No one expects finding students for UNBC’s Northern Medical Program to be a problem. But finding enough staff could be a lot more challenging.
Doctor John Cairns, dean of medicine at the University of B.C., says UBC medicine is already challenged to find medical faculty. In the year leading up to the start of the satellite medical programs at UNBC and the University of Victoria, all three institutions will be looking to hire approximately 90 new faculty. That, says Cairns, will be one of the toughest hurdles facing the new medical programs. “It will certainly be a challenge,” he says. “We will be looking everywhere for faculty. Most of the clinical staff will come from British Columbia and Canada, but the basic sciences faculty will come from a wider range, from all over the world.”
The provincial government approved $12.5 million for the construction of the Northern Medical Program’s state-of-the-art, 42,000 square foot medical facility at the UNBC campus earlier this month. A nearly identical program the Island Medical Program was approved for UVic, as well as a multi-million dollar expansion for UBC’s medical facility. Together, the expanded medical training is expected to double the number of B.C. trained medical graduates. Currently 83 per cent of B.C.’s doctors are trained outside the province.
UNBC is expected to need 24 new faculty for the program’s start. That will increase if the program grows as expected. The first class at the Northern Medical School will be 24 students. By 2010 it’s hoped 32 will be entering each semester.
Doctor Harvey Thommasen is chair of the community health program and one of the planners of the Northern Medical Program. He says the NMP will need the cooperation of local doctors when students reach their third year of studies and need to start residencies in local doctor’s offices.
“What we need is for physicians to free up their time,” says Thommasen. “But I think there are 24 doctors out there who wouldn’t mind teaching if their work gets recognized.”
Thommasen says student doctors can actually help a family practice doctor by dealing with minor cases such as colds.