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Big medicine

More doctors and research on the horizon

By Michelle Osmond

The Faculty of Medicine at Memorial is making room for more doctors and more research. Construction is well underway in the parking lot northeast of the Health Sciences Centre to build a six-story building as part of the Medical Education Expansion.

The first two floors of the new building are dedicated to expanding the medical education program. The new space means the faculty can admit additional students from Newfoundland and Labrador starting in two years, bringing the total number of new medical students admitted each year to over 80 from the current 64.

A minimum of 60 of those seats will be reserved for students from this province.
Dr. James Rourke, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, said this is good news for the province.

“When this medical education expansion is completed, we will be able to admit 20 more students from Newfoundland and Labrador each year into medical school,” he said. “The residency training program will be expanded to take at least 20 more graduating doctors as well. This means more physicians for Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Most Memorial medical school graduates do stay to practice in this province. According to data from the College of Physicians of Newfoundland and Labrador, between 2002-06 about 144 Memorial graduates went into practice here. This is an average of 29 new doctors in practice in the province per year or 72.5 per cent of the number of Newfoundland and Labrador students per class.

The new education facilities will include a state-of-the-art patient simulation centre that reproduces a whole range of advanced learning experiences all the way up to trauma and other critical situations.

“We will be able to ensure that Memorial medical students and residents will have the best training possible for the needs of Newfoundland and Labrador,” explained Dr. Rourke. In addition to the student enrolment increase, the expansion will also mean additional new full time faculty and support staff.

Three floors of the new building will be devoted to the expansion of genetics and genomics research. Dr. Rourke remarked that the new genetics facility will be transformative for research at Memorial.

“It will bring together researchers involved in all aspects of genetics from the bio-molecular lab to patient care to the study of populations at risk,” said Dr. Rourke. “We will be able to do collaborative, integrated, leading edge research to unlock the mysteries of genetic diseases that cause such hardships for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This will undoubtedly produce findings of worldwide significance and benefit.”
Some of the other key features of the new building include a 120-seat lecture theatre, standardized patient exam rooms and educational support units. The expansion will cost about $50 million and construction is expected to be complete in September 2012.