Faculty of medicine to remove limits for Indigenous medical student enrolment

Previously, the faculty only accepted five Indigenous candidates into the MD program each year

A proposal was put forward to allow all Indigenous candidates who meet the standard to be admitted to the University of Alberta’s MD program.

The proposal to change the number of Indigenous students admitted was discussed at the General Faculties Council subcommittee on standards on October 4. Currently, the faculty of medicine and dentistry reserves up to five positions for Indigenous candidates who meet the normal entrance requirements to enter the MD program. Indigenous candidates are then reviewed and granted admission through the quota system by an Indigenous admissions panel. The proposal to remove the cap on Indigenous enrolment will be up for approval on October 18 at the General Faculties Council’s academic standards committee.

An interim measure for this year increased the number of Indigenous students accepted into the program by ten.

According to Tibetha Kemble, the director of the Indigenous Health Initiatives Program, the faculty sees around 18 Indigenous applicants every year. She said she does not enjoy denying Indigenous students entry into the MD program solely because the quota is full.

“We need a path forward that is more inclusive,” Kemble said. “This new model removes a major limiting factor.”

Kemble said the faculty is proposing the change in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 23, which calls on all levels of government to increase the number of Indigenous health care practitioners in the field.

During the meeting, Kemble shared how she saw firsthand how the medical profession in Canada has been a “colonial system” growing up.

“So few of us thought of medicine as a profession,” Kemble said. “We cannot move forward as a country with our Indigenous not feeling like they are a part of the system.”

“Indigenous physicians are really the faces, bodies, and experts so many of us have wanted to see… but we have been denied this right for close to a century,” she added.

Shirley Schipper, vice-dean of education for the faculty of medicine and dentistry, said that if this admission model had been in place for this academic school year, eleven more Indigenous students would have been admitted.

“We lose out as a university when capable candidates are not able to enter our programs,” Schipper said. “Indigenous candidates are in high demand.”

She added that all of the deans in the faculty of medicine and dentistry have unanimously supported this proposal.

“This is a part of a larger move of the entire faculty of medicine and dentistry,” Schipper said. “We hope that as we go on, more and more of our programs will come forward and present ways to improve our admissions processes for the training and support of Indigenous candidates.”

Kemble said that this response will remain small at first but will make a “meaningful impact” in the long run. She hopes this proposed entrance model inspires Indigenous students who are not sure about applying to the MD program to consider it.

“So many Indigenous [people] struggle to make it through primary, secondary, and then post-secondary education,” Kemble said. “Over time, this will be an important and historic response. One that most of us can be proud to say we were apart of.”

Adam Lachacz

Adam Lachacz is a third-year student double majoring in history and political science. In his spare time, he likes to read, breathe, speed, and drink mead.

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