A founding faculty member at UNBC as well as the Northern Medical Program, Richard Lazenby has seen first-hand both the growth of the university as well as the arrival and evolvement of distributed medical education in the north. In addition to his role as a UNBC anthropology professor, Richard is currently the Flexible Enhanced Learning (FLEX) Site Director at the NMP.
“I started at the beginning of expansion with the NMP, way back when!,” says Richard. “The UNBC provost at the time was looking for someone to lead the Doctor, Patient and Society [DPAS] course and she thought my background in both the social sciences and the biological sciences would be a good fit.”
After a decade with the NMP as DPAS site director, Richard became involved with UBC Medicine’s curriculum renewal initiative. DPAS gave way to a unique new course - FLEX.
“I was asked to co-lead the development of FLEX with Dr. Dawn Cooper from UBC Faculty of Medicine in Vancouver,” explains Richard. “We were given the task of designing an entirely novel piece of the curriculum that still remains the only example of its kind in Canada. No other medical school provides such a significant amount of curricular time to scholarship, with more than 550 hours across all three years.”
FLEX 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 their studies. In FLEX, students develop and pursue activities that allow them to explore individual learning interests in greater depth*. Activity categories include: Arts & Humanities; Biomedical & Foundational Sciences; Biomedical Engineering; Clinical; Global Health; Health Policy & Advocacy; Indigenous Health; Medical Education;Other; Public Health; Rural and Remote Health; and, Social, Cultural and Environmental Health.
As Richard notes, “FLEX provides space for students to identify their personal learning goals and objectives, explore new areas of interest that they develop while in medical school, and develop skills that they will apply as future physicians. We have also heard from our students across UBC that FLEX has helped them achieve success in the CaRMS process as they can demonstrate a lot of independent learning.”
In 2018, Richard stepped down as provincial FLEX co-course director, but he has continued in his role as the NMP’s FLEX site director.
“I am continuing to seek out new activities to add to the provincial FLEX catalogue, and I also represent FLEX both on the provincial leadership team and in various local meetings. And I oversee recruitment of FLEX advisors for MEDD 419, 429 and 449, with a LOT of help from our NMP staff such as Eileen Hunsaker and Jennifer Young and others over the years.
“The success of the FLEX program definitely comes down to a combination of our dedicated FLEX supervisors, advisors, support staff and of course the students themselves. Around 60 to 70 per cent of FLEX activities across the province are projects that students create on their own, which is a real testament to what the course provides as a learning space.”
* from (FLEX) Course Overview webpage, UBC Faculty of Medicine