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October 27, 2017 10:52 pm

New Doctors Celebrate Graduation from Northern Medical Program

Friday, May 13, 2016 @ 5:01 PM

Class of 2016 NMP grad celebration-2

NMP Class of 2016 -photo courtesy UNBC

Prince George, B.C.- Graduates of the Northern Medical Program receive  two things to  make their transition from student to Physician .   A  “shingle”   made of  Mountain Pine Beetle killed wood  which bears their name, and a  new,  long white lab coatToday, 33 students will celebrate  their graduation from the program,   the ninth class to  graduate  since the Northern Medical Program was   made available  at  the University of Northern B.C.

The Class of 2016 includes 14  from Northern BC,  and of that number, three  are  from Prince George.

The Northern Medical program  was developed in the wake of the  health care crisis  facing  northern and rural BC , a crisis that  sparked a  rally   which was attended by 7000 at the CN Centre  (then the Multiplex) in  June of 2000.

The basis for the program  was that if  trained in the North,   Doctors would stay in the North.

One of the new grads,  Dr. Jolene Hall is  one of those who plans to practice in  the North.   She is heading to Sault Ste Marie in Northern Ontario  for a two year residency, but  once  that has been completed,  Dr. Hall says  she’s heading right back to Prince George ”

She grew up  in Yellowknife,  so she was already familiar with the North,  but says the  Northern Medical Program   offered  something  a little different ” I just liked the idea of having a smaller class size and living in an area  I’m familiar with. I thought I would get the best experience here,  and I was absolutely right.”

Dr. Hall says she  loves Prince George ” I fell in love with it  when I moved here four years ago and I want to  come back and stay.  I love  everything about it.  The community  is so amazing,  I’ve been involved in soccer,   the training in school,   even going grocery shopping everyone is so nice and welcoming and I am  very happy with  my life here.”

Twenty of the graduates will be entering family medicine residency programs, with seven of those training in Prince George.
In addition, one graduate will be entering a psychiatry residency in Prince George.

The Northern Medical Program graduation celebration today precedes the formal graduation for the students which takes  place at UBC on May 25th,  when they will receive their official medical degrees.



The MD Undergraduate Program is basically a program put on by UBC, and consists of 288 students per year made up of 32 from the Island Medical Program, 32 from the Southern Medical Program, 32 from the Northern Medical Program (UNBC) and 192 from the Vancouver Fraser Medical Program.

Students are selected by UBC and when they graduate they get their diplomas from UBC.

We always seem to hear about the 7000 person rally in Prince George as being a big factor in establishing this program at UNBC, however it appears that this program was the brain child of UBC, UNBC, UVIC, and the five health regions. So the program is in fact a Provincial program that tries to deal with the doctor shortage through out the Province.

Students are selected by the admissions people at UBC based on various criteria, and are not necessarily assigned to the area of their choice. There are always more applicants for the 288 positions. So if you are in fact accepted and wanted to go to UVIC you could in fact end up in UNBC, or Kelowna.

It would be interesting to know how many graduates of the program at UNBC actually stay and practice in the North.

    I’ll take it a step further… It would be interesting to know how many graduates of the program at UNBC actually stay and practice in the BC.

    Headline from a media release January 18, 2001

    UNBC And Ubc Create The Northern Medical Program To Expand Rural Training Opportunities For New Doctors

    “The impetus for expanding medical education in northern BC was provided by the 7,000 people who attended the June health rally in Prince George, and other health rallies in the North”

    For those, like Palopu, who cannot piece history together, we have to remember that Kelowna, Victoria Vancouver are NOT in the NORTH. Even PG is really not in the north. It, like Kelowna, is in the interior of the province and better defined as the Central Interior. However, the Northern Health Region is in the northern half of the province.

    BC found itself in the position of having to double its medical seats to get anywhere close to the number of seats in other provinces per 100,000 population. At the moment it stand at 7 seats per 100,000 in Ontario and 6 in BC.

    All that being said, Ontario had been working on putting together a northern medical program as well and started before or at a bout the same time as BC.

    McMaster, Ottawa as well as Queen’s were initially involved in providing advice on how to go about establishing a program. The plan was to have the program presented at Laurentian University (Sudbury) and Lakehead University (Thunder Bay), commencing in 2003. In the process, they decided that it would be better for the North if they establish a full new, self-directed Medical School. That put the schedule off and resulted in the school opening one year after the UBC program at UNBC instead of one year before.

    The history can be read here: nomj.ca/2015/09/21/a-short-history-of-the-northern-ontario-school-of-medicine.html

    Northern Ontario School of Medicine has 64 spaces for new students per year. It is much more rural based than UNBC and deals with a larger number of Indigenous students as well as French speaking students from Northeastern Ontario.

    The two approaches are different and result in two different kinds of graduates as far as mindset goes.


Why is it so hard for some people to find the positive in a story? Wish these Grads good luck on completing this first phase of their medical journey and look forward to them helping countless people over the years.

    I agree! I really do not care whether a rally had an impact on the mindset of those who set priorities and control the purse strings, although in this case it is more than likely that it did make quite a difference.

    Prince George has the UNBC and the Medical Program. That is all that matters!

dilstone. Who wasn’t being positive. We have people graduating every year since 2004. My point is not with those who graduate congratulations to them. My point is that the focus always seems to go to the Prince George rally and the implication that this rally somehow was responsible for the program. It may have had some effect, but the program itself was a Vancouver (UBC) and Victoria (Government) program.

    As I recall, the real precedent for the medical program was the Northern Residency program, which arranged for medical school graduates to serve residencies here in Prince George even though we did not have a medical school here. The impetus for the residency program came from a number of local physicians.

      That is something some people seem to forget.

    Ontario has 6 medical schools, seven if one counts the fact that Ottawa has both an English and French program. BC ended up with one program presented at 4 locations. For the medical program, UBC has become the “State University” of BC.

    Perhaps, in order to reflect the regional differences and allow some variation in programs it can eventually morph into the UVic Medical Faculty and the UNBC Medical Faculty.

The victory here is that Prince George is now pumping out doctors–regardless of where they choose to practice. The win here is that 30 years ago the only thing to come out of Prince George was the movie Strange Brew. As a community we need to respect where we are from, and look forward to where we are headed.

Think there was two aborigional students in this class. The names sound Northern… Good for them… Congrats

    UBC apparently has 14 seats set aside for Indigenous students. in recent years only about 5 are actually filled.

      The aboriginal rate of grade 12 completion is well below average, and those who do go to university tend not to go into STEM areas.

    You are correct Stillsmokin; Todd Alec and Nathan Teegee are Nak’azdli and Takla First Nation boys, and you can bet they will stay and practice up here.

    As for the person(s) who thumbs downed your comment, they would be the same ones who will complain about how many First Nations people are lazy and on social assistance. To a racist nothing a First Nation person does is right.

Of course Kelowna and Victoria are not in the North. So what has that got to do with anything. Fact of the matter is the program set up for Victoria and Prince George, and eventually Kelowna is the same program, with the intake at the same University (UBC) and the diploma’s from the same University (UBC). Who cares where the program is located.

It was located in those three areas for the simple reason that, that’s where the Universities are. Not likely you would set it up in Prince Rupert, or Dawson Creek.

These programs were established to try and have people who graduated in the rural areas such as Vancouver Island, Kelowna, and Prince George stay in those area’s after graduation and practice there. In addition having students attending Universities in the hinterlands took the pressure off the hospitals and doctors in the greater Vancouver area, who had to help in the training of all these doctors.

So many reasons as to why things were done the way they were done.

PS:: For 75 years before the establishment of the medical program in Prince George, people lived here, worked, and guess what?? We had doctors.

Students went to UBC or other Universities and became doctors and returned to Prince George and of course other doctors came to Prince George.

Prince George was alive and well for many years before the arrival of UNBC and many many people had a University Education.

Are we getting more doctors locating in Prince George and area because of this program, or is it about the same as it was before the program. That’s the question. I suspect that its pretty much the same.

There are those who supported the establishing of UNBC in Prince George and who are still supporting it today and are glad that it is still doing great!

Then, of course there are those who wish (for whatever reason) that it had been established elsewhere. They often make negative comments. Fortunately they have no impact on anything. Cheers!

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