U of M boasts highest number of aboriginal medical grads in 5 years
77 of 107 graduates plan to stay in Manitoba for their medical residencies
The University of Manitoba's latest class of medical graduates includes its largest group of aboriginal graduates in the past five years.
The nine self-declared indigenous graduates of the College of Medicine plan to stay in Manitoba to complete their residencies, with five of them going into family medicine.
"They've always been under-represented in our workforce — in the health workforce — even representative to their own population numbers, but more importantly they're such an important part of the communities we serve," said Dr. Brian Postl, the dean of the College of Medicine at the university. "Many communities have lots of health issues that we have to deal with, and we think we can do that more effectively if we have more indigenous physicians participating."
The U of M has had a special stream for indigenous students since 1979, according to Postl.
"It still has not hit me yet," said Allyson Barnes, who graduated on Thursday.
Barnes is Metis, and both her parents are physicians.
When her father became a physician he opted not to self-identify as Metis.
"They didn't self-identify because it was so hard. You wouldn't want to self-identify in a small community, so he didn't," she said. "He would've been one of the first aboriginal physicians in Manitoba."
Barnes will start a family medicine residence in Winnipeg and move on to more rural areas after that.
She said the road to graduation was difficult, but her father helped break down some of the barriers.
"We face a lot of different standards – things that are said. People say things, sometimes they're outright views, sometimes they're hidden views, but there's still a lot of racism that goes on."
A total of 107 students graduated on Thursday, 77 of whom plan to stay in Manitoba for their residencies, according to the provincial government.
The province says 34 graduates staying in the province will go into family medicine. Of that number, 19 will go to rural and northern communities. One graduate will undertake an anaesthesiology residency in Brandon, Man.
Changes made to get more LGBT, single parent doctors
Earlier this week, the university approved plans to make it easier for students from lower socio-economic statuses to go into medical school.
About 110 students are accepted to the school a year, approximately 10 of whom are from outside the province.
The number of out-of-province entrants will be cut to five, with the other five spots going to single parents, children of single parents, indigenous applicants, non-heterosexual applicants and those with lower incomes.
"The latest [changes are] just to try to represent our interest in having a workforce that represents the community that we serve," said Postl. "We know it's harder for students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds to access schools, so this gives them an opportunity they may not otherwise have to come to medical school."
Postl emphasized the candidates still have to be highly qualified and able to take on the schooling.
Those students would still have to pay the same tuition.
"It's a strenuous effort to get into medical school. You really have to show strong academic achievement," said Postl. "To get strong academic achievement you have to have access to textbooks, a quiet place to study and not to mention three or four years of university tuition before coming in."
He said even costs for the MCAT and the interview process can play a part in who can become a doctor.