McGill University pressed ahead with its plans to open a new satellite campus for its Faculty of Medicine in the Outaouais this week, despite challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Approximately 20 medical students attended their first classes at the campus on Monday, while four others attended class virtually.
The satellite campus, which is attached to the emergency department of the Gatineau Hospital, was announced back in 2016 in a bid to keep more doctors in the region.
Students can now complete their four-year undergraduate medical education in French at the Outaouais campus. They will also be able to complete their residency in the region.
The new campus is a joint project between McGill University and the Outaouais health authority, the Centre intégré de santé et services sociaux de l'Outaouais (CISSSO).
The opening of the new campus was highly anticipated in the region, according to its associate dean and director, Dr. Gilles Brousseau.
Brousseau told Radio-Canada he was happy to finally welcome the students, but warned the pandemic means students and faculty would have to be flexible and embrace online learning.
'The new normal'
Medical students who spoke with Radio-Canada said they were ready to adapt, including Mahmoud Moustafa from Montreal.
He said he thinks the experience will help him in the future, since the pandemic has prompted many doctors to offer more services online.
"If we are trained to interact with patients online, remotely, it will help me later, because if it's the new normal. We have to adapt to that," Moustafa said in a French interview.
The program's small size creates a familial atmosphere, according to students who spoke to Radio-Canada.
Some students said they'd be open to the idea of staying in the Outaouais to practise medicine, but said it was too early to predict where they'll end up.