There's no better way to learn than hands on, on the job.

The Saskatchewan College of Medicine and the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation have teamed up to provide such an opportunity for medical students to do so right in the Energy City, through the Saskatchewan Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (SLIC), a new program in the province that they hope will also help to retain physicians.

The grand opening for it was held Tuesday afternoon in the hospital. However, it's first student has already been getting involved, that being Lindsay Richels.

"I really like it here, people are super nice to me. The learning opportunities have been wonderful, they've far surpassed my expectations already, so I have nothing but good things to say," she said following cake cutting ceremony.

"I've seen maternity, obstetrics, been in some general surgery, family practice, I've done some Emerg shifts and got to even spend some time with our orthopedic surgeon that comes out here, and also psychiatry. A lot of different people, and a lot of different experiences."

Richels remains in Estevan for a year with her family as she continues to gain practical experience with a variety of medical avenues.

"The SLIC is an opportunity for students to spend 42 weeks in a community. In a traditional, rotation based clerkship, they would rotate through six weeks in surgery, six weeks of medicine, six weeks of family medicine and six weeks of psychiatry. Here, it's integrated so that you could see a patient who has a mental health issue in the morning, child health in the afternoon, somebody who's having a heart attack in the evening, and you have to integrate them all together to provide the best learning opportunity," explained Dr. Kent Strobart, the Vice Dean of Education at the Sask College of Medicine.

Med student Lindsay Richels (right) cuts the cake.

"This has been shown for the past twenty to thirty years in Australia and other places in North America, to increase the learning of the physicians, but also to get them back to rural communities."

The program has many locations in Alberta, and it's recent introduction to Saskatchewan includes locations in Saskatoon and Regina, as well as Meadow Lake and now, Estevan. This gives students a chance for experience in the rural north and south, and the doctors already working the communities have welcomed proteges with open arms.

"I was very impressed when I came here...out of 18 physicians, all 18 showed up. That's very rare when you go to a community, to have that degree of buy-in. That's before I even offered anything in how we could work together," added Strobart.

"Our end goal is to have physicians who will return back to this community, to be here as physicians so there is never a shortage of doctors again. It's a few years away, but that's our goal."

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