Better Days Ahead

SooNews Staff

This is an historic week for medicine in Northern Ontario. Medical graduates from across Canada will be in Sudbury and Thunder Bay interviewing to become part of Northern Ontario’s first fully-accredited and administered Medical Residency program.

As Med School Dean Roger Strasser notes in the attached column, this influx of Medical Graduates, along with 56 Third Year NOSM undergraduate students based across the North, “will result in an immediate, and noticeable, improvement to health care delivery across the North.”

Don’t look now, but Northern Ontario is approaching yet another medical milestone. For the first time ever, the North is about to launch its own Medical Residency program, one administered by and accredited to a Northern institution.

Effective July 1st, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine will be responsible for 30 Medical Residents who will begin their two years of Family Medicine training here in Northern Ontario. Our Family Medicine Residents of the Canadian Shield or FMRoCS program is the first new Family Medical Residency program accredited in Canada in 33 years.

The North has hosted Medical Residents for many years, but the programs in place were administered under the aegis of the University of Ottawa (in Northeastern Ontario) or McMaster University (in Northwestern Ontario.)

Also beginning next fall, the first batch of 56 Third Year Undergraduate NOSM students will begin their community clerkships across the North. An additional nine Third Year Post-Graduate residents will also be in place effective July 1st, taking one year programs; six will be studying Emergency Medicine and three Anesthesia.

In all, by this coming fall 95 doctors-to-be will be in the field in Northern Ontario. Never before have there been so many undergraduate and post-graduate medical students providing varying levels of care to Northern patients as part of their medical training. This will result in an immediate, and noticeable, improvement to health care delivery across the North.

You will see these doctors of the future in your physician’s office, in Emergency Rooms, on hospital floors, and in clinics throughout Northern Ontario. While not yet fully licensed medical practitioners, these individuals will nevertheless play a crucial intermediate role in helping to alleviate the doctor shortage here in the North.

Let me explain the distinctions between an undergraduate medical student, a postgraduate resident, and a full-fledged, licensed medical doctor:
•an undergraduate is enrolled in a three- or four-year MD program at a Canadian medical school: (at NOSM it’s a four-year program). A graduate of such a program is an MD, but is not entitled to full practice;
•a post-graduate medical resident has completed an MD program, is considered a medical service provider, and is paid a salary while he or she completes any one of a number of residency programs. These vary in length from two to five years, depending on the specialty;
•a licensed physician has completed both an undergraduate and post-graduate course of study, and has passed an examination from either the College of Family Physicians of Canada (for Family and some Emergency practices) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (for some other Emergency practices and all other specialties.)

As these three levels of medical education and practice come into play in a clinical setting, observant patients may become aware of a nearly seamless web of interactive and hands on medical education occurring in their presence. This instruction is nuanced, and anything but one-way.

The attending physician is in overall charge, of course, but is also acting in the role of clinical teacher to the undergraduate and medical residents in his or her charge. Thanks to the two well-established Northern residency programs mentioned above, more than 500 doctors in Northern Ontario have already served as NOSM clinical faculty members.

The clinical teacher is imparting his or her direct experience with a given patient, pathology, or community to the medical learner.

The Medical Resident is both a teacher, and a learner. He or she may be a clinical supervisor of an undergraduate medical student, in fact such supervision is a requirement of most Residency programs and, to some degree, a teacher of the attending physician as well.

Practicing physicians, most of whom are seriously overworked, are always at pains to stay abreast of the latest scientific and medical developments in their fields. Contact with a Medical Resident, who is fresh out of school and au courant with the newest techniques, is often a convenient way to do just that.

Unlike many other professions, there is a professional obligation among doctors not only to constantly refresh and upgrade their expertise, but to share that knowledge as well. Any well-rounded physician is expected to be a teacher, as well as a clinician.

All in all, there is a synergy among the three levels of medical education and experience that works to the benefit of everyone, most importantly the users of the health care system.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the outstanding groundwork that made RoCS possible. We are standing on the broad shoulders of the Northwestern Ontario Medical Program (NOMP) of McMaster, and the Northeastern Ontario Medical Education Corporation (NOMEC), of Ottawa U.

Their pioneering efforts in rural family medicine residencies across Northern Ontario have greatly accelerated and facilitated the creation of FMRoCS.
Right from the start, we here at NOSM pledged to improve the health of people in Northern Ontario? Even though our first graduates won’t be licensed for full practice as Family Physicians until 2011, I believe we’ll start making good on that promise, in earnest, as early as this fall.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on the website The site doesn’t seem to be operating any longer, but we will keep this on our website for archiving reasons.

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