Medical school process to go under the knife

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Medical schools across the country need a check-up, and an upcoming two-year review of medical education in Canada is just what the doctor ordered.

The Future of Medical Education in Canada project, funded by Health Canada, is a comprehensive review of the entire medical school process, from enrollment requirements to tuition fees.

The project will be overseen by an 11-member Steering Committee made up of representatives of the Association of Faculties of Medicine in Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, and other stakeholders from across Canada.

Although Canada’s health professional shortage is a growing concern, Irving Gold, vice-president of external affairs for AFMC, said there was not a specific catalyst for the project.

“It’s important to periodically review a system to see its strengths and weaknesses,” Gold explained.

But it’s no secret AFMC believes more students should be graduating from medical school, he added.

Dr. Andrew Padmos, chief executive officer of the RCPS, said Canada is not producing enough medical students.

The current intake of students is 2,500 per year " up from 1,500 back in 2000.

“Trouble is, even at 2,500, we’re still taking in students to medical school at half the rate the [United Kingdom] does,” Dr. Padmos said.

“This review might look at what is the maximum capacity of medical enrollment in Canada.”

In addition, the project may investigate reducing or eliminating the amount of undergraduate education needed to enroll in medical school.

Currently, the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western requires a four-year honours undergraduate degree for admission to medical school. Not all universities have this requirement.

McMaster University, for instance, allows students to apply to its medical school with a three-year degree.

“We’re not finding that our [third-year entrants] are struggling any more than our four-years,” Wendy Edge, admissions coordinator for McMaster’s medical program said.

The Future of Medical Education in Canada committee should address the length of medical school.

Dr. Padmos believes medical school should be at least five years to accommodate clerkship experience, while some advocate shortening programs.

This won’t solve the doctor shortage, however.

“The reality is, if you change the duration of medical school, you won’t actually change the number of doctors being produced except the one year you have a double cohort,” Dr. Padmos said.

Dr. Padmos stressed the Future of Medical Education in Canada project is just beginning and is only the groundwork for more definitive study in the upcoming years.

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