Why Canadian Medical Schools Suck

Monday, September 21, 2015

Why Canadian Medical Schools Suck

I know what you're thinking: here goes another rant about how a Caribbean student didn't get into medical school back home in Canada, but actually...it is quite the opposite.

Growing up in Canada, for me, was the best gift that my parents could have ever given me. My three sisters and I not only grew up on a farm, but we were surrounded with 3,000 acres of farmland to roam and completely immerse ourselves in. My parents still reside on our farm, and going home to visit is always a breath of fresh air...literally and figuratively. Canada is a pretty amazing country, and no, not because of our "free" healthcare, that we are allies with every country, we know when not to get involved, and we know when to act. Canada is everyone's best friend that they have had for several years, and we don't want to make anyone angry...but those who tend to get the short end of the stick are unfortunately....healthcare providers.

Canada has officially fourteen medical schools, and for a population of 35 million, fourteen schools is definitely not enough to compensate for the people/physician ratio. Compare that to our fellow neighbour, the Good Ol' US of A, which has not only Allopathic (M.D degree) schools, but Osteopathic (D.O degree) schools as well. Hundreds of schools established, and the biggest kicker is that they are constantly opening new ones. According the AAMC, quoted on kaptest.com "in the next two years, we can expect seven new medical schools to open in the United States in Washington, Alabama, Indiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Oregon." SEVEN new medical schools, and what is sad about this is that Canada has not opened a medical school since Northern Ontario School of Medicine in 2005, ten years ago almost to date. According a paper written by Strassel et al.(2009) in the Academic Medicine Journal titled Canada's New Medical School: The Northern Ontario School of Medicine: Social Accountability Through Distributed Community Engaged Learning, a long winded title to mention in their introduction that "This paper outlines the development and implementation of NOSM, Canada's first new medical school in more than 30 years." How sad is that? Not only that, but according to the same paper: "[NOSM] seeks to recruit students into its MD program who come from Northern Ontario or from similar northern, rural, remote, Aboriginal, Francophone backgrounds." So you are probably thinking.."great!...I might have a chance at this!" I am from a small farm town in Ontario, with no more than 300 people in my area, I have dealt with the rural aspect all my life (an hour and a half bus ride EACH way to school), I understand and appreciate rural physicians more than ever, as I have had the privilege interacting with many of them, I graduated with a 3.5 GPA from a top ranked U.S school in New York, played NCAA Division 1 basketball fifty hours a week and graduated with distinction as I simultaneously obtained my B.Sc in Biology degree. I could go on about my medical placement volunteering in Vietnam at an orthopedic hospital, and how I have numerous extracurricular activities to my name...but the sad part is...NOSM does not care. Canada has opened up a medical school for the first time in 30 years (which was 10 years ago) to students who need to be rural, aboriginal, and/or francophone, yet Canada persistently strives in being "diverse". Oh Canada eh?

McGill School of Medicine just recently was put on probation, according to The Globe and Mail article, "The flaws include concerns over students' learning experience and the quality of instruction in women's health". Furthermore, in the same article "In one of the more significant findings, the assessors said the school failed to ensure all students had the same experiences regardless of which hospital or clinic they were training in." It doesn't stop there, "McGill is not the first Canadian medical faculty to be targeted by accreditation bodies. The University of Saskatchewan’s medical school has been on probation more than once, and Dalhousie University’s medical school was put on probation in 2009." Another recent uproar was an event that involved a professor at Queen's University in the Kinesiology and Health Studies Department, Melody Torcolacci, who was caught teaching anti-vaccine lectures over several years to students (The National Post). She has been since removed from the position, but it was never discovered until a student brought this to the attention of other faculty members, and which brought swift action to take place. Oddly enough, my father, who attended Queen's University for undergrad, mentioned she actually coached him in shot put, let's be thankful that her anti-vaccine ways did not influence my parents' decision for my three sisters and I.

I am not writing this article to point out all that is wrong with Canadian med schools, I am bringing it up because things have to start changing. Just recently, Ontario announced that is will cut fifty residency spots over the next two years according to an article from CBC News: "Health Minister Eric Hoskins is defending the Ontario government's decision to eliminate 50 medical residency positions when hundreds of thousands of people don't have a family doctor" (Aug 2015). This announcement literally came out two weeks after a statistic outline was addressed that more than 800,000 Ontario people do not have a primary care physician. How is this even okay? Why are we cutting residency positions when there is a massive need for physicians in Ontario? Oh wait…here it is: "Ontario has nearly doubled the number of first-year medical residency spots since 2004 to about 1,200 a year, and is now scaling back to make better use of scarce health care dollars, said Hoskins." We have "scarce" health care dollars? Where is it all going? We only have FOURTEEN medical schools across the country, and only SIX in Ontario, but we have limited funding so we have to cut back? The U.S is opening medical schools left and right, but we can't seem to manage 1/100 of healthcare costs that they have. People always ask: "Oh where are you attending medical school? U of T? McMaster?" And the sad part is, many qualified, and even over qualified Canadians are heading abroad, as the acceptance rate for medical schools across Canada is  staggering 4%. 4% of Canadians who apply to get into Canadian medical schools, but we have such a massive shortage of healthcare providers. This statistic, among others, does not make sense. The numbers get worse, according to Oxford Seminars, that 5,000 applicants apply to McMaster School of Medicine every year, do you want to know how many get in? 200. NOSM? More than 3,000 apply...how many they take in? 64. 64 people in one medical school class is complete nonsense, especially as Canada pleads rural areas need the most help; then enroll more rural applicants! C'mon Canada! Queens? More than 4,000 apply..and they take 99 students. When Queen's officially opened in 1854, do you want to know how many students they enrolled back then? 23. So only 76 more people have been allowed me be admitted since 1854...that is sad. I also found out last year when I was applying that they have designated spots for incoming Asian international students, honestly, that is what the undergraduate admissions coordinator said verbatim when I called to inquire about the stats of Queen's, which I found out along the way that Queen's does not like giving numbers. It is disappointing to know know that Canada does not want to change when our country is ever changing and the demand is more than ever. The amount of students that want to be physicians, and the need for such physicians is such a linear relationship, but Canada tries to compensate with our amazing benefits along with our use of ludicrous taxpayer money. We will always have a saturation of students leaving this beautiful country of ours to attend medical school at more than 300% of tuition of that of our Canadian med student counterparts, leave our family and friends for quite a long duration, and to only be given limited spots to return to our residing homeland because there isn't enough spots to be accepted in the first place.

All in all, the education that I am receiving at Ross is above par and I am happy that I did not take "no" as an answer. I sucked it up, did not give up on myself, and found an alternate route that will allow me to be the best physician that I can be. We are already in second semester, and tomorrow I get to interview a patient in front of eight other people. Where at the end of the interview we all discuss and students give constructive criticism of what I could improve on, and what I did well. We are implementing a systems-based practice where we work together in the healthcare field, and I only wish Canada would listen. Then you get the med school forums and blogs that bash any International Medical School Graduate (IMGs) that are studying outside of Canada, this one was just lovely from Healthydebate.ca "I know several individuals so under qualified they could not even secure an interview at a Canadian medical school, then essentially purchased MDs from the Caribbean, Ireland etc. These people now feel it is their “right” to practice in Canada. I would rather an IMG who earned their degree, than a Canadian doctor who bought theirs overseas." So much for a "healthy debate" forum eh? Sadly, this was from a Canadian medical student, and if they are so arrogant and ignorant about their prestigious degree than I am surprised there were so many spelling errors in his paragraph that my OCD took over and I had to correct before re-posting it here. It is sad to know that our fellow Canadian medical students have such a stereotypical, preconceived view of the offshore medical route, but sadly...I am not surprised. So for every 99 people that get into Queen's, are the remaining 3,901 students rejects or "not-fit" to be a physician in Canada? Of course not. Those that settle and take "no" for an answer are. I would want to walk into an office of a physician, whatever the location their degree, and know they worked their butt off to get where they are today. To know that they might not have gotten into their first, second, third or even their Canadian choice for med school, but let that "no" fuel their determination to excel even more. THAT is who I would want as my physician. THAT is what determines excellency.

I am off to study airflow resistance of the lung, and as I do...I remember why I am here. I am here because I am supposed to be. Canada lost out on a potential great physician, and with all the laws and cut backs that are happening in Ontario, my desire to return is slowly fading with time. I would rather practice in a country that needs and understands the value of a hard-working Caribbean medical student, rather than making them jump through hoops. To return to a country that is in desperate need of the help, but just can't come to terms with making a change for the good of the people, is not appealing to any professional degree holder, and in the end, I am saddened to be a Canadian citizen.

Rant over.

Bye for now,




Branswell, Helen. "Queen’s University Professor under Fire for Anti-vaccine Teachings Granted Leave from Course. "Http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/queens.  National Post, 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

"Canadian Medical School Profiles." Oxford Seminars.ca. Oxford Seminars. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

Hause, Emily. "How Many People Get Into Medical School?"Http://www.kaptest.com/. Kaplan, 4 Sept. 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

"Ontario Cuts 50 Medical Residency Places, Critics Warn of Doctor Shortage." Www.cbc.ca/news. The Canadian Press, 10 Aug. 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

Peritz, Ingrid. "McGill University Takes Hit to Prestige as Medical School Put on Probation."Http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/mcgill. The Globe and Mail, 18 June 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.

Strasser, Roger, William McCready, and Marie Matte. "Canada’s New Medical School: The Northern Ontario School of Medicine: Social Accountability Through Distributed Community Engaged Learning."Academic Medicine 84.10 (2009): 6.Http://nosm.ca/uploadedFiles/About_Us. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.