Despite some COVID-19 related challenges and delays, UNBC/UBC’s Northern Medical Program will carry on the best it can.

This year’s grad class only lost two weeks of clinical work, which worked out to be “lucky timing” according to Dr. Paul Winwood, Associate Vice President of the Northern Medical Program.

34 students graduated on time this past Wednesday and participated in UBC’s virtual convocation ceremony.

The 34 graduates will now move into two to seven years of medical residency and fellowship training, depending on their chosen specialty.

Winwood said COVID-19 created some disruptions for all students in the program:

“We shifted everything in what we call “the non-clinical years”, the first two years, online within 72 hours.”

However, the face-to-face clinical years were put on hold.

Some pieces were changed to online work, while other components were delayed while personal protective equipment was secured and safety regulations were outlined.

The current hope is graduation timelines will be maintained program-wide.

The Northern Medical Program came to fruition in 2004 as a collaboration between UNBC and UBC, and was intended to address the shortage of physicians in northern and rural BC.

“The goal of the program was to train physicians from the north and in the north to work here.”

Although the program is comparable to offerings in the lower mainland, it does have a focus on some of the unique medical challenges associated with the north.

“We have to provide a program that is comparable for accreditation… however, by virtue of the fact that the students are learning and working in northern BC, they are seeing health issues and healthcare as they are in northern BC,” Winwood concluded.