Alward Government axes Medical Student Summer Program

The Alward Government formally advised physicians across the province late last week that they have decided to cancel a program designed to encourage medical students to stay in New Brunswick after they graduate.

“The recent budget, which also capped medical services for New Brunswickers, stated that the province would review recruitment and retention for doctors,” said Dr Robert Desjardins, President of the New Brunswick Medical Society. “It is tremendously short-sighted that the Alward Government would start by canceling a program targeting brand-new New Brunswick medical students. What message does that send?”

“I can’t believe they’re scrapping what is probably their strongest recruitment tool for medical students,’ said Philippe Tremblay, a Dalhousie medical student in Saint John who participated in the program for two summers. “It was such a good networking opportunity and gave us a chance to experience fields of medicine that we don’t see during other aspects of our training.”

This program paid first and second-year medical students just over minimum wage to shadow doctors and other health care providers in a number of different settings across the province over the summer months. The focus of the program was to provide experience for medical students in rural areas, in the hope that they would choose to return upon graduation. Over recent years, an average of just under a hundred medical students participated in this program annually, gaining an appreciation for the challenges and opportunities of practicing in New Brunswick.

“We support periodic reviews of programs to ensure they are getting bang for the buck,” said Dr Desjardins. “What we don’t support, one month from the summer academic break, is abandoning the dozens of medical students who want to learn more about practicing in New Brunswick this summer.”

“I have no back-up plan for this summer,” said Jason Retallick, first-year medical student in Saint John. “I was excited to do the program to learn more about patient needs, make good contacts for future practice, and help figure out which specialty to pursue.”

“The other day the Minister said I could go to Greece or Cyprus to practice. Why would they invest millions in local medical schools, but can’t be bothered to keep medical students here?”

According to their bulletin, the Province will spend the next months developing a comprehensive physician engagement and recruitment strategy. “I’m not sure how paying medical students in New Brunswick minimum wage to gain hands on medical experience right here in New Brunswick isn’t good value for taxpayer dollars,” added Dr Desjardins. “How much money would they spend on government recruiters trying to fix the mess? Probably a lot more than minimum wage.”

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