Northern Medical Program: UBC responds to Sept. 20 CBC TV news story

On September 20, 2011, CBC TV Vancouver news broadcast a story about the Faculty of Medicine’s Northern Medical Program entitled: Northern B.C. program barely producing rural doctors. Faculty of Medicine Dean and UBC Vice Provost Health Dr. Gavin Stuart, and program students have responded in separate letters to inaccuracies in the story.

From Dr. Gavin Stuart, Dean, Faculty of Medicine:

To CBC TV News

Re. Northern B.C. program barely producing rural doctors

It is important to report on the progress of UBC’s Northern Medical Program, and its success in bringing more doctors to rural areas of British Columbia, but your facts are incorrect.

Of the first group of 24 doctors to go through the program, only 12 were family practice doctors who completed their residencies in 2010. Of those twelve, five are in practice in northern B.C., and one is practicing in the Kootenays. Three more are currently doing locums or short-term training in northern B.C. and two are practicing in rural Alberta. In short, 11 of 12 doctors are currently serving in rural areas. The balance of the class is still undergoing residencies in their specializations, or are on career breaks due to maternity leaves.

It is still too early to know where the second group of doctors who completed their residencies in June 2011 will practice. Some of the doctors are still making decisions, and some of the information is not yet available to us.

Since 2003, the number of first-year medical school spaces has doubled to 288, including 32 who are receiving training this year in the Northern Medical Program (Prince George), 32 in the Island Medical Program (Victoria), and 32 in the Southern Medical Program  (Kelowna). The expansion and distribution of health professional training across the province was built and delivered to improve the health of B.C. residents, regardless of their location, whether in underserved populations in urban centres, or rural communities on Vancouver Island, in the Interior or in the North.

UBC, in cooperation with the University of Victoria, the University of Northern British Columbia and the province’s six health authorities, pioneered this approach in Canada, and it’s now being emulated by medical schools throughout North America. We are convinced it will create a larger, more stable and evenly distributed supply of physicians, so no one’s health will suffer for lack of access to a doctor.


Gavin C.E. Stuart, Dean, UBC Faculty of Medicine, Vice Provost Health, UBC

From the Northern Medical Program Classes of 2013, 2014, and 2015:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Without Prejudice

To Whom It May Concern

We as students of the Northern Medical Program were surprised to read and watch the recent articles on CBC detailing the apparent failure of the program to produce physicians who remain in Northern BC. We agree that there is currently a desperate need for more physicians in rural areas across the province and across the country. However, this program is attempting to address that need and the misinformation published was extremely damaging to these efforts.

As students, we rely on the goodwill and participation of local volunteers in our training, as well as the full support of all local healthcare providers. As such, we would like to clarify a few things in order to reassure the many supporters of this wonderful program. We are indeed passionate about the opportunities afforded to us here in Prince George and we believe the program is meeting its mandate. While our training takes place in Prince George at UNBC and UHNBC, we are students of the UBC Faculty of Medicine. We are subsidized the same amount as all UBC medical students, whether these students are located here in the north, in Vancouver, in Victoria, or in the newly established Southern Medical Program in Kelowna. These subsidies are sent directly to the Faculty of Medicine to aid in the cost of delivering our education. We and all medical students across the country appreciate this, as the cost of training would otherwise be prohibitive.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to be enrolled in this program as it is in its infancy. We are being afforded the opportunity to be a part of the legacy being created by the Northern Medical Program and local physicians. Unfortunately, it will be many years yet before we become practicing physicians, as specialist residency programs are minimum 5 years and many family medicine residents elect to take extra training in subspecialties after their 2 year residency in order to better serve their patients in the long term. It is difficult and unfair to attempt a current assessment of the impact of the Northern Medical Program due to the length of training required. Currently, only two NMP classes have physicians who could have completed residency. Of these, any students who elected to pursue specialty training are still enrolled in their respective residency programs.

The Northern Medical Program was established thanks to the efforts and dedication of the citizens of Prince George and other Northern BC communities. These communities have individually fundraised in order to support the program with the belief that a return on their investment will be seen. While too early to fully establish what this return will be, we would like to offer our sincere thanks to these people for their belief in our abilities and support of the program. None of us would be here without them, and for that we are truly grateful. Our experiences in the Northern Medical Program have exceeded all our expectations due to the amazing teaching faculty and dedicated patient volunteers. It is our hope that the CBC article and other resultant publicity have not damaged these relationships for students in the UBC MD program. A single positive experience in a rural community, such as those we experience every day, is an impetus to stay that far outweighs any contractual obligations.

We value the opportunity to share our collective voice as students of the Northern Medical Program. We are thankful to those who offer their continued, unwavering support.

Yours Sincerely,

The Northern Medical Program Classes of 2013, 2014, and 2015

The CBC TV story can be found here:



Randy Schmidt
Acting Director
UBC Public Affairs