More Doors Closing For Canadians Who Are Studying Medicine Abroad

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Canadians, who studied medicine abroad and face many barriers to return home to train, are now facing even more significant barriers from provincial Ministries of Health in taking their residency training in the United States.

Fewer approvals are being granted to new medical graduates.  Worse yet, some medical residents already in training in the US may be forced to return to Canada before they have the training that they need to qualify to practice medicine in Canada.

Most international medical graduates work as resident physicians in the US hospitals under a J-1 visa.  American immigration law requires that for a Canadian to qualify for a J-1 visa which is intended for educational exchange, he must get a Statement of Need from Health Canada whereby Canada confirms that there is a need for medical doctors in our country.  Since 2013 the provincial Ministries of Health have been directing Health Canada to restrict the number of Statements of Needs.  The 2016 directive made public recently by Health Canada has signalled that the door for training in the US is closing.  The loudest slam came from Ontario which refused to endorse any Statements of Needs.

At this time those most harmed by the new policy, are resident physicians already training in the USA in disciplines where the training required for qualifying in the US is shorter than that required to qualify in Canada.  Internal medicine and pediatrics are examples where the US trains for 3 years, but Canada requires 4 years.  Most Canadians who study in these disciplines make up this discrepancy by training in a subspecialty.  But that door is closed.  Health Canada states that it will not endorse Statements of Need for training in subspecialties unless the program is only one year such as geriatrics or palliative care.  The result is that avenues to finish training in the US are substantially reduced and many Canadian resident physicians will likely be unable to extend their J-1 visas.  They will have to leave the US for a minimum of 2 years or try to obtain a visa which is designed for immigration which are very difficult to obtain.

There are no one year training programs in British Columbia to allow these doctors to finish training.  They cannot start over again in Canada because having undergone training in the US disqualifies them from competing in the Canadian matching competition.

Although there are some possible avenues to complete the one year of required training in other provinces like Ontario and New Brunswick, such opportunities are extremely scarce.

There are approximately 668 Canadians currently training in the US in internal medicine and pediatrics.  There are approximately 488 training in family medicine which has a longer training period than Canada.

The Health Canada List of Statements of Needs and policy is found at:  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/…/postgrad-…/cat_b-list-liste-eng.php.

The Society for Canadians Studying Medicine Abroad (SOCASMA) is having a meeting to address this and other issues facing Canadians who studied medicine in international schools.  The meeting is on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 7:00 pm at 4595 West 8th Avenue, in Vancouver, BC.