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New Online Program to Support Rural Doctors

Physicians across Canada are using new, state-of-the-art online technology, developed in Newfoundland and Labrador, to keep current on the latest medical practices and knowledge. Memorial University of Newfoundland held a news conference on June 2, 2004 to demonstrate and celebrate the successes of MDcme.ca, a Web site developed by Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Faculty of Medicine, offering a broad range of online, accredited courses for Canadian physicians.

According to Elizabeth Marshall, former minister of Health and Community Services for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, retention of physicians is an area of concern for all Canadian communities, particularly in rural and remote areas. “Since 70 per cent of MDcme.ca’s users are from rural areas, the portal is having an indirect positive impact on recruiting and retaining physicians and health care professionals by helping to reduce the isolation and distance often experienced in rural and remote areas,” she said. “Physicians are now continuing their medical education in their own communities. MDcme.ca also increases our healthcare infrastructure and the level of professional support to doctors.”

Since its inception in 2001, visits to the Web portal have been steadily increasing,” said Dr. Sharon Peters, vice-dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Memorial University. “Although there are approximately 35,000 family physicians in Canada, there have been about 60,000 visits to the site with over 360,000 hits. In addition, over 650 physicians have registered for one of MDcme.ca’s online course offerings.”

Dr. Susan King, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, has taken three courses offered by MDcme.ca. “It was extremely convenient to access high-quality professional development 24 hours a day and work at my own pace,” explained Dr. King. “I also appreciated the opportunities to consult with colleagues from across the country. For the province’s health care system, MDcme.ca offers tremendous value to doctors regardless of where they are located because the course prices are so reasonable and the travel time is eliminated. Overall, the site is contributing to our health care system by linking doctors to critical health information and to each other.”

The dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Memorial University, Dr. James Rourke, explained that MDcme.ca is proving to be a useful “one-stop shop” for the medical community that now offers 25 courses online, including courses in emergency medicine, ovarian cancer and diabetes, with additional courses being developed. “Recently, it also began offering courses in both English and French – making it a truly national initiative that now reaches physicians and health-care practitioners in both anglophone and francophone communities.”

“Research indicates that the physician satisfaction rates for MDcme.ca are high,” added Fran Kirby, manager of professional development with the Faculty of Medicine. “Almost 90 per cent of research participants consider the instruction appealing, interesting and motivating,” she explained. “Almost all respondents reported they were better able to learn at their own pace and juggle learning time with work and home responsibilities. Many also indicated that they intended to use online courses again and anticipated this would be the ‘wave of the future’ for rural doctors’.”

MDcme.ca is a not-for-profit Web site that is managed by Memorial University of Newfoundland. The online courses are developed and accredited by 11 leading medical schools in Canada, including Memorial University of Newfoundland, Dalhousie University, Université Laval, Université de Montréal, University of Ottawa, Queen’s University, McMaster University, University of Saskatchewan, University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of British Columbia.

Other partners in this innovative project include Health Canada, Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Pfizer Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, medical and government groups and the private sector.


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