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Sexual assault allegations against former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi have sparked a national conversation about how to facilitate the reporting of such incidents, but some advocates say the focus should instead be on prevention. (File image)

A group of University of Manitoba medical students is getting a jump on talking to future patients about sexual health.

“As medical students we felt that there are some gaps in the sexual ed program in our province and we’ve heard that from our peers, from our friends, and we’ve heard that from younger students as well,” said Jacqueline Donner, a second year medical student.

“We felt that as future physicians we will have the privilege at times to be sexual health educators for our future patients, so in order to fill that role we want to be as prepared as possible.”

Donner said the project is a part of her role as the medical school’s local officer of reproductive and sexual health. The idea is to get training from Women’s Health Clinic on how to put on workshops on sexual health, and then take these skills into high schools in the province.

Donner said the workshops can also be modified for younger age groups.

“So often sex ed does just focus on the biology, but sexual health is much more than that – it’s a spectrum, and so we want to bring workshops that focus on the role of media, the role of body image and the perception of self, and just general self-esteem and how all of that encompasses and becomes part of your sexual health and your sexual identity,” said Donner.

The medical students are still getting training themselves through the SHiFT (Sexual Health Facilitator Training) program at Women’s Health Clinic.

TALKING ABOUT SEX SOONER IS BETTER

Jennifer Davis, is the health educator at Women’s Health Clinic and said the earlier these conversations happen, the better.

“The research shows that the more we talk about sex with youth, the less likely they are to have sex before they’re ready and the less likely they are to have unhealthy sex,” Davis said. “If we keep the communication open and actually talk to kids about a very natural, human, biological need – then they get more information, they’re more settled about it, they’re more understanding about what’s going to happen when they get into a sexual encounter and everybody is healthier.”

Davis said she’s been working in the sexual health education field for 20 years, including training medical students along the way.

In that time she said she’s seen a lot of positive growth on the subject and it’s exciting to have future doctors wanting to be the ones leading workshops on sexual health.

“They are very forward thinking, they’re very advanced, socially aware and social minded,” said Davis.

“To see that they want to go into the communities and talk about sex, that’s one area where we don’t talk about sex. We see it on TV, we hear about it in music and videos and it’s usually inappropriate or unhealthy sex. We don’t have general conversations about healthy sex in our society, so to have medical students and doctors going in to talk to youth about sex in a healthy manner, to work out how they can have healthy sexual lives is exciting.”

Donner’s hope is that the project will keep going even after she and her peers graduate.