Queen’s University has launched an initiative that reduces the undergraduate requirements for entrants to its medical school by as much as two years. The pilot program will be offered to 10 “exceptional” high schools across Canada next year, said Dr. Richard Reznick, dean of the Kingston-based university’s health sciences faculty and director of its medical school.
“If we can shave off two years, that’s a significant time-saver for the student and a significant saving for the taxpayer,” Reznick said. “Basically we’ve been living with the same training systems for the last 40 or 50 years. Times are changing rapidly. So we want to work on new models for training.”
Reznick said while he is unaware of similar initiatives in the United States, there shortened undergraduate programs in Europe and Asia that let students to get into medical school more quickly.
The Queen’s program is an effort to reduce the amount of time it takes to graduate qualified doctors in a system that can require up to 15 years of medical training, depending on the field of specialization.
Students must complete four-year undergraduate programs as well as four years of medical school. This can be followed by a residency that can take four to five years and, if they want to become a member of an academic research centre, an additional year or two of fellowship work.
“If you add all that up, we’re graduating graduates in their early to mid-30s after 15 years of post-secondary experience,” Reznick said.
That amount of training is “predicated on the concept that you need time to mature to decide what you want to do and there is some rationale to that, although we do notice many of our students have decided to become a doctor very early on and some have decided what specialty they want to do very early on. But we don’t have mechanisms right now that can accommodate an accelerated pathway,” he said.
“In every year, there are probably 20 to 50 kids across this country, who really stand out by virtue of their fantastic academics and their exceptional non-academic achievements,” Reznick said.
“We think that by stepping up and offering this new initiative, we may be in a position to get some of the very best and brightest students from across Canada to come knocking at our door,” he added.
While details are still being finalized, candidates will be nominated by their high school principals for the university’s Chancellor’s Scholarship program. They would then be pulled from that pool and brought to Queen’s for panel interviews for the final selection.
Successful candidates would also undertake “enrichment” training during their two years of undergraduate study, including seminars and observer programs in health care settings, Reznick said.
The time it takes to train doctors is already a “national issue, so this won’t come as any surprise to any of our national (medical) bodies,” Reznick said. “My suspicion is that all of our national organizations will look at this program with interest.”
At present, the university’s medical school has about 3,300 applicants annually for 100 spaces.