By Mike Foster
It was a special moment when the first cohort of 56 Chinese students, recruited from all regions of China, donned their white coats in front of proud family members at the Ottawa-Shanghai Joint School of Medicine (OSJSM) in Shanghai on October 17.
Equally proud were Jacques Bradwejn, University of Ottawa dean of the Faculty of Medicine, and uOttawa president Allan Rock: The ceremony marked the one-year anniversary of a pioneering partnership between uOttawa and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University to establish the OSJSM — the first school to offer a North American medical education program in China. The ceremony means the OSJSM is now up and running.
The students will also be among the first in China to receive training in Canadian-style family medicine. To make this happen, the OSJSM has established the OSJSM Academic Family Health Team, a demonstration project that was inaugurated on the same day as the White Coat Ceremony.
“The family medicine discipline currently does not exist in China, but Chinese health care leaders are pursuing the introduction of the primary care model with the creation of the Academic Family Health Team. Located at Renji Hospital in Shanghai, the family medicine clinic will act as a pilot project in China for the eventual development of a broader family medicine sector of primary care,” said Dr. Jacques Bradwejn, dean of the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine.
The clinic will showcase Canadian primary care, building up a roster of patients and eventually becoming a space for training in family medicine, according to Yuwei Wang, University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine assistant dean, internationalization. As uOttawa exports its undergraduate medical education program, Wang says that including training in family medicine was crucial.
“In China, they do not have a family medicine curriculum in medicine as a core rotation because they do not have a clinic. Students are not exposed. Therefore, students don’t choose family medicine when they graduate,” says Wang. “I think this has the potential to be huge.”
At this time next year, around 30 students out of the 56 will be selected for the four-year medical program, according to uOttawa’s criteria. They will complete two years in pre-clerkship and two years in core rotations in specialities such as internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery and psychiatry.
The University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine leads the country in terms of the number of graduates who choose family medicine. Last year, more than half of its 160 graduates did so.
The curriculum has been designed and developed through faculty and student exchanges, with uOttawa professors visiting Shanghai to conduct workshops and teach trial courses. Teachers from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine (SJTUSM) have visited uOttawa to shadow students and see how courses are delivered.