Paging more med students… you’re wanted at the U of C

By Mary Chan

Don’t break out the stethoscopes yet, but the University of Calgary Medical School is looking to increase its enrolment. The proposal, however, is still in a discussion stage.

“We have been approached by members of the government with concerns about the shortage of physicians,” said U of C Dean of Medicine Dr. Grant Gall. “We have a joint agreement through the Council of Academic Health Centres of Alberta, which includes Edmonton and Calgary and the two regional health authorities, to spearhead a proposal with the two universities to the Alberta government.”

T he U of C Medical School currently accepts 69 students every year, a number determined by Alberta Health. That number may increase to 125, but U of C Vice-president Academic Ron Bond cautions that nothing definite has happened yet.

“We’re still in what I’m describing as an embryonic state of development and discussion,” he said. “The jury’s still out, quite frankly, on just how large this expansion would be, how it would be funded, et cetera, et cetera.”

According to Bond, four main topics are currently under discussion, the first of which is the size of the expansion.

“Right now we take in 69 students and the number that has been in the air is 125, so it’s a fairly substantial expansion,” said Bond.

Another issue is the kind of funding necessary for expansion.

“We need funding for both the physical capacity of the building–we don’t have enough space to accommodate 125 students as things stand now–and to hire more people,” said Bond. “The other two [topics] would be timing issues–when would this start–and the last one would be what is the source of funding?”

One possibility for funding is the Alberta Government’s Access Fund, which deals with capacity issues in post-secondary education.

“They have to put this plan together, submit it to the department for consideration and it will certainly be reviewed as part of the Access Fund process,” said Alberta Learning spokesperson Ed Greenberg. “Then we’ll go from there.”

One option for the proposal has enrollment gradually increasing over a period of years, said Bond.

“We wouldn’t necessarily go from 69 to 125,” he said. “We might go in increments of 10 to 15 a year.”

Bond said students could see changes at the beginning of the next school year but stressed that they were still in preliminary stages of discussion.

“The earliest we could possibly begin even the gradual process would be September 2000,” he said. “That would be the absolute earliest.”

Bond and Gall are currently discussing the proposal with several different ministries in the Alberta Government, since the medical school has various funding sources.

“The undergraduate program would go to the Ministry of Learning, but the residency positions are funded by Alberta Health,” said Gall. “It would have to be a combined proposal.”

The proposal will also involved the University of Alberta Medical School, which currently accepts 102 applicants. According to Gall, the U of A school would also increase enrollment to 125, bringing the total number of medical school students to 250 a year in Alberta.

“At present time we’re doing it independently,” said Gall. “Then we’ll bring [the proposals] together. We have to look at our own needs first because they might be different”

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