Health care looking up in Manitoba as 106 MDs graduate from local university

Health care just got a little better.

On Thursday morning, 106 doctor of medicine (MD) graduates strolled across the University of Manitoba’s (U of M) convocation stage, representing years of hard work, and passed over into a career of harder work in a province and country struggling to keep up with health care needs and demands.

But they are hopeful.

“Medical school was definitely a long, hard journey, and I don’t expect it to get any easier. But I’m grateful that I have the opportunity to be an advocate and really use my voice. It’s a great honour to become a physician, especially in the state that health care is right now,” said newly-minted Dr. Gillian McIvor.

President of Doctors Manitoba and U of M grad of ’83, Dr. Randy Guzman, described that state as challenging.

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“Post-COVID, we never recovered the health care force,” he said. “So there are physician shortages as well as everywhere else, and so the waitlists are longer.”

Doctors Manitoba says the province has the lowest number of physicians per capita in Canada, and would need 445 more to get to meet the country’s average.

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Despite these shortcomings, many graduates are not shying away from a career in the province. In fact, 73 per cent of this year’s graduating class will stay in-province for their residency, the U of M said. That’s about on par with other years.

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Dr. Peter Nickerson, the dean of the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and U of M MD grad of ’86, said he’s confident that even those going away won’t be gone for long.

“As I was talking to some of them today, they said, ‘I’m coming back.’ So they’ll go away, do their residency, and then they’ll come back to Manitoba,” he said. Nickerson himself took a brief detour away from Manitoba from 1991 to 1995.

“The reason for coming back was I knew I was coming back to a great team, great place to work,” he said.

Guzman said he shares a similar story.

“Work is challenging for everybody, I think. But if you think about the people you work with, that’s why you stay,” he said.

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New grads add they are sticking around to fill growing needs they’ve seen and experienced.

“In terms of my own work going into primary care, I’ve met a lot of patients who don’t even have access to a primary care physician,” McIvor said.

“For me, a large part of wanting to stay in Manitoba, and more, more, more accurately in the north is to help, advocate and join the people that are advocating to increase access to health care in remote rural areas,” Irvine said, noting he grew up in Leaf Rapids.

Nickerson said many graduates from elsewhere are drawn into the province to take up residency spots, which he said are numbered at 173 this year.

To fill those, he said 30 per cent of grads are coming from other places in Canada, and 25 per cent from around the world.

Guzman wants to make sure graduates know their value.

“Your hard work and passion will help patients, and Manitobans, and physicians. We need you here,” he said.

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