Medical volunteers in demand

University of Victoria medical school program seeks patients for prostate exams

Despite the life-saving implications, asking men to share their bodies for the good of science is not the easiest of topics to broach.

A recruitment campaign currently underway in Saanich is working against the quiet culture around male-specific medical exams.

So far, the new initiative from the Island Medical Program, which is the chapter of the University of B.C.’s medical school based at the University of Victoria, has managed to bring in a few of the healthy male volunteers it needs to help teach second-year medical students how to conduct urogenital exams.

The challenge is finding male volunteers who are willing and comfortable with providing feedback throughout the mock exams, including a rectal examination, among other things. The tests provide a necessary skill set for medical students who are going to work in a family practice or as specialists within just a few years, says Dr. Nathan Hoag, a local medical program grad and clinical instructor for the Department of Urological Sciences.

“It’s a sensitive exam, obviously it’s difficult to even ask patients to have the exam, and then to ask them to allow multiple students to practise on you,” he said. “It’s certainly not your typical call for volunteers.”

The benefits of the new program are of increasing value with the number of adult men receiving ongoing exams for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and genitalia and urinary abnormalities, Hoag added.

“There’s a lot of men out there with prostate cancer. It’s not always dinner conversation but it’s an important conversation to have with your family.”

In all, the program is currently in need of about 12 volunteer applicants to get the clinic program going. It received some positive interest during Men’s Health Day at the Tillicum shopping centre earlier this month but needs a few more. Once approved, volunteers undergo training to become male clinical teaching associates, and are then eligible for ‘financial remuneration.’ Not all volunteers will be selected, however, as there are a few requirements.

“This program is about having a safe, supportive environment to learn in, and the volunteers are actually teachers,” Hoag said. “There will be clinicians there, but the patient is there to teach the student by giving feedback, not just if it’s physically uncomfortable, but also how they measure the student’s professional manner and approach.”

Each session involves a small group of students and a trained physician.

On the same front, the Island Medical Program has been running a female breast and pelvic clinical teaching associate program, including pap smears, for six years.

Building that experience makes for comfortable, confident medical students when they’re finished school.

The Island Medical Program recommends that all men should examine their testicles a few times per year to check for lumps or enlargements. Men 50 or older should speak to a doctor about having a rectal exam every year or two until age 75. Men over 40 should consider the risk factors for prostate cancer. A PSA blood test, which reveals a base-line risk for prostate cancer, is also something for adult males under 50 to consider.

To volunteer as a clinical teaching associate contact Karen Basi at karenpri@uvic.ca or 250-370-8111 ext. 12386.