Government of PEI supports nursing program, health centre expansion, and new faculty of medicine at UPEI

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A group photo of men and women standing in front of an array of flags from PEI and Canada
Ms. Samantha MacLean, President, UPEI Student Union; The Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island; Dr. Margaret Steele, MD, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland; The Honourable Catherine Callbeck, UPEI Chancellor; Ms. Marilyn Barrett, Director of the UPEI Health and Wellness Centre; Dr. Jo-Ann MacDonald, Dean of Nursing (Interim), UPEI; Dr. Greg Keefe, Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Atlantic Veterinary College, UPEI; Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, UPEI President and Vice-Chancellor

Today, the Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island, and Dr. Alaa Abd-El-Aziz, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Prince Edward Island, announced the expansion of the Faculty of Nursing and UPEI Health and Wellness Centre, as well as the establishment of a new Faculty of Medicine at UPEI. They were joined by Dr. Margaret Steele, Dean of Medicine at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. The two universities will develop a joint Doctor of Medicine degree.

UPEI’s track record in developing innovative, future-focused programming and conducting important research places the university in a prime position to take the idea of a Faculty of Medicine and move it from dream to reality. In addition, a new medical school, along with the expansion of the Faculty of Nursing and the UPEI Health and Wellness Centre, aligns with the strategic direction of the Government of Prince Edward Island’s work in establishing collaborative health care centres in Island communities.

There is an urgent need to educate, recruit, and retain increased numbers of nursing graduates for entry-level practice in the PEI health care system due to nation-wide nursing shortages. With the government’s support, beginning this year, UPEI will see the annual nursing seat capacity in the Faculty of Nursing increase 23 per cent from 80 to 98 seats through a combination of increasing the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) seat capacity from 64 to 70 per year, and the Accelerated BScN seat capacity from 16 to 28 per year. In four years, UPEI will have increased the number of nursing seats by 48.

The nursing expansion comes at an opportune time as UPEI and Memorial University further their plans for a joint medical degree at UPEI. Partnering with an established school such as Memorial University gives immediate access to a curriculum. The partnership is a great fit because of Memorial’s over 50 years of experience in generalist training and rural medicine, as well as its Indigenous Health Initiative.

The new UPEI Faculty of Medicine will be built upon a number of pillars that clearly align with the PEI government’s vision for health care:

  • Role of nursing and paramedicine education in primary health care and preparing students for future unexpected health care challenges,
  • Integrating physical health care education with mental health education,
  • One Health, and the interconnectivity between animal and human health and the environment,
  • Impact of climate change on human health,
  • Family medicine delivered through collaborative practice.

The new Faculty of Medicine at UPEI will initially provide seats for 20 Island students annually, including at least one seat for an Indigenous student, beginning in September 2023. Given the size of PEI’s population, the emphasis will be on generalists, with an ideal mix of 50:50 family doctors and general specialists. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, a new curriculum will be developed to adequately prepare the doctors of the future.

A cornerstone of the new Faculty of Medicine will be the collaboration with other health-related academic and research programs at UPEI (i.e., Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Science, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine; Doctor of Psychology, Bachelor of Science in Paramedicine, and Bachelor of Science in Climate Change and Adaptation programs; and UPEI Health-Centred Research Clinic) and the expansion of the current on-site UPEI Health and Wellness Centre, which includes the UPEI Psychology Clinic. An expanded Centre will be a model for primary care delivery providing service to 10,000+ patients, helping to reduce the waitlist for family doctors dramatically and relieving the pressure on Island walk-in clinics, emergency rooms, outpatient departments, and thus physicians.

“In the long term, a Faculty of Medicine at UPEI, and expanding the Faculty of Nursing and UPEI Health and Wellness Centre will enhance the physician and nurse supply and increase research in the province, which in turn will improve health care,” said Premier King. “An MD program is an important long-term investment for our province that will benefit all Islanders, and make PEI an even better place in which to work and live. I am confident that UPEI and Memorial University will draw on their many strengths to propose an innovative program model suited to PEI.”

President Abd-El-Aziz said, “This is a historic day for UPEI. By receiving this tremendous support from Premier King and the Government, we can now move forward on developing a medical degree, expanding our nursing program and UPEI Health and Wellness Centre, and connecting all three with many of our other programs to become a comprehensive One Health university. It is wonderful that the Government of PEI and UPEI share a vision for health care that will benefit our students and our province. Working with Memorial University on the development of the UPEI Faculty of Medicine will allow us to offer a joint degree with a focus on family and rural medicine and Indigenous health. I am excited to embark on this community-linked process.”

“The expansion of the Faculty of Nursing will not only benefit our students and help improve the nursing shortage situation, but will also support strategic partnerships for interprofessional education,” said Dr. Jo-Ann MacDonald, Dean of Nursing. “This will enhance the development of a Faculty of Medicine at UPEI that as its hallmark will feature a collaborative health care model. We’re excited to be a part of this innovative project and are grateful for the support of the Government of PEI.”

Ms. Marilyn Barrett, Director of the UPEI Health and Wellness Centre, added, “With our partnerships with the UPEI Psychology Clinic, Faculty of Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, and other campus groups, we will be able to develop a model of primary health care at the expanded UPEI Health and Wellness Centre for over 10,000 patients while also being a training location for our future nurses and doctors. I look forward to being a part of this transformative project.”

“Being a proponent of the One Health concept, I am very excited about these new developments at UPEI,” said Dr. Greg Keefe. “With the expansion of programming in human health, climate change and environmental studies, and biomedical science; our existing strengths in animal and population health; and the expansion of our diagnostic imaging capacity at AVC, there will be tremendous opportunity to collaborate across all faculties and create a top-notch health sciences centre at UPEI. This will result in improved human and animal health care as well as research capacity in the province.”

Dr. Margaret Steele, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Memorial, commented, “Memorial’s program has a proven track record in recruitment and retention of physicians to rural and underserved populations so this focus is a great fit for PEI. I’m energized by the potential of our team collaborating with UPEI on creating an innovative degree that builds on our current knowledge but due to its possible joint or co-degree nature, will be the first of its kind in Canada.”

“As a former vice-president of UPEI, I am delighted to see this partnership established with Memorial University,” said Dr. Vianne Timmons, President, Memorial University. “Health care involves teamwork, and collaborating with our Atlantic Canadian neighbours is important during these times of uncertainty. I am looking forward to seeing the advances in research and medical education that our institutions will accomplish together.”

UPEI and Memorial entered into discussions in 2020 to consider a collaboration on an undergraduate medical degree program for Prince Edward Island at UPEI. UPEI has established steering and advisory committees with representatives from UPEI, Memorial, and the PEI medical community.

 

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Backgrounder

  • Early in 2020, UPEI took the first step in advancing the concept of a Faculty of Medicine by securing Dr. Tom Marrie, former dean of medicine at both Dalhousie University and University of Alberta and former deputy minister of health in Nova Scotia, to serve as President Abd-El-Aziz’s special advisor on health education to help build a medical degree program.
  • UPEI and Memorial signed a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, to outline a framework of discussion on potential collaboration between Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine and UPEI on the delivery of a joint or collaborative undergraduate medical degree program.
  • UPEI and Memorial have established several joint committees with representatives from each university, while UPEI has established an Advisory Committee and Steering Committee with several representatives from the PEI medical community.
  • Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine has an over 50-year-old history with an undergraduate medical degree program that has a strong emphasis on social accountability, focusing on rural medical education to prioritize the needs of the communities they serve.
  • UPEI is known for its recent development of innovative programs that infuse experiential learning into the curriculum including sustainable design engineering; mathematical and computational sciences; applied leadership, communication, and culture; and climate change and adaptation.
  • The UPEI Faculty of Nursing has a long history and strong foundation in delivering nursing education. The faculty’s BScN and Accelerated BScN programs are well established and have received continuous national accreditation and provincial regulatory approval.
  • UPEI’s Atlantic Veterinary College is one of only five faculties of veterinary medicine in Canada, has a research focus on aquatic epidemiology and infectious diseases, and serves as a referral hospital for Atlantic Canada. It is expanding its diagnostic imaging capacity, which will support other health science programs at UPEI.
  • UPEI’s Faculty of Science offers degree programs in paramedicine, kinesiology, biology, and climate change and adaptation.
  • The UPEI Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) is a doctoral program in clinical psychology that includes a combination of coursework, practical experience, and a 12-month predoctoral internship. The program is designed to prepare students to practice as clinical psychologists.
  • The UPEI Health and Wellness Centre provides access to high quality, safe health care for students, staff, faculty, and their families. The UPEI Health and Wellness Centre is committed to partnering with interdisciplinary and collaborative teams to deliver health promotion, optimal health care, and ongoing education.
  • The UPEI Health-Centred Research Clinic is an initiative of the PEI Primary and Integrated Healthcare Innovations Network that conducts person-centered research that promotes health and wellness across the lifespan by developing new models of care and therapies for chronic and acute health conditions and technologies supporting the proactive maintenance of health.
  • Funding announcement detail: an estimated $129 Million over the first  six years including 
    • $50.7 million for infrastructure, 
    • $66 million in operating costs for the Faculty of Medicine, 
    • $5.9 million for the expansion of the Faculty of Nursing,
    • $6.5 million for the expanded UPEI Health and Wellness Centre to host the Medical Home.  

Read statements from members of the medical and UPEI communities (PDF).

 

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