May 10, 2008
More than 300 people attended an event in Prince George today that was described by Deputy Premier Shirley Bond as a milestone in the development of Northern British Columbia.
23 students were recognized for being the first graduates of the Northern Medical Program, an innovative response to the critical shortage of physicians in northern/rural communities in northern BC and across Canada. The program is part of the UBC Faculty of Medicine and delivered in collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia. By training doctors in northern BC and giving them exposure to the communities and citizens of northern BC, it's expected that it will help to produce more doctors who are interested in staying and working in the North after graduation. Dozens of communities across northern region are investing in the program and have donated $6 million in support of the program's students over the past several years.
As the students crossed the stage to receive a white doctor's coat and nameplate made out of beetle-infected pine, the loudest cheers from the audience were for those graduates - about half of the class - who are completing residencies in northern/rural settings in BC and across Canada. According to David Snadden, Head of the Northern Medical Program, it is the success these first graduates have had in acquiring competitive residencies across Canada that is proof of the Program's quality and mission.
"The Northern Medical Program class of 2008 would not be here without the vision, ingenuity, and dedication of the residents of northern BC," said Sharona Supernault, an NMP graduate who grew up in Dawson Creek, BC. In fact, the program has a very short history: the idea was first presented in June 2000 at a rally in Prince George where 6000 people demanded a response to the critical shortage of physicians that had been plaguing northern and rural communities. Four years ago, the first NMP students began their studies and the program was officially kicked off during a ceremony in the Agora Courtyard at UNBC, the same location as today's graduation celebration.
"When I think of the Northern Medical Program and why being trained in the North has been so beneficial, a few things come to mind," says newly minted Dr. Supernault, who spoke on behalf of the class during the ceremony. "we were supported by staff who care, we gained great clinical skills, our teachers knew our names, and we were taught in an environment with a real sense of community."
Although the first NMP graduates are now officially "doctors," they must complete residency in a particular specialization before they can practice on their own. 70% of the first grad class is completing a residency in family practice, which requires two years of additional training.
David Snadden, Head of the Northern Medical Program - 250.960.6172Rob van Adrichem, Director of Media and Public Relations, UNBC - 250.960.5622
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Dawson Creek grads: Kerry Pandachuck (left) and Sharona Supernault
Christina Neufeld and Jennifer Douse of Fort Nelson
Karen Trueman of Quesnel
Melanie MacNicol of Fraser Lake and Prince Rupert