Program empowers internationally trained medical doctors

February 13, 2019

By Canadian Immigrant Magazine |

It’s a devastating immigrant story. An internationally trained doctor arrives in Canada eager to start a new life, but after months of obstacles in relicensing and job searching, the doctor gets frustrated, depressed and ends up taking a survival job.

Dr. Shafi Bhuiyan was disheartened to hear about this fate that face so many internationally trained medical professionals. The Bangladesh-born doctor, who taught global public health graduate programs at Osaka University in Japan and the ASEAN Institute of Health Development at Mahidol University in Thailand, moved to Canada in 2010 and was shocked to learn that less than five per cent of internationally educated doctors are able to find jobs in their field in Canada.

In 2014, he was hired as a visiting professor at Ryerson University and became the academic co-ordinator and program manager of the Internationally Trained Medical Doctors (ITMD) Bridging Program, an innovative program in Ontario that helps internationally trained medical professionals prepare for an alternate career path in medical research and health care management.

The program consists of 13 weeks of in-class training and six to eight weeks of practicum placement in hospitals and health care organizations. The ITMD program officially launched in 2015 and has had students from 36 countries, mostly medical doctors with senior- or mid-level expertise. “They have an MD, MBA, PhD. They’re highly qualified back home. When they come here, they are optimistic that they will get a license, but they don’t have the money,” says Bhuiyan, about the health care professionals who attend the program.

By providing the opportunity to polish their research and communication skills, the program allows internationally trained medical professionals to use all of their training, experience and cultural insight into new careers as medical researchers and health care managers.

Empowering internationally trained health care professionals
While the retraining allows these highly educated professionals to find work in Canada and provide for their families, Bhuiyan says it also allows them to feel empowered. Some enter the program years after arriving in Canada, feeling frustrated that all their years of medical training abroad have made them overqualified for other jobs, yet not qualified enough to practise medicine in Canada. The ITMD program is their beacon of light, Bhuiyan says, and has helped transform the careers and lives of many internationally trained medical professionals in Canada.

Bhuiyan says the programs receives more than 100 applications each year, and only has space for 50 students (25 students in each session). To date the ITMD program has trained 155 medical professionals, 85 per cent of whom have successfully found jobs upon completion of the program. Many have found jobs in Canada’s top hospitals.

ITMD program to hopefully expand across Canada
Bhuiyan loves hearing about these successes from his students. “As a developed nation, we cannot put this brain into the drain. We have to show these highly skilled people to the light,” says Bhuiyan. Now going into its fifth year, Bhuiyan has plans to expand the ITMD program across Canada.

Bhuiyan encourages his students as well as any newcomer to Canada to maintain a positive mindset, continue to look forward, and invest in themselves by pursuing additional training, maintaining focus and finding alternative career paths.

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