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USask expanding medical program at Regina campus to include first-year students

Saskatchewan medical students will soon have a new option to complete their four-year education entirely in the Queen City, as the University of Saskatchewan is preparing to expand its program at the Regina campus very soon.

Saskatchewan medical students will soon have a new option to complete their four-year education entirely in the Queen City, as the University of Saskatchewan is preparing to expand its program at the Regina campus very soon.

A recent announcement by USask shared that Regina’s satellite campus will be accepting first-year students to begin their medical studies beginning in 2022.

Previously, the Regina campus only accommodated upper-year students, with program applicants required to complete their first year of study in Saskatoon.

Dr. Gill White, associate dean of the College of Medicine Regina campus, said the expansion is a big step for the program and will offer more opportunity to students pursuing a career in medicine.

“The College of Medicine is always interested in distributing students across the province, and this is part of that plan,” said White. “It’s exciting, is probably the best term to use. We’ve been moving in this direction for some time [and] we think this is a win-win situation for us.”

The Regina campus admits approximately 100 students each year, said White. With the beginning of the expanded program, 40 of those students will be first-years who will then go on to complete their training entirely in Regina.

Including more students in Regina will help teaching capacity at the Saskatoon campus, said White, and provide a more cohesive environment for students moving forward.

“It helps for our students to develop a sense of camaraderie,” said White. “That group of 40 students can now start in year one, get to know our teachers and staff, and I think that just creates a comfort zone for them. “

White anticipates the new option could entice more potential students in south central Saskatchewan into pursuing a medical degree with USask in Regina.

The option of completing an entire undergrad degree in one place allows students to potentially take on lower relocation and living costs, said White, especially for those already from Regina and area.

“I don’t think it's any secret that the debt load, when they finish medical school and head into post-graduate training, is fairly substantial,” said White. “So, if there’s some way of trying to influence that and help students a little bit, we’re open to try and do that.”

He also sees the program expansion benefiting both practitioners in the program and patients under student care, as studies have shown that clinical care improves when physicians are involved in teaching.

Recruitment efforts may also see a boost as well, said White, and many physicians express interest in teaching opportunities when considering practicing in Saskatchewan.

The Regina program is implemented at the Regina General Hospital, and White said the Ministry of Health and Saskatchewan Health Authority have been instrumental in the organization process.

Currently, administrators are working to increase the number of staff and teaching physicians in hand in advance of the changes. There are also a number of renovations at RGH already underway to accommodate the new students.

“The Regina campus is a little bit unique in Canada, in the sense that our programs are out of a hospital-based situation compared to other programs where they’ve built independent buildings,” said White. “The SHA has played a major role here in regards to helping us, and we’re obviously in their facility and indebted to them to help us with this particular type of program.”

First-year students will begin their inaugural year at the Regina campus next August, for the 2022 fall semester.