New Master's Admission Requirements Piloted for International Medical Students

Jun 11, 2018

Nour Amiri

Nour Amiri has always wanted to work in pediatrics in Canada but without a Canadian medical license, her opportunities to work in a clinical setting are limited.

Amiri, a Canadian citizen who did eight years of medical training in the Middle East, enrolled in the Department of Family and Community Medicine's (DFCM) new pilot program after completing the Ryerson's International Training Bridging Program.

The pilot project is part of an existing Master’s degree offered by the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and administered by DFCM. Within the Master of Science in Community Health - Family Community Medicine’s (MSCH-FCM) pilot group, ten spots allow international medical graduates the ability to apply without a Canadian medical license. The aim is to allow students like Nour to gain proficiency in Canadian health care principles while gaining academic skills in research, teaching and leadership. This opens the door for graduates to reposition their careers into roles such as clinical research associates, clinic coordinators, patient care educators and health care teachers.

"My initial understanding was that the spots for this program were kind of reserved for licensed Canadian physicians,” says Nour. “Once I understood it was for international graduates who don't have a license to do clinical work I got interested in this program. I have always wanted to work in pediatrics. This was my shot."

International medical graduates follow the same curriculum as students with a clinical license in Canada: They have one and half elective credits, six mandatory credits and a 160 hours practicum. Of the mandatory requirements, they must complete two public health courses, a seminar course on social, political and scientific issues in family medicine, a research course and a system leadership course. The practicum allows the student to apply their learnings to real work projects.

“One student is working with Public Health Ontario. Another is doing a research study which has materialized into job,” says Dr. Julia Alleyne, DFCM’s Associate Program Director of Graduate Studies and Academic Fellowships and the pilot's lead administrator.

“The third is doing systematic literature reviews for a publication and another is developing an app to address mental health conditions. It’s great because these opportunities force them to reach out and network in our healthcare system.”

Administrators monitored how students fared in the classroom, with assignments, their grades and how well they integrated with Canadian culture. In June, Dr. Alleyne will conduct a focus group with both group discussions and individual questionnaires that will allow students to gauge their perceptions of the program and their academic and professional readiness once they have completed the pilot.

"The initial findings are very good. Students do as well, and some better, than our students with a clinical license,” says Dr. Alleyne. “They appear to be grasping all the healthcare assignments and they can converse on healthcare issues.”

Amiri's hard work paid off as well. Along with gaining new skills in teaching and academic medicine, she has been offered a permanent job at Sick Kids as a research associate. The ability to prove her skills by completing a Canadian master’s degree has helped her secure this role, a seamless transition from her volunteer work to paid work where she says she can puts her skills into practice.

"I’m really grateful for this opportunity and taking it on. I only have good things to say about it,” says Amiri. “And I get an opportunity to work in an area that I'm passionate about which is pediatrics."

The next pilot project intake is September 2018 and seven new international medical graduates will be enrolled in the MScCH (FCM). The next opportunity for new applications will be in January 2019 for admission in September 2019. Applications are open to any international medical graduates who have permanent Canadian status of residence.

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