We're finally getting a medical school...
Medical school magnet for jobs
Full program starts in 2008
By Doug Williamson
Star Health/Sciences Reporter
The Windsor Star
Feb. 10, 2006
The creation of a stand-alone medical school on the University of Windsor campus will attract and retain doctors, create thousands of health-sector jobs and take the university into a new era of research and community involvement, officials said Thursday.
In 2008, a branch of the University of Western Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine in London will be formally established in Windsor, offering a full, four-year program of studies to 24 first-year students per year, Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman announced in a news conference on campus.
That means by the end of the first four years, up to 96 medical students will be receiving training here, working with local doctors, researchers and hospitals.
An expansion of approximately 20,000 square feet to the university’s Toldo Health Centre will be required.
Flanked by finance minister and Windsor-St. Clair MPP Dwight Duncan and social services minister and Windsor West MPP Sandra Pupatello, Smitherman was greeted by standing ovations and cheers from the jampacked crowd at the Toldo Health Education and Learning Centre.
But it was Duncan who originally proposed the notion in 2001 as an opposition MPP, and with the help of Pupatello and a committee of dedicated local volunteers steered the idea through senior government ministries.
“We’re getting our
medical school,” a beaming Duncan said to cheers and applause.
In an interview, Duncan said studies have shown that an “average-sized” medical school, such as the one planned for Windsor, can produce up to 5,000 direct and 12,000 indirect jobs as health-care sector companies locate nearby, in addition to hiring at the university and local health care facilities.
“Medical schools are huge drivers of economic growth,” Duncan said. “This is the first important peg in diversifying our economy.”
Mayor Eddie Francis said the announcement shows what can be accomplished in Windsor. “This is a great day. We have to break out of this shell and inferiority complex.”
The accomplishment was especially sweet news because of the initial reaction from the former PC government in Toronto to the idea, others said.
“It’s been a great benefit because they told us we’d never have a medical school in Windsor,” said Windsor businessman Ted Farron, who served on the original steering committee along with labour council president Gary Parent and medical officer of health Dr. Allen Heimann.
A 20,000-square-foot addition to the Toldo building on campus will house classrooms and other facilities for the new students, but drawings have not been prepared, according to Dr. Raphael Cheung, a Windsor doctor who is assistant dean of the Southwestern Ontario Medical Education Network.
SWOMEN was formed three years ago as a satellite campus of UWO, allowing third- and fourth-year students from London to receive hands-on clinical training in local hospitals and doctors’ offices as part of their curriculum. About 190 local doctors work with the students now, and Cheung said more will have to be recruited when the new building opens.
But the new campus will be a fullfledged medical school, Cheung said. “I’m ecstatic,” the Windsor endocrinologist said.
Medical students often end up staying in the communities where they train, said Carol Herbert, dean of the Schulich medical school in London.
“We need health professionals across the disciplines,” Herbert said, referring to the shortage of doctors in this part of Ontario. “We have the same problems here as the far north.”
Jeremy Mozzon, a third-year SWOMEN student studying in Windsor, said he is considering staying here after graduation, and said other students will take a more serious look at Windsor-Essex.
“They see what it’s about. By coming here (the new school) puts it much higher in the radar,” Mozzon said.
Smitherman said the province plans to create a total of 104 new medical school spots across Ontario, in Waterloo, St. Catharines, Mississauga and Windsor.
U of W president Ross Paul said the Windsor proposal is the most advanced because of concrete plans to establish the full school here in co-operation with UWO.
UWO representatives who toured Windsor and Essex County were impressed at the level of research being done here, he said.
The shortage of doctors is still a problem, Smitherman said, adding that the new spots, along with efforts to repatriate Ontario doctors who have moved to other jurisdictions, and allow more international medical graduates to become doctors here, will go a long way toward solving the shortage.
However, Dr. Albert Schumacher, a Windsor family doctor and past president of the Canadian Medical Association, said there are still not enough medical school spots across Canada.
He said the country will be able to graduate 2,400 doctors per year, and needs to produce 3,000 to stay “self-sufficient.”
“Now we have to start planning for after this,” Schumacher said. “We can’t continue to plunder from the developing world.”
But there was no taking away from the optimistic mood Thursday, with U of W president Ross Paul heaping praise on a dozen local people who pushed the idea from the beginning.