professions such as lab tech, OT, respiratory therapy, and pharmacy and gain an appreciation for how they might work together. Additionally, by speaking to community members, I was able to better understand the current state of rural and remote healthcare and what improvements need to be made.”

Experiencing Indigenous Well-being: Researching and Assessing the Impacts on Medical Students of Cultural Learnings Gained by Being Immersed in Northern First Nations Communities – Gabby Levesque




“This project was open to medical students to learn more about what life is like living in a remote First Nations community. This experience exposes medical students early on in their careers to remote communities and how they may differ from larger more accessible centers. The communities involved in this project are very welcoming and eager to share their stories, history and homes with medical students. I was very fortunate to spend 5 days in Hartley Bay, a community of 150 people just south of Prince Rupert, BC. During my stay, we heard stories from elders, went on a whale survey with the Guardians, visited the health clinic and talked with nurses, a mental health worker and mobile diabetes team that was there for a couple of days. We attended an archeology presentation about the Gitga’at land and history which was very informative, and got to explore the land through hikes and kayaking. We also learned how basic everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping, are much more challenging for isolated communities such as Hartley Bay, as there are no local stores and it is only accessible by ferry or float plane. It is a truly humbling experience being welcomed into someone’s home and life the way we were welcomed into Hartley Bay.”

The First Nations Community Education Program (FNCEP)


The First Nations Community Education Program (FNCEP) was established several years ago as a unique partnership between the Northern Medical Program and the First Nations Health

Authority, the Health Arts Research Centre at UNBC, and the Northern Heath Authority.

Through FNCEP, we (4 medical students from 1st and 2nd year UBC medical school) visited the Gitga’at First Nations community in Hartley Bay, BC for one week this April. The experience was unparalleled as we soared through mountains on float plane to get to our rural destination. The four of us took a dive head first and were warmly welcomed by the Gitga’at nation. Throughout the week, we learnt from the elders, the children, explored nature and its offerings, and most importantly, connected and learnt from the Gitga’at people about their way of life and their rich history that is closely linked to their health and health outcomes. The lessons learnt in our short week about the rural and indigenous way of life, especially in a community as isolated as Hartley Bay, will be carried with us throughout our medical training and careers.

Participation in the 2018 Northwest Food Security Forum (May 2018) – Claire Deboer

Provide a brief description of your activity and the role you played working with your supervisor (and peers if a group project) in the planning and implementation of the activity.

“First: I assisted with the organization and production of the 2018 Food Security Forum in Smithers, BC. The goal of this two day event was to promote increased food security and resilience by supporting initiatives as prioritized by communities, and encouraging networking of key players. My role was in contributing to the logistical arrangements, communicating with various speakers, participants, and sponsors, and researching certain projects (e.g. root cellars). This role also included note-taking throughout the event, and compiling these and other forms of recordings into a final report, which has been edited by my supervisor and posted to their website. I also wrote a personal reflection to better understand my experience.

Second: I completed a policy scan of food security related policies along Hwy 16 from Prince George to Smithers. A brief review of literature was used to inform my conception of “food security,” its different facets, and what it means at a community/local level. I primarily examined the OCPs of the communities and rural areas along this stretch of highway, but also looked at Northern Health policy, First Nations Health Authority policy, and Public Health policy along this corridor. The purpose of this scan was to identify themes in the policy as well as ascertain where gaps occur; the scan includes a summary table in the hopes it can contribute awareness of this issue. A more extensive scan in an overlapping subject area is being performed by a Masters student from SFU.”