Healthy Debate: Changes ahead for International Medical Graduates Hoping to Practice in Canada

Changes ahead for international medical graduates hoping to practice in Canada

By Vanessa Milne, Christopher Doig & Irfan Dhalla


Although international medical graduates are a well-established part of Canadian health care and used to help address the shortage of doctors in underserved areas, according to the June 5 2014 issue of healthy debate, the landscape is becoming more competitive, thanks to an increase in the number of new doctors graduating form Canadian Universities and rising number of international medical graduates trying to enter Canada. Furthermore it is argued that at the same time, Canadians who have gone abroad to study medicine are making up a larger percentage of the international group.

The following are a few highlights taken directly form the healthy debate article:

“In term IMG includes both immigrants and Canadians who have gone aboard for their medical degrees The Canadian cohort has increased substantially over the past few years, with a 2011 survey suggesting more than 3,600 Canadians were studying medicine abroad.

In 2008, 12% of the IMGs in the CaRMS match were Canadians who had studied overseas. By 2011, that had increased to 25%. The shift has been so distinct that the Centre for the Evaluation of Health Professionals Educated Aboard changed its programming in response, says Ardal, the organization’s CEO.

The Canadian IMG subgroup also seems to enjoy an advantage: In 2011, they made up about 25% of IMG applicants, but obtained more than half of the first-year residency positions given the international medical graduates.

Over 90 per cent of Canadians studying aboard hope to return to Canada for their postgraduate training, and some people have even called for their preferential treatment over other IMGs. But that may be a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, since the Canadians would be getting ahead just because of their country of birth.

Adding to the  confusion is the fact that many Canadians who study medicine overseas believe there is a doctor shortage in Canada. Students get their information from the media, where many articles are about shortages, says Barer. “ So they will assume there are shortages, and they will assume there will be no problem getting in.”

Barer’s CMAJ article highlights the need for increased communication. “Policy makers in both government and medicine should be crystal clear” about the prospects for Canadians thinking of studying medicine abroad, it reads. “Anything else seems irresponsible and invites understandable backlash.”

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