Prison Health Electives

The Prison Health Elective is offered to postgraduate medical residents of all disciplines as a block of 4 weeks at one of several correctional institutions in the Lower Mainland. The goal of the elective is to develop enhanced prison health educational placements for postgraduate medical residents that will foster and evaluate key/enabling competencies for CanMed roles of Health Advocate, Collaborator and Communicator, as well as Medical Expert, Scholar and Professional.

During this elective, medical residents will experience the complexities of the correctional health system from ‘inside the gates’, and will also develop an understanding of the responses of prison health care practitioners, community organizations and individuals with incarceration experience to prison health determinants and inequities, in order to become more effective practitioners.

This elective can be modified to meet individual learning requirements, specific residency programs and/or 4th year clinical undergraduate medical students.

Please contact for more information and/or to explore ways that the prison health elective might address your individual learning goals.


July – October, 2012:

“The elective in prison health offers a close look at the complex interface between healthcare and the justice system. Once one is privileged with a glimpse at the lives of the incarcerated, it is clear that they are a vulnerable population — not only after they leave prison, but also before they ever committed any crimes. The elective provides residents with the chance to explore the system in a self-directed way, possibly giving new meaning and direction to clinical practice and health advocacy. It’s an opportunity I don’t take for granted!”

Dr. Nitasha Puri, MD
PGY-2 Resident, St. Paul’s Hospital
Dept of Family Medicine, UB

September, 2012:

“Being involved in prisoner health reminds me of the reasons many of us went into medicine in the first place. Our medical training provides the opportunity for us to offer compassionate care to incarcerated people – an under-served, and often regarded as un-deserving, group of patients. The potential impact is not only on the health of individual inmates but on the health of society as a whole.”

Dr. John Koehn, MD
R2 Resident
Dept of Family Medicine, UBC

August, 2012:

“I had wonderful experiences during the two weeks rotation in Forensic Psychiatric hospital in Coquitlam. As a Family Practice resident I tried to improve my abilities in the Can-MEDS roles. I had several opportunities to engage in respectful dialogue with patients and to provide medical knowledge to share with them. I also learned how to have non-judgmental dialogue with incarcerated patients and how to use these skills in my future practicing. I also had a chance to review the Indigenous Cultural Competence (ICC) health course to gain greater cultural competency abilities to work more effectively with Aboriginal communities. Through the ICC health course, I became familiar with the impact of colonization and residential schools and increased my understanding of how much they might affect the lives of Aboriginal peoples in a negative way. In the future, I hope to be able to use my abilities to help them to solve their adverse effect like depression, low self steam, as well as their addiction.”

Dr. Behzad Ansari, MD
IMG Resident (R1), Victoria Site
Dept of Family Medicine, UBC

February, 2013:

“I enjoyed it [the elective] immensely. The prison physicians I worked with were particularly welcoming and very willing to teach. All of the staff at the RTC were very accommodating. I was exposed to a wide breadth of subject matter including different kinds of patients and different forms of treatment. I particularly enjoyed my day in the women’s centre, and would have benefited from even more time with female patients … The parts I enjoyed the most included speaking with various health professionals about their roles (recreational therapists, etc.) and having the opportunity to follow inmates along with the psychiatrists over the two-week period. I met all of my learning objectives through my clinical work and my reflective writing, as well as by speaking with staff about their experiences.”

Rachel Allison Barrett
Final year medical student
McMaster University