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New SFU medical school moves forward to train family doctors of tomorrow

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 4:17 PST, Mon November 28, 2022

A new medical school on the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Surrey campus is taking a significant step forward with the hiring of an interim dean and provincial funding to support its development.

"While we have made enormous progress to strengthen public health care over the past five years, we know that many British Columbians are struggling to find a family doctor and waiting too long for care on a waiting list or in an emergency room," said Premier David Eby. "That's why are taking action to train, recruit, and retain family doctors now—and taking these steps with Simon Fraser University to train the health workforce we'll need in the future. This investment in the first entirely new medical school in western Canada in 55 years will mean more family doctors graduating each year to provide care for people."

A key action in the recently released health human resources strategy is to open a new medical school at SFU. As part of this plan, the province is investing as much as $4.9 million in startup funding to support activities such as accreditation, curriculum planning, engagement, space planning, and professional staff to support the SFU medical school project office.

In addition, SFU has retained an interim dean, Dr. Roger Strasser, who will provide strategic leadership in the planning and implementation of the medical school. Strasser was the founding dean and CEO of the Northern Ontario school of medicine and is a recognized leader in the development of health professional education.

"With this new medical school, the Province of B.C. is demonstrating its commitment to a strong public health-care system that meets the needs of its diverse and growing population,” said Strasser. “I am extremely excited to have this opportunity to join SFU to help deliver on that vision."

The new medical school curriculum will be built on four pillars:

• Educate graduates who are well prepared to provide the prevention and primary care needs of diverse communities and populations

• Educate physicians to work in team-based primary care settings that are patient-centred and socially accountable

• Commit to reciprocal community partnerships in the development and implementation of the medical school

• Embed and equalize Indigenous knowledge systems

"I am excited to be part of the establishment of a second medical school, which is a huge step toward developing the infrastructure needed to train more doctors, so all British Columbians can access the care they need," said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. "The development of the Simon Fraser University medical school will help meet the growing demand for physicians in B.C. over the longer term and train the next generation of doctors."

SFU's medical school will take a focused approach to primary care, based on the university's strength in community engagement and strong partnerships with the First Nations Health Authority, the Fraser Health Authority, other provincial health authorities, and the practice community. Reciprocity, cultural safety, and humility will be embedded throughout the school, along with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis knowledge systems and perspectives.

"We're marking a major milestone today in our commitment to train the doctors of tomorrow as work to establish B.C.'s second medical school takes a significant step forward," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "The new SFU medical school will create more opportunities for future doctors to learn, train, and stay on to practise in communities throughout B.C. In turn, British Columbians will have increased access to highly skilled, dedicated doctors close to home."

This new investment builds on $1.5 million provided to the university earlier this year by the province to support the development of the business case. A project board has been established to oversee this work.

SFU is working toward its first student intake by September 2026. Establishing a new medical school at SFU complements the more immediate work the province is doing to train, recruit, and retain more family physicians to meet the challenges people in British Columbia are now facing.

This announcement builds on other actions to train and recruit more health-care workers in B.C., including 602 new nursing seats and 322 allied health seats added to public post-secondary institutions throughout the province and recruiting 9,000 people through the health-career access program.

"I am looking forward to contributing to the health-care system in B.C. It means a lot knowing that there will be more options close to home where I could stay in my community while pursuing my goals,” said Sherry Sandhu, student, master of public health, Simon Fraser University. “I want to help and work in public health. I like the community here at Simon Fraser University and it's very exciting and promising that I may have the opportunity to do this right here in Surrey at SFU."

The province also recently announced a seat expansion at the University of British Columbia's (UBC) faculty of medicine to train more doctors in B.C. This includes 40 new undergraduate medical education seats and as many as 88 new residency seats at the UBC faculty of medicine, which will be phased in throughout the province beginning in 2023. The expansion will create more opportunities for students and resident doctors to learn, train, and stay on to practise in communities throughout B.C.

Training and retaining new physicians is just one part of B.C.'s Health Human Resources Strategy. It's also part of StrongerBC's Future Ready Plan, which is making education and training more accessible, affordable, and relevant to help businesses grow and prepare British Columbians for the jobs of tomorrow.

To learn about B.C.'s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit strongerbc.gov.bc.ca/health-care.

To learn about SFU's medical school, visit sfu.ca/vpacademic/sfu-medical-school.html.

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