UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 8 | Sep.
University of Victoria will be Home for Widely Travelled
Few Canadian Teenagers were Witness to the Horrors of Rwanda’s
1994 Bloody Civil War
By Hilary Thomson
UBC medical student Michelle Tousignant, 14 years old at
the time, was there visiting her father who was part of the
United Nations Assistance Mission. She says watching the Red
Cross in action during the conflict strongly influenced her
decision to become a doctor.
The 24-year old has just started her first year of UBC’s
medical undergraduate program, one of 24 students admitted
to the Island Medical Program (IMP) -- part of the Faculty
of Medicine’s expanded medical education program.
“I have always had a strong pull towards health and
healing,” says the well-travelled Tousignant, who says
she grew up as a “military brat.”
“I was truly inspired by what I saw -- it was a big
driving force for me,” she says.
After high-school graduation in Belgium, she traveled to
Honduras to work in rural health clinics and hospitals and
A kinesiology grad from University of Victoria, Tousignant
was attracted to the IMP because she felt she had roots --
for the first time in her life -- on Vancouver Island and
because she would be learning with a small group of students,
an experience she had enjoyed as an undergrad.
Students in the IMP and the Northern Medical Program are
rated on a rural suitability index as part of the admissions
process. Tousignant’s interest in rural areas has much
to do with her love of outdoor activities, especially skiing
“I’m going into medicine with a really open
mind in terms of where I’ll end up,” she says.
“I’m looking at smaller communities close to ski
hills, but who knows, I may change my mind more than once
in the course of my studies.”
As an IMP student, she will spend the first four months
of medical school at UBC’s Vancouver campus before moving
back to the Island as part of the IMP’s first class.
Faculty of Medicine Expansion: The Facts
In March 2002, the provincial government announced its plan
to ease B.C.’s doctor shortage by almost doubling the
number of medical school students to 224 in 2005.
Curently B.C. has the lowest per capita ratio of places
in medical school to population in any Canadian province or
This year, UBC’s Faculty of Medicine launches a system
of distributed medical education with UBC students taught
at three new facilities: the University of Northern British
Columbia’s (UNBC) Northern Health Sciences Centre; University
of Victoria’s (UVic) Medical Sciences Building and UBC’s
Life Sciences Centre (LSC). The facilities represent a provincial
government capital commitment totalling $134 million, which
includes $110 million for the UBC portion.
In the 2004-05 academic year, 200 students will be admitted
to the Faculty of Medicine, with 152 students admitted to
the Vancouver-Fraser Medical Program on UBC campus; 24 students
to the Northern Medical Program (NMP) at UNBC and 24 to the
Island Medical Program (IMP) at UVic.
Students in the NMP and the IMP will spend the first four
months of the MD undergraduate program in Vancouver and the
remainder of the first two years in the north or on Vancouver
Island. In the third and fourth years of the program, students
will have a range of experiences in the north and on Vancouver
Island and will also have opportunities through UBC’s
network of 96 affiliated teaching hospitals and health facilities
All three new facilities have IT infrastructure that is
linked with BCNet’s high speed broad band network to
support the distributed e-learning model.