Aboriginal MD admissions program reaches unofficial target of graduates

Last week, UBC’s aboriginal medical admissions program reached their unofficial goal of graduating 50 aboriginal MDs.

To date, 54 aboriginal MDs have graduated through the aboriginal MD admissions program, reaching their objective five years ahead of schedule.

James Andrew, UBC aboriginal student initiatives coordinator, set a goal of graduating 50 aboriginal MDs by 2020.

“Aboriginal people’s health has been rated pretty low compared to the other populations here in Canada and I think that’s been evident since the Royal Commission Report on Aboriginal Peoples,” said Andrew. “We need our own indigenous doctors or physicians or nurses, dentists, pharmacists.... We need our own health professionals.”

Andrew borrowed the idea of setting a goal to graduate a certain number of aboriginal MDs by the year 2020 from Ontario.

“They had a 2020 vision of 100 graduates, and so I came back with that vision,” said Andrew. “Because the population in Ontario is larger than us in terms of aboriginal population we said okay, let’s just choose half of that and by 2020 we’ll graduate 50 aboriginal students.”

Andrew has been involved in various outreach initiatives to promote the program, such as an annual pre-admissions workshop that invites students of indigenous descent to learn more about the program. The workshop, which rotates through four sites across the province, draws approximately 10-15 students every year.

Kelsey Louie, a recent graduate of UBC’s Island Medical Program, got his first glimpse of his future career through attending one of these workshops.

“[There are] people who come and give you the general outline of ... what medical school is,” Louie said. “So that’s definitely how I got exposure to it.”

Louie became interested in medicine while working with the Ministry of Health, dealing with aboriginal health.

“I really missed out on the day-to-day interactions and talking to people and seeing people and more like the on the ground sort of work that you do,” he said. “I also recognized how much need there was for aboriginal physicians.”

According to Louie, because some people and communities may view medicine as an unrealistic or unattainable goal, graduates of the program will be able to lead by example.