Volume 96, Issue 83
Friday, March 7, 2003

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Ontario short on Dr. Huxtables

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Ontario can expect the province's family doctor shortage to continue its downward spiral.

Peter MacKean, president of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, said there will be a serious shortage if the current trend in the number of medical students applying to be general practitioners continues to decline. Only 24 per cent of Canadian medical students are applying to be family doctors or general practitioners, which is down from 30 per cent last year and 40 per cent a decade ago, MacKean explained.

Carol Herbert, dean of Western's faculty of medicine and dentistry, said she believes the decline can be attributed to lower pay, long hours and less prestige in the medical community for family doctors in comparison to specialists.

"Traditionally, about 70 per cent of our students choose a specialty, and only 30 per cent choose to become family doctors," Herbert said.

On average, family doctors earn approximately 55 per cent of a specialist's salary, explained Douglas Mark, president of the Coalition of Family Physicians.

Upon graduation, medical students can expect to owe between $110,000 to $120,000 in government and bank loans, said Danielle Martin, president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students, noting, as a result, a lucrative career as a specialist will often lure students away from a career as a family doctor.

"The family doctors currently working are trying to pick up the pieces," she explained. "They're stressed out and can't possibly meet the demands being placed upon them. How can we expect medical students to look at that and be excited about the idea of being a family practitioner."

Mirrabbel D'Souza, a second-year medical student at Western, said that, although she has not decided her specialization, she does feel Western is attempting to promote a career as a family doctor as a feasible option.

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2002 THE GAZETTE