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"U of A med school moves to the head of the class"

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U of A med school moves to the head of the class


By Michael Brown, ExpressNews Staff


December 12, 2007 - Edmonton - For the first time since the University of Alberta started keeping track back in 1992, U of A medical students have posted the nation's top scores in part one of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Exam.


The examination, designed to test medical and professional knowledge and the ability to assess and manage clinical problems, is given to medical students at the end of their fourth year prior to graduating. It was put in place to provide a uniform standard of qualification to practice medicine for all physicians across Canada. The qualification, known as the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada, remains acceptable to all provincial medical regulatory authorities.


David Rayner, U of A's associate dean of undergraduate medical education, explained that the result is a great pat on the back, not only for this graduating class of 2007, but for the medical teachers as well.


"One thing you have to remember is that all 17 medical schools in Canada turn out first-class doctors," said Rayner. "In a given year, the difference between first place and second or third probably doesn't mean much. But it's good to know we consistently place near the top of an excellent group of medical faculties."


This year, the class of 2007 not only grabbed first place overall, but grabbed top spot in the specific areas of the exam relating to family medicine, internal medicine, surgery and clinical decision-making.


What makes the results all the more impressive is that they come on the heels of a nervous past year for the U of A's Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. On Oct. 5, 2006, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits and monitors medical programs in Canadian and American universities, notified U of A President Indira Samarasekera of its intent to place the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry on probation.


The committee issued the threat primarily on the basis that it felt the school had too many lectures, versus hands-on training for medical students. The probation was appealed and overturned last February thanks to a promise to address the committee's concerns, as well as proof that the U of A already supplements lectures with a variety of other learning styles.


"Many of these were process and communication issues, so we rolled up our sleeves and got down to work, and we're fixing them," said Rayner. "A lot of good ideas and innovations came out of the accreditation process, so even though it's sometimes been a rough ride, it's had a very positive effect on our program."


"There's no conflict between the Medical Council of Canada results and the accrediting bodies. We know we've got a good program with outstanding students, and the accreditation committees told us ways we can make it even better."


The exam was the first of two parts, the second of which is given to those who passed the first during their second year of residency.

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