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The first class of medical students in the UNB-Dalhousie University program attended opening ceremonies in Saint John on Thursday. ((CBC))

New Brunswick's first English-language medical training centre officially opened in Saint John on Thursday.

The program is offered at the University of New Brunswick's Saint John campus in conjunction with Dalhousie University in Halifax.

Dr. Tom Marrie, the dean of medicine for the program, said the medical training centre has been a long time coming.

"This has been a project that's been on and off since the 1930s. Circumstances had come together," he said.

"The fact that New Brunswick had started a program for the francophone portion of the province was important. I think that led to the question — why not one for the anglophone portion of the province?"

Marrie said the program would be unlike any other and would draw on the more than 20 New Brunswick physicians who have helped build the program.

"The basic blocks are there. We now need to really start building a robust research program for New Brunswick," he said.

"The cooperation we've had from physicians in New Brunswick has been amazing. I have no doubt that this will be an incredible success."

Career change

Thirty students are enrolled in the program, which will take in first-year classes of that size for another three years for a total student body of 120.

Among the students at Thursday's opening ceremonies was Sheldon Wood. He quit a 15-year career in the information technology sector to study medicine in Saint John.

The 37-year-old said he was following in the footsteps of his mother, a retired nurse.

"I grew up in a rural hospital setting. I was in the hospital at a young age [and] I got exposed to that," he said.

"When I started to reflect on what area I wanted to go into, it quickly became apparent that was the field."

The Fredericton man said the fact that he did not have to move his family too far to begin his studies was a bonus.

The Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine will deliver the programs on the Halifax and Saint John campus and will issue the degrees for the program.