For Sanjay Vashishtha, the journey toward becoming a practicing physician in Canada has been “a process filled with massive doubts.” In recent days, the outlook has become much more clear and optimistic. A family physician for nearly two decades with the Army Medical Corps of India, Vashishtha recently attained residency status in Ontario, along with 219 other internationally trained medical graduates (IMGs). Once he completes his training, he will be eligible for certification as a practicing physician in Ontario.
In a ceremony attended by Minister of Health Deb Matthews and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Eric Hoskins, the new residents were feted on Wednesday night for their hard work, perseverance and accomplishment. Vashishtha said the rigorous, often deflating journey “took every ounce of energy I had,” as he worked two jobs while also studying for the exams.
When asked when he slept, he smiled and shook his head, and his wife, Sonnicca, answered, “He doesn’t sleep.”
Another IMG who attained residency status, Navsheer Gill (pictured below), lauded all of the residents for their feat and said she couldn’t have achieved her success without help from the Access Centre. That unit of the HealthForceOntario Marketing and Recruitment Agency guides, informs and assists IMGs about the aggravating process to certification. While addressing the gathering of about 100 at the agency’s office at 80 Bloor Street West, Gill said there were times when she considered returning to the United Kingdom, where she can practice, rather than continue with Ontario’s series of exams and paperwork.
The majority of the new residents will complete their training at one of the province’s six medical schools: University of Ottawa, Northern Ontario School of Medicine (Thunder Bay and Sudbury), University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario, McMaster University and Queen’s University.
While the 220 new residents have much to rejoice, there are about 4,000 other IMGs in the province still struggling for certification, and many of them have long, stellar careers in their native countries and the potential to help fill the province’s need for another 2,000 certified doctors.
“For an IMG coming here, I would tell them to be realistic,” said Vashishtha, who will undertake his residency in pediatrics at McMaster University. “They have to find out as much as they can about the process, and be prepared for the long haul.”
NOW SOME EDITORIALIZING
The Access Centre is great. Everyone I’ve spoken to about the contentious subject of how to get more foreign-trained doctors into our system has applauded the efforts of people who work there. The issue I have, and I intend to solicit as many opinions as I can about it, is why so many doctors with long careers working in developed countries and having attained degrees from medical schools on par or better than our universities remain on the sidelines years after they arrive here, despite the fact we so desperately need them? One side will say we need the certification standards to be extremely high in order to protect the quality of our health care. Another side will argue the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is protecting the territory of its member doctors. A third side will cite the foreign-visa-trainee program, which allows sponsoring countries to send their doctors here to receive training without going through the arduous route IMGs must endure, as proof of duplicity within the medical system.
What do you think? Let me know and maybe we can answer this question that is only going to get bigger as our need for more health-care providers ramps up.