B.C. doctor trained in Ukraine advocates for more residency spaces for foreign grads

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B.C. doctor trained in Ukraine calls for more residency spaces for foreign grads
With fewer doctors entering family practice, many Canadians are unable to secure a family physician. As Travis Prasad reports, international medical graduates are ready to answer the call for more family doctors, but are facing years-long waits to land the residencies required to practice medicine in Canada – Mar 26, 2023

In hopes of becoming a B.C. family doctor, Mahir Mohammed went to medical school in Ukraine.

He said his previous post-secondary credits were recognized and tuition was far lower than anywhere in Canada.

“Medicine’s always been sort of my lifelong dream,” he told Global News.

After graduating in 2018, the Maple Ridge man returned to B.C. and completed the Canadian Licensing Exams. Since 2021, he’s been trying to secure the two-year residency required to practice medicine in the country.

Mohammed said when he applied, around 3,000 residency spots were open for the year for aspiring family doctors. But only 10 per cent of them are reserved for foreign graduates.

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“There’s approximately 3,000 of us right now who have done all the licensing exams and jumped through all the hoops and we’re perfectly qualified to start residency,” Mohammed said. “But the problem is there are only 300 seats a year for us.”

In the United States, foreign and local grads compete for the same residency spots. But even if Canada followed that model,  Mohammed said it is not enough to address Canada’s doctor shortage.

“That’s really not going to address the healthcare crisis we’re in right now,” he said, Sunday. “Because ultimately we’re still only going to get 3,000 people through residency each year.”


“Increasing the number of positions by a few hundred across the country over the next few years would help us manage the backlog,” said Dr. Geneviève Moineau, the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada’s president.

The backlog has contributed to long wait-times at B.C. hospitals and abrupt closures of emergency rooms in rural areas.

The B.C. government said its pouring millions into growing the province’s only medical school.

In a statement, government officials said, “we will see UBC increasing its medical school intake by 40 and its residency program by up to 88, adding 128 new annual seats.”

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Meanwhile, after three years of uncertainty, Mohammed learned last week that he’s finally landed a residency in Prince George, where he and his family will move in a couple of months.

“I can’t tell you how difficult it’s been these last three years, not knowing what the future holds for you,” he said.

Mohammed said he’s one of the fortunate ones, but hopes changes are made so other qualified doctors don’t need luck on their side just to work.

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