October 29 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 33  

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Military looking to recruit med. students

By Anton Vidgen
Gazette Staff

With rising tuition fees and crippling student debts, many medical science students are looking to alleviate their problem; and with the army's help, financial freedom is but a boot camp trip away.

The Canadian Armed Forces are looking to fill a number of vacant family doctor positions and are offering big signing bonuses and a steady salary to attract current and graduated medical science students, said Lt.-Col Jim Kile, the Forces' senior staff officer in charge of medical officer retraction and retention.

Students and graduates are being courted with different signing bonuses, ranging from $40,000 for students in their second year of medical school up to $225,000 for fully-licensed practicing family doctor, Kile said.

In addition, students can start receiving a steady salary in their second year at approximately $40,000 and when fully licensed and enlisted in the army as a captain medical officer, they can expect to receive over $100,000, he added.

Though this may seem like a large sum, Kile acknowledged that licensed doctors can demand much higher sums outside the Canadian Forces. "Compared to our civilian counterparts, it's not as much as they could make," he noted.

But Kile said the attractions of the job are a varied and exciting lifestyle, a great pension, health and dental benefits and the ability to travel overseas, adding many current army doctors are serving in Afghanistan, Bosnia and the Golan Heights in the Middle East. "We're trying more to become an employer of choice." Once a student fills out an application, they are committed to serve in the army for four years following their Residency Two certification, Kile explained. Before that, however, every applicant must undergo basic officer training -also known as boot camp- to prepare them for active duty in the army.

The Canadian Forces is currently experiencing a doctor shortage, with 55 vacant positions out of 151, Kile said. "As it stands right now, we have 96 [doctors]. We are significantly understaffed," he said.

"I think it's attractive," said Jim Silcox, vice-dean of education at the faculty of medicine and dentistry. "I'm really pleased they upped the ante in terms of dollars." Silcox said increasing numbers of students are graduating with significant debt loads and are desperately looking for financial relief.

He acknowledged, however, the job with the Canadian Forces "isn't for everybody." Silcox said many medical science students prefer to specialize as opposed to becoming a family doctor. "It's not high on the list of their priorities," he said.

"It's a sweet deal, I'm just so not disciplined," said first-year medical student Andrea Covelli.

"I know I want to work on a salary," said first-year medical student Ramzy Galil, adding he will apply later this year to the program. "I think it's the best way to make a difference overseas while still young."


Signing bonuses offered by the Canadian Forces

In terms of months away from full family doctor certification.

0 mos. -$225,000
< 12 mos. -$180,000
12-24 mos. -$150,000
24-36 mos. (4th year of med school) -$110,000
36-48 mos. (3rd year) -$75,000
> 48 mos. -$40,000

2nd year med school -$40,044
3rd year -$43,176
4th year -$46,368
Residency 1 -$51,732
Residency 2 -$52,752
Full-licensed -$102,132



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