On Sept. 6, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard announced that the McGill Faculty of Medicine will open a new satellite campus in Gatineau, Quebec. Gatineau is a major city in the Outaouais region, in the southwest of the province. According to Dr. Gilles Brousseau, assistant dean of Medical Education at McGill University for the Outaouais region, the campus should welcome its first class in Fall 2020. Twenty-four new students will be able to complete four years of medicine in Gatineau and obtain their Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery degrees, the same way they would at the Montreal campus.
“The program will be the same as the one McGill offers because the agreement requires that we have the same academic material,” Brousseau said. “There are no specific [admission] criteria for Outaouais, unless if one is extremely uncomfortable in French.”
Brousseau noted that one of the main objectives of this new campus is to address the lack of family doctors in Quebec by enabling students to start their medical education in the Outaouais region as early as possible. The region’s medical care services are also interested in attracting people from outside Outaouais to practice there.
“The regions who train students have much less difficulty to fill their posts in family medicine because [students] leave their university and want to stay in the environment where they have learned, worked, and are already well integrated,” Brousseau said. “We could keep people in our region, but also attract people from other regions […] and also it often offers a visibility for students who come here to make their residence.”
According to Geneviève Côté, the information and media relations agent for the Integrated Health and Social Services Centres of Outaouais, the current number of doctors in the region does not provide enough resources for the whole population.
“The Outaouais region [has been] going through a period of lack of family doctors [for a] number of years,” Côté said. “We estimate that approximately 30 per cent of the population does not have a family doctor in the region.”
Unlike at the Montreal campus, the majority of the training will be done in French, except for the courses whose subject material it is not possible to provide in French with current resources.
“For example, if there is a course on anatomy or something with material that is more complex to translate […] it will be kept in English, until we have more resources,” Brousseau said. “[… English] will represent a maximum of eight per cent of the training.”
Catherine Boudrias, a second-year francophone medical student at McGill from Mont-Tremblant, had never studied in English before coming to McGill. Boudrias says that the option to study in French may attract francophone students. However, in her experience, learning the subject matter is more of a challenge than the language it’s taught in.
“I am sure many people would like this opportunity [to study in French], but in my opinion, the language is not really an issue for medical studies,” Boudrais said. “The medical vocabulary is all very technical, and when we start, we don’t know the vocabulary in English nor in French, so it does not matter whether we learn it in English or French first.”
According Brousseau, Gatineau is already a popular location for McGill students to do their medical residency, and the objective is to eventually triple the number of interns there.
Boudrias explained that students like to complete their residencies in Gatineau because of the learning environment.
“I personally felt that it was a good idea to have my first experiences in the medical field in the city, because it is closer to where the research happens and we are also more exposed to various ethnic groups,” Boudrias said. “However, I am considering applying in a setup like Gatineau for my residency, as I plan on having a career in the region, and I feel like learning in this milieu would be perfect for that.”
Classes at the Gatineau campus will have significantly smaller class sizes. According to Brousseau, this will develop a greater sense of familiarity and commitment among students and with the community.
“We will just have a more close-knit cohort and one that is closer to the community and more responsible for a regional clientele,” Brousseau said. “But after having done the McGill four-years medicine program, either in Montreal or at the Outaouais campus, it opens the same doors and the same potential for all students.”
The admissions process has not yet been finalized for students who wish to enter the McGill four-year program. It is not certain if students will have to file different applications for the Gatineau and Montreal campuses or if McGill will create one joint application.
“We have not adjusted the finality and details of the admissions process, but it is certain that the objective is to fill the 24 spots,” Dr. Brousseau said.
Two new levels will be added to the emergency unit of Gatineau’s hospital, with McGill’s medical program occupying one of them. The Quebec Ministry of Health and Education will finance the majority of the project.
“Because we want the training to be done much closer to the clinical environment and where the people will have to work […] we will build [the school] where the hospital is,” Brousseau said.
Faculty and staff will come from both inside and outside Outaouais. Close to 200 doctors who have an academic nomination at McGill are affiliated with the Outaouais region.
“We already have a pool of doctors who are interested, and we are expecting that in the four years to come there’ll be even more doctors who would want to work with us and participate in the training,” Brousseau said.