Medical Classes Begin on Vancouver Island

Classes began this week for the Island Medical Program’s pioneering class of 24 medical students at the University of Victoria.

“We have got off to a good start. The new technology is working and our students are settling in well,” says Dr. Oscar Casiro, head of UVic’s medical sciences division and associate dean of the program, which is an expansion of the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine.

The universities are collaborating with the health authorities and the provincial government in a long-range strategy to help ease regional shortages of doctors in B.C. particularly in medium-sized, small and rural communities.

Together with a similar expansion at the University of Northern British Columbia, this initiative is expected to almost double the number of medical spaces in British Columbia by 2010.

The Island Medical Program will reach its full complement of 96 students by 2007/08. This will establish a pool of student doctors who will study in Victoria and Vancouver Island and increase the likelihood of more doctors staying and practising on the Island.

“This is a great day for us,” said UVic president David Turpin, welcoming the pioneering cohort of students who will graduate in 2008 as the first medical doctors to receive their training on Vancouver Island. “I am proud of the central role this university is playing in providing more doctors on Vancouver Island and across the province.”

Turpin added that the program would build on the teaching strengths and expertise in health-related research that already exist at UVic. The university is already the province’s second largest educator in the health sector through its programs in nursing, social work, psychology, health information science and other entities such as its centre on aging.

The program has already evoked a strong and positive community response. “We have been extremely successful in attracting local physicians to leadership and teaching positions,” says Casiro.

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