Alberta now offering accelerated licensing for internationally trained doctors, specialists

Alberta's new pilot project aims to fast track licensing for international medical graduates from recognized institutions. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)
Alberta's new pilot project aims to fast track licensing for international medical graduates from recognized institutions. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)

Some international medical graduates can now fast-track their licensing in Alberta.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) announced a five-year pilot project Monday to bring more doctors to the province faster, amid an ongoing shortage and strained emergency departments.

CPSA released a 10-page document that outlines the jurisdictions, fields, institutions and years studied which make international medical graduates (IMGs) eligible to opt for a three-month-long process to become licensed in the province.

The goal of the pilot is to evaluate whether eligible IMGs may begin independently practising in their identified communities faster, CPSA said in a news release.

"Physicians are a worldwide resource in demand. While we've put our best foot forward, we realize we can't single-handedly solve the concern with physician staffing in this province just with this program," said Michael Caffaro, assistant registrar with CPSA.

"We know that there have been several handfuls of physicians who have been holding back on their applications until now."

In 2022 alone, the province began assessing over 100 IMGs according to the CPSA.

The pilot will waive certain requirements, such as clinical review exams, and the first three-month assessment for IMGs that have comparable training to that obtained in Canadian universities.

Those who qualify will then go directly to their identified communities and begin practising independently while completing their supervised practice assessment.

Approved jurisdictions for internationally trained family doctors and general practitioners include Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom and the U.S.

For specialists, the list of countries is broader and includes Hong Kong, Singapore and South Africa.

Deidre Lake, executive director for the Alberta International Medical Graduate Association, said the pilot is a good way to bring in more specialists to areas that need them.

"Seventy per cent of positions who are practising in rural areas are internationally trained positions," said Lake.

Lake noted that Alberta is one of the only provinces to assess internationally trained specialists, so the change could make the province more competitive.

For IMGs like Marianne Mann who was medically trained in the Philippines the news is not all that helpful.

Although Mann has been a licensed physician in the Philippines since 2010 with her own dermatology practice, she said since she moved to Canada two years ago getting licensed has been costly and lengthy.

"It's the price I pay because I want to move here. So either I have to start from the bottom or try to take a different path. But if Canada would give us opportunities to continue. What our original profession is and practice what we really learned and love to do, that would be a great thing," Mann told CBC.

The dermatologist said she moved to Canada after rolling loc downs in the Philippines began severely impacting her business. Now, she works as an esthetician.

"The doctor inside of me knows these things but I know I don't have the license to prescribe or even do consultations. So it's kind of difficult for me to find a new path here," Mann explained.

Mann is currently living in Vancouver but said she would relocate if it meant being able to practise medicine again.

Caffaro said there is still hope for those who may not be eligible yet.

"Although we start with a number of jurisdictions, a number of countries, it doesn't mean that this list of countries is  going to be static and it certainly may expand, especially as we get more experience in actually bringing these physicians into the province and evaluating them in our new accelerated process."