Ontario announces new medical school focused on family doctors

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The Ford government has announced plans to partner with York University to create a new medical school focused specifically on training family doctors.

The announcement was made in the government’s 2024 budget, with roughly $9 million set aside for the early stages of planning and launching the medical school.

York University’s new medical school will be based in Vaughan, Ont., the province said and is to focus specifically on family physicians. The government says it will be the first medical school in the country with a mandate for family doctors.

“The York University School of Medicine will prepare the next generation of talented frontline primary care doctors, who represent the diversity of the communities in which they live and serve,” the budget said.

The province has not yet announced details, like the number of undergraduate or graduate places it hopes to offer from the proposed Vaughan medical school.

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According to the province, the communities of York, Simcoe and Muskoka in particular are all struggling with shortages of family doctors.

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York University, the partner the province has chosen for the medical school, was under scrutiny for its finances just months ago.

In December, the province’s auditor general found York University was at risk due to its declining domestic enrolment and an overreliance on international students, particularly from India and China.

“York University is financially sustainable, but its increasing dependence on revenue from international students, capital expansion projects and a deferred maintenance backlog warrant more attention,” the auditor general wrote.

The auditor general warned that the university needs to “take a closer look” at its financial risks.

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said he was “not concerned” about opening a medical school in partnership with York University.

“York will do an amazing job,” he said.

“I think it’s really important that we continue to invest in health in Ontario, which includes having more opportunities for Ontario students … to get a medical degree. When we look at the numbers, it’s so hard for people to get in and there’s only so many spots to get into medical school and many have to go abroad.”

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The York University announcement builds on a similar announcement in the 2022 budget when the province confirmed it would be building a new medical school in Brampton as part of a partnership with Toronto Metropolitan University.

The province said in 2022 that it planned to build 80 undergraduate seats and 95 postgraduate positions for the Toronto Metropolitan University medical school.

It said at the time that the announcement was part of a strategy to expand medical schools in Ontario.

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