A record number of medical students has signed up to serve in rural and northern communities that need them the most in exchange for free medical school thanks to a recently expanded doctor-recruitment initiative, Health Minister Theresa Oswald announced today. The free medical school initiative supports the province’s commitment to ensure every Manitoban has access to a family doctor by 2015, the minister said.
“We’re committed to finding new ways to connect Manitobans with a doctor in their community,” said Oswald. “The incredible success we’ve seen in the first year of the free medical school program shows us we’re on the right track to recruiting more doctors to the rural and northern communities where they’re needed most.”
This year, over 251 undergraduate medical students and residents signed up for grants through the revamped Medical Student/Resident Financial Assistance Program in exchange for providing medical services after graduation, in under-served rural and northern communities. In total, this will result in nearly 250 years of medical services returned to Manitoba communities, Oswald said.
Under the expanded program, grants range from $12,000 to $25,000 per year, based on the year of study, the student’s specialty and where they choose to work after graduation. Students can apply for grants in each year of medical school and canaccess a maximum of $61,000 over four years, which covers tuition and other costs associated with studying medicine in exchange for a commitment to work for up to two and half years in communities identified as most in need of additional physicians.
“Our goal is to keep the majority of our graduating physicians here to serve the health-care needs of Manitobans across the province,” said Dr. Brian Postl, dean, faculty of medicine, University of Manitoba. “Thanks to this expanded and innovative program, more students are choosing to stay here, take advantage of the tuition-reimbursement incentives offered by the province and practise in under-served communities after graduation. It’s clearly a win-win.”
Since the program was established in 2001, over $35 million has been provided to approximately 1,300 students. Since 1999, rural and northern Manitoba has seen a net increase of 116 doctors.
The minister said Manitoba continues to make many important investments in physician training, recruitment and retention including:
- expanding the Medical Student/Resident Financial Assistance Program to cover the entire cost of a student’s four years of medical school, in exchange for a return-of-service agreement in communities chosen by the province;
- introducing a 60 per cent tuition rebate worth up to $25,000 for graduates who choose to live and work in Manitoba;
- introducing a unique northern/remote residency program to help attract more doctors to northern Manitoba;
- providing grants of $50,000 in return for service for family doctors to return to school to undertake a third year in an advanced-skill area such as emergency medicine or anesthesiology;
- expanding medical school spaces to 110 from 70, creating the largest medical school class on record; and
- introducing the Medical Licensure Program for International Medical Graduates in 2001 to assist foreign doctors in receiving conditional registration.
For more information about the programs, visit www.manitoba.ca/health/msrfap/index.html.