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(January 24, 2002, Gazette)

Web portal launched Monday
New options for rural physicians

Education opportunities for rural physicians in Canada received a boost Monday with the launch of a new Web portal at The launch was hosted by Memorial University’s Office of Professional Development, Faculty of Medicine.

“We have concentrated on providing rural physicians with Canadian content on the Web portal,” said Fran Kirby, manager of the Office of Professional Development. “Rural doctors can take nationally-accredited courses, access medical libraries and health-related web links, build their own Web site, and discuss medical matters with others in their field across the country.”

Ms. Kirby said that given the shortage of physicians in Canada, it has become increasingly important to entice and keep doctors in smaller communities. “Access to the Web portal provides rural doctors with new professional development options to help balance the quality of their work.”

Newfoundland and Labrador’s Health and Community Services Minister Julie Bettney attended the launch of the Web site. “This site is a good example of what can be done now to support our rural physicians and help provide a sustainable quality of practice,” she said. “I anticipate this type of service will assist us in retaining these health professionals in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Initially, the online courses are free and explore dementia/Alzheimers, emergency medicine, telehealth, whiplash and back injuries, diabetes, and hypercholesterolemia. “Over time, we are planning to offer more courses which should encourage greater involvement of rural physicians in online continuing medical education,” said Dr. Ean Parsons, family physician and assistant dean for Continuing Medical Education, Memorial University. “The new Web portal is the starting point for a broader online community for rural and remote physicians and specialists.”

The Office of Professional Development worked closely with ZeddComm, an IT consulting organization, to design and develop the Web portal. “We are delighted with the results achieved to date by our industry-leading team of e-learning professionals,” said Derek Sullivan, director of business development for ZeddComm. “ represents the initial step toward building a national online community dedicated to physician’s professional development. Subsequent phases can fulfill this portal’s potential to grow to become a significant tool for rural doctors.”

The project began in February 2001 when Memorial University received a financial contribution of $322,614 from Health Canada’s Rural Health Fund. Other partners in this innovative project include the University of Calgary, the University of Ottawa, the University of Alberta, Pfizer Canada, medical and government groups, and the private sector.