Medical school celebrates 30th anniversary

(June 18, 1998, Gazette)

By Sharon Gray

Memorial's Faculty of Medicine will kick off its 30th anniversary celebrations next week with an alumni reunion in St. John's to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first graduating class. The theme for the reunion is Towards Health Care in the Next Century.

The alumni reunion is open to all graduates of Memorial University's medical school. It starts off the evening of June 24 with a lecture by Dr. Kenneth Roberts, professor emeritus, in the main auditorium of the Health Sciences Centre. The talk is titled We Must Know Everything: What Then Shall We Do? Utilizing Medical Information.

The reunion features a day of continuing medical education and includes a Dean's Forum with the first three deans of the medical school: Dr. Ian Rusted, Dr. Al Cox and Dr. David Hawkins. They will look at the role of the university in shaping public policy.

A 30th anniversary lecture series has been planned for the coming year, and further details are available at the Faculty of Medicine Web site

The Faculty of Medicine was established in 1967 with the appointment of Dr. Rusted as dean of medicine. Much of the success in establishing a medical school had been due to his efforts: although the title came with no faculty, no students, no program of studies and limited temporary physical facilities, he was able to put everything into place within a year. In September 1969 the first class of 16 students was admitted, joined by an additional eight students in the second year.

Dr. Rusted's vision for the school emphasized community medicine and contact with patients. Memorial's medical school was the first in Canada that made it mandatory to visit various types of health care settings in first-year studies and the first to have a Family Practice Unit on campus. It was also the first to minimize departmental structure by dividing the school into just three major divisions (basic sciences, community medicine and clinical sciences) and the first to set up a multi-disciplinary laboratory.

More than half of the 1,324 physicians trained at Memorial's medical school have spent more than four years practising in the province, and the majority of Canadian trained specialists have been recruited to Newfoundland through the Faculty of Medicine. Over the past 20 years the number of fully licensed physicians has risen 35 per cent, and two-thirds of these have been educated at Memorial's medical school. The number of specialists has increased 400 per cent, and Memorial is responsible for educating 90 per cent of these.

Like other areas of the university, decreased provincial funding has had an impact on the Faculty of Medicine. In 1995 the school's budget was cut by over $206,000, including the loss of $137,000 in revenue from the 10 seats that had previously been set aside for New Brunswick students. To help offset the loss, the Faculty of Medicine began admitting American students in 1996, and now 15 places per year are set aside for these students, who pay $30,000 a year tuition. Tuition fees for Canadian students have been raised to $6,260 and budget shortfalls have also necessitated decreases in faculty and staff.

Dr. Ian Bowmer became the fourth dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the beginning of 1996. Major changes in the undergraduate medical curriculum have been implemented, including more clinical experience earlier in the program and more basic training later on. The main division is now pre-clerkship and clinical clerkship phases of about two years each.

Dr. Bowmer said that major demands face the Faculty of Medicine in the coming years. "The need for physicians with special skills in rural and specialty medicine is an ever increasing concern for this province. Our challenge for the next 30 years will be to continue to help meet this need."