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Faculty of Medicine growing in all directions

Construction continues on the medical expansion building.

By Sharon Gray

These are busy days at the Faculty of Medicine, with a major expansion in education and research on the horizon. As well, preparation is well underway for the upcoming accreditation of the medical doctor program and the introduction of a new curriculum that will allow medical students in clerkship to spend almost the entire year outside of the province's capital city.

The changes are clearly visible as the new six-storey building on the east side of the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) nears completion. The new space will accommodate a 30 per cent increase in the medical class, starting in September 2013. The class size will rise from 64 per year to 80-plus students, with all the new seats reserved for students from Newfoundland and Labrador. The new facility will include a state-of-the-art medical simulation learning centre and medical education support offices.

Expansion is also taking place in rural areas of the province. The Rural Medical Education Network co-ordinates the distributed education activities carried out in regional rural settings. The development of this network has increased the opportunities for physicians outside St. John's to become an integrated part of medical education and to contribute to scholarship in education.

New federal and provincial funding is providing development and support for up to 16 new family medicine residents to be trained in selected rural communities over six years. Burin and Grand Falls-Windsor have been identified as areas to develop these extended programs and allow residents to spend eight months providing continuous comprehensive care for patients and their families in a variety of settings.

Also, in response to Nunavut's ongoing challenges to recruit and retain family physicians, the federal government is providing funding to support up to eight newly-graduated doctors to do their family medicine training in Nunavut in collaboration with Memorial.

The Faculty of Medicine's research enterprise has already expanded to the limits of available space. In 2014 the Craig L. Dobbin Genetics Research Centre will open on levels three, four and five of the new building, with space on level six shelled in for future research. As genetics research laboratories, patient clinics and offices from the HSC and other locations in St. John's are brought together, space will be freed up in the HSC for redevelopment, allowing other research areas to expand.

The new building will provide approximately 150,000 square feet of additional space, funded largely by the provincial government with $11.2 million coming from the Canada Foundation for Innovation for the Genetics Centre portion.

"This will lead to an increase in graduating physicians, health scientists and other health professionals," said Dr. James Rourke, dean of medicine. "It will attract physicians and researchers, further enabling our ability to augment the health and well-being of the people of the province and at the same time allow us to expand research activities, which will have a positive impact on economic development."