U of T Working for MD Student Success

Apr 11, 2018
Author: 
Heidi Singer

Nine MD students from the University of Toronto found spots in the second round of residency matching released today by the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).

Still, there are not enough residency spots available to qualified medical school graduates in Canada, an issue that medical schools and students from U of T and beyond are working hard to address across the system. In the 2018 MD class, 20 students remain unmatched.

“We’re very pleased that 92% of graduating MD students at U of T have successfully matched this year to a residency program, and I heartily congratulate everyone taking this essential step forward toward independent practice,” said Professor Trevor Young, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “But for competent, dedicated medical students to go unmatched to a residency position can be a shocking setback. And this situation is simply unsustainable over time. That’s why we’re actively advocating with a range of stakeholders for coordinated system-wide action to create opportunities for all learners to be successful.”

U of T offers many opportunities to explore career options from Year 1 of medical school onward, with specialized counselling around career choices and preparation, including selecting electives to optimize student success in matching to a residency position. The Faculty of Medicine provides multiple resources and programs to ensure all of its MD students are personally and professionally well-supported, particularly unmatched students, many of whom will extend their clerkship training to a fifth year before re-entering the residency match next year.

To become a practicing physician in Canada, medical school graduates must complete a residency program. At the end of their fourth year of “undergraduate” medical training, graduating students apply to a postgraduate residency program, such as family medicine, psychiatry or surgery. But due to cuts in residency spots, particularly in Ontario, the number of unmatched students has grown in recent years. 

“We need to ensure that these individuals, who were picked as the best and brightest and have been supported through medical school by taxpayers, have the opportunity to continue their training,” said Dr. Genevieve Moineau, president of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), which represents the 17 schools that train doctors across Canada. “The government needs to fund more residency positions and change the way it manages the positions.”

AFMC released a comprehensive report on the issue in February 2018. It projects that if no action is taken to improve the situation, by 2021 the number of current-year unmatched medical school graduates will exceed 140 while prior-year unmatched Canadian medical grads will be more than 190.

Matching is overseen by a federal body called the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), which conducts two rounds of matching every spring. CaRMS expects to release final Ontario-wide and national match numbers later in April.

Although 90 per cent of graduating students at U of T matched in the first round in March, and today’s matches bring the total to 92 per cent, concrete steps are needed to stop the numbers of unmatched students from rising in future years.

“We are urging the Ontario government to review its physician planning process to ensure those admitted to medical school can successfully complete their training and move into independent practice,” said Dr. Patricia Houston, Vice Dean of the MD Program at U of T. “In the meantime, we are closely working with each of the unmatched students individually to plan for their next steps in finding a successful path forward.”

U of T medical students have been among those lobbying the provincial government to offer an adequate number of residency spots, show more transparency in its planning process and update its current model for predicting the number of physicians needed in Ontario. The current system, a simulation model based on population and population density projections, hasn’t been updated since 2007.

On Monday, the Ontario Medical Students Association held its annual Lobby Day: 60 medical students from every medical faculty in the province met with 30 MPPs to highlight the problem and ask for change. 

“We surveyed students about what’s most important to them, and three-quarters listed unmatched graduates as their top concern,” said Vivian Tam, OMSA's Director of Representation. Conversations with elected officials went well, she said, and gave her reason to hope that government recognizes the severity of the issue and will make appropriate changes.

U of T MD students are planning a march to Queen’s Park to highlight this issue on April 25.

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