The location of postgraduate medical training is shifting from teaching hospitals in urban centres to community practice in rural and remote settings. We were interested in knowing whether learning, as measured by summative examinations, was comparable between graduates who trained in urban centres and those who trained in remote and rural settings.
Family medicine training programs in Ontario were selected as a model of postgraduate medical training. The results of the 2 summative examinations--the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part II and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) certification examination--for graduates of the programs at Ontario's 5 medical schools were compared with the results for graduates of the programs in Sudbury and Thunder Bay from 1994 to 1997. The comparability of these 2 cohorts at entry into training was evaluated using the results of their MCCQE Part I, completed just before the family medicine training.
Between 1994 and 1997, 1013 graduates of family medicine programs (922 at the medical schools and 91 at the remote sites) completed the CFPC certification examination; a subset of 663 completed both the MCCQE Part I and the MCCQE Part II. The MCCQE Part I results for graduates in the remote programs did not differ significantly from those for graduates entering the programs in the medical schools (mean score 531.3 [standard deviation (SD) 69.8] and 521.8 [SD 74.4] respectively, p = 0.33). The MCCQE Part II results did not differ significantly between the 2 groups either (mean score 555.1 [SD 71.7] and 545.0 [SD 76.4] respectively, p = 0.32). Similarly, there were no consistent, significant differences in the results of the CFPC certification examination between the 2 groups.
In this model of postgraduate medical training, learning was comparable between trainees in urban family medicine programs and those in rural, community-based programs. The reasons why this outcome might be unexpected and the limitations on the generalizability of these results are discussed.
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