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Doctor training in the North
Eight family medicine residents from Memorial University to work in Iqaluit hospital

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, March 16, 2011

IQALUIT - Eight family medicine residents from Newfoundland and Labrador will have the opportunity to train and practice in Iqaluit thanks to a new federally-funded project.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nunavut MP and federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq announced a program where eight family medicine residents trained at Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador will do their residencies at the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit. She added those physicians will then have to practise in the territory for two years. - Jeanne Gagnon/NNSL photo

Under the Nunavut Family Physician Residents Project up to eight family medicine residents from Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador will spend much of their first year and most of their second year of residency at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit. Nunavut MP and federal health minister Leona Aglukkaq also announced Feb. 22 those physicians must practise in the territory for at least two years once they complete their training. The program starts July 1.

"That means eight medical students will come to Nunavut to learn about what it takes to practise medicine here. It isn't the same as practising in big cities and big hospitals in the south," she said. "We know they will learn there are challenges in the North but they will also learn that for every one of those challenges here, there is a reward. We believe the reward outweighs the challenges."

The federal government has committed $4.9 million over six years to this project, also called the NunaFam Project, meant to improve the recruitment and retention of physicians in Nunavut. While the residents will be based in Iqaluit, they will at times visit communities mostly in the Baffin region.

The money will also be used to set up a family practice training centre at Qikiqtani General Hospital, where physicians will get more educational and academic networking support, added Aglukkaq.

The project does not specifically increase the number of physicians in the territory, currently at about 15, said Dr. Madeleine Cole, director of medical education and family doctor at the hospital. Instead, she added it will fill vacancies with long-term people, as opposed to doctors typically staying two months.

"They (residents) have a great clinical experience but they don't build a life outside the hospital, which makes it much less likely they will return," she said. "When you spend a full year or year and a half of your two-year residence in one place, you develop friendships, relationships ... outside the hospital ... You are more likely to stay."

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