UBC and UNBC’s joint Northern Medical Program has produced another 30 graduates that are highly likely to begin working in northern and rural communities.
Dr. Paul Winwood, UNBC’s Associate Vice President of the Division of Medical Sciences, and the Regional Associate Dean for Northern BC at UBC, told My PG Now that without this program the North would have “far fewer physicians.”
“It is very significant, roughly two-thirds of our grads who are in practice are working in remote, rural, and northern communities – about a third are in the north,” he explained, adding he runs into program alumni at every northern hospital he visits.
The program is a distributed campus run by UBC that is delivered in partnership with UNBC which focuses on training physicians within the context of the region – in UNBC’s case, remote, rural, northern, and Indigenous contexts.
Winwood said the program was “born out of community action with a demand for more physicians” in the early 2000s to train more physicians in the north for the north.
He said the concept is “if you train physicians where you want them to practice, they are going to develop their skills and be immersed in that practice and are more likely to stay”
The idea took hold quickly, Winwood said UNBC’s program was soon followed by “a medical school in Victoria – the Island Medical Program, and a few years later the Southern Medical Program in Kelowna.”
Winwood said this program excelled in the north, he said the students trained at the program have to be well versed in all aspects of being a physician to practice somewhere rural and remote, which he said is extremely valuable whether they end up in that situation or not.
He also said it has been a huge benefit for northern residents who want to study medicine but would not have had the means to travel for education.
“It is difficult to go spend four years in Vancouver. We have stories from students that say ‘if it weren’t for the Northern Medical Program I never would have gone into medicine.'”
While most graduates are in rural and remote areas, Winwood added graduates from the program have done just about everything you can imagine all across the country – from cardiac surgery to neural surgery.
“Any concerns that our program wasn’t going to be able to produce physicians who can do anything has been disproven, it has been highly successful,” he said.
For more information on the Northern Medical Program, click here.