Rural Pre-Med Student Travels to South Africa

Making a Difference Before Embarking on Educational Journey


Jesse McDonald is preparing for her medical school journey by spending an intense summer on a research project aimed at making life better for some of the most vulnerable youth in South Africa.

Earlier this year the Nelson resident was accepted into Selkirk College’s Rural Pre-Medicine Program and will be part of the new program’s first cohort. While searching out options for the summer break, the 23-year-old came across the Sinovoyu Caring Families Project currently being spearheaded by researchers at the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence Based Intervention.

“I just wanted to do something that would get me really, really pumped up for the next 10 years of school,” McDonald said on the eve of traveling to South Africa in late-April.

RPM student in South Africa

Selkirk College Rural Pre-Medicine Program student Jesse McDonald is spending a summer volunteering on a research project in South Africa.

McDonald was accepted as a volunteer frontline research assistant on the project that is attempting to reduce the risk of child abuse in rural South Africa. The purpose of the project is to develop a culturally relevant, evidence-based parenting and teen program designed to reduce the risk of maltreatment and abuse inside and outside the home. The program is aimed at high-risk families—families affected by HIV/AIDS and those already in child protection services—with children aged 10 to 17.

With the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor in rural Canada and previous volunteer work with Canadian Mental Health, McDonald didn’t hesitate when provided the opportunity to spend four months immersed in hands-on research.

“What I really like about it is that it goes well beyond the generic volunteering in Africa,” she said. “It’s meaningful research that’s going to be used for a long time. My goal is to be a family doctor, so getting to go in and participate in something that is based on family dynamics and interpersonal dialogue between parents and children is going to be relevant.”

In order to help her pay for the summer of volunteer work in South Africa, McDonald has set up an Indiegogo campaign where she is raising money to cover her costs. In return, those who support her will be provided with dispatches from her journey. Find out more about the campaign at her Indiegogo page.

Read the entire story, including McDonald's early dispatches from South Africa, at


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