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Funding announced for new medical school at SFU Surrey campus

Interim dean hired for new school, which is expected to start admitting students in 2026
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When the SFU medical school is up and running, it will be the first new medical school in western Canada in 50 years, says Premier David Eby. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Premier David Eby has announced nearly $5 million in funding for a new medical school at Simon Fraser University’s campus in Surrey that is expected to admit its first students in 2026.

Interim dean Dr. Roger Strasser has been hired to lead the planning and implementation process for the new medical school — originally announced in the fall of 2020.

The announcement Monday at SFU’s Surrey campus comes as the province attempts to rebuild the province’s primary-care system, with an estimated one million people in the province without a family doctor.

Strasser, founding dean and CEO of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Sudbury, “has a record of getting things done,” said Eby. The premier said he’s “determined to take action” to ensure everyone in B.C. has access to a family doctor.

“A new medical school right here on SFU Surrey campus represents a significant step towards training the doctors of tomorrow.”

The $4.9 million in funding for startup costs announced Monday is on top of the $1.5 million announced earlier this year to build the “business case” for the school.

A project board has been established to oversee the work.

When the SFU medical school is up and running, it will be the first new medical school in western Canada in 50 years, Eby said.

The school will aim to train family doctors prepared to serve diverse communities and populations and ready to work in team-based primary-care settings, the province said.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, who was also at the announcement, said the investments and hiring of the interim dean mark a major milestone in the province’s commitment to train doctors.

“I am unbelievably fired up about today’s announcement, which I think is going to help our province for [the next] 50 years, 100 years before us,” said Dix.

The new medical school will ensure British Columbians have increased access to “highly skilled, dedicated doctors close to home,” he said.

Opposition health critic Shirley Bond said the fact that the first doctors trained at the new medical school, which was promised more than two years ago, won’t graduate until 2030 is “devastating news for those expecting swift action from their government in the middle of a health-care crisis.”

A large number of doctors will be retiring over the next decade, creating a gap that’s “impossible” to fill, she said.

On Sunday, the province announced it would fast-track the accreditation process to allow doctors trained outside B.C. to work here.

Earlier this year, the province announced 40 new undergraduate medical education seats at the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine, and as many as 88 new residency seats, to be phased in beginning next year.

Last month, the province signed a new $708-million, three-year deal with the Doctors of B.C. that includes a new payment model, allowing full-service family-practice physicians who opt in to earn $385,000 gross a year. The government hopes the deal helps to attract and retain family physicians.

On Monday, Eby called called Dix a “remarkable” health minister, signalling Dix is likely to remain on as health minister in the cabinet shuffle scheduled for Dec. 7.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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