New Brunswick's first French-language medical school program began welcoming students in Moncton this week for its inaugural year of classes.

Theprogram is a joint project between the Université de Sherbrooke and the Université de Moncton, with the Quebec school issuing the degrees and hospitals in Moncton providing much of the training.

It is the only Canadian medical programoffered entirely in French outside of Quebec.

The program's first 24 students were ushered into their first class by a group of Acadian singers andNewBrunswick PremierBernard Lord.

Université de Moncton presidentYvon Fontaine says the French-language school should help recruit and retain doctors forAcadian parts of theprovince, which have struggled to maintain health services for French-speaking residents.

"It'sbeen a dream for a lot of people in this community for a long time to make sure we can train our doctors in New Brunswick," Fontaine said.

One of those future doctors, Moncton-nativeJennifer Meloche, says there are advantages to training at home.

"For me, it didn't make a difference because medicine is whatI wanted to do, but it sure helped things," she said. "I like it here because my family is here, my friends are here, and this city is what I'm used to."

Fellow studentLouis Leblond say he's "definitely staying inNew Brunswick"to work in the provincial health-care system after he graduates.

"As far as a career or specializing, I'm not sure," Leblond said, "butI really thinkI'd like to get my hands dirty [doing] some sort of surgery work."

The idea for a French-language medical program was raised in a federal government report into health care more than 40 years ago. The report suggested buildingmedical schools in Newfoundland, at McMaster Universityin Hamilton,atSherbrooke in Quebec and in Moncton.

All four schools are now offering medical degrees.

The New Brunswick government says it's now working oncreating amedical program for English-speaking students in Saint John.