Five young alumni are among the first generation of doctors in training with the new Island Medical Program. The next four years will challenge each of their exceptional abilities.
IT WAS A MEMORABLE SATURDAY IN JUNE LAST YEAR as Patrizia Moccia’s friends and family gathered to celebrate her marriage to her long-time sweetheart. In the midst of the festivities, the best man rose to make his toast to the bride, an accomplished 25-year-old who had graduated with distinction in 2002 from the university’s psychology department. The best man also made an important announcement. Moccia had learned just days earlier that she would be among the first 24 students in the Island Medical Program at the University of Victoria, part of the University of British Columbia’s newly expanded medical school. “A gasp went up from the guests and after that everyone was congratulating me on getting into medical school more than my wedding,” laughs Moccia.
Well of course. As wonderful as marriages are, they’re rather common. But getting into medical school these days—that’s really something. For every seat available in a first-year medical program in Canada, six or more students apply, almost all of them with excellent credentials. Some 1,315 hopefuls vied for UBC’s 200 available spots last year. But high marks and the right prerequisites aren’t enough to secure a place. Now, successful medical school applicants must outshine others in a wide range of criteria: volunteering, extracurricular activities, communication skills, civic engagement, empathy, leadership and more.
Five young UVic alumni had what it takes to nab one of the coveted seats in the IMP. Joining Moccia in the class of 2008 are: Michelle Tousignant, BSc ’03; Averil Russell, BA ’04; Steve Burgess, BSc ’03; and David Harris, BSc ’03.
The students are part of an historic milestone for medical education in Canada. For the first time, one medical school’s program is being offered on three campuses: UBC, UVic, and University of Northern BC in Prince George. They follow the same curriculum and take part in lectures delivered by videoconference link-ups.
The distributed model expands the capacity for medical school seats across the province and aims to bring more diverse students into the mix, particularly those who may be interested in practising in small towns or remote, rural areas of the province. Studies show that doctors tend to practice near the places they’re trained. The research seems to hold true for these five UVic alumni. Not only are they delighted that a new program enables them to earn a medical degree on a campus they love, all express hope that their medical careers will eventually see them practising on Vancouver Island—either as family doctors or specialists.
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