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North Island College introduces new pre-health program to help fill Island health-care gaps

A new dedicated university-level pathway at North Island College will help make it easier for students to pursue careers in the medical and health sciences.
North Island College student Vincent Michaud in the chemistry lab at NIC’s Campbell River campus. Photo supplied

A new dedicated university-level pathway at North Island College will help make it easier for students to pursue careers in the medical and health sciences.

The Island Pre-Health Science program was developed in response to the growing demand for health science and medical professionals across the region. Applications are open now, with the first intake starting in September.

The program is a jumping-off point for students wanting to pursue a professional degree in medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, chiropractic practice, optometry, health science research and other related areas.

Vincent Michaud is preparing to go into medicine and is in his second year of courses at NIC. The new program, he says, will help others like him wishing to do their prerequisite work closer to home.

“It would allow me to stay in my local area longer and strengthen ties with local partners before starting my medical practice, which would improve my desire to come back here as a doctor,” he said. “The community of students it would form would allow me to interact with like-minded peers and form study groups for various extracurricular tests like the Medical College Admission Test.”

A key feature of the new program is to have students learn about the communities around them and form deeper roots. The program will provide students with a rural and Island framework to identify challenges and opportunities in North Island communities. It will also include Indigenous ways of knowing and methodologies.

“The new program combines place-based learning with university-level courses that prepare students for degree completion in health and medical sciences,” said Dr. Neil Cruickshank, dean, faculty of arts, science & management. “The curriculum is designed to provide a holistic understanding of health science and issues unique to rural, remote communities. Combining foundational science courses with social scientific approaches, Indigenous ways of knowing and, a community-learning strategy, students will gain incredibly valuable, transferable skills and knowledge.”

Students can graduate with an advanced diploma after three years of full-time study. The program will be based in the Comox Valley, with a mix of lecture-and-lab, lecture-and-tutorial and lecture-only courses. A program support person will help students and the development of integrated learning opportunities.

One of the driving factors for NIC in creating the program is the need for more medical professionals. For example, the Comox Valley alone has an estimated 17,000 individuals who lack a primary care provider. Over the next decade, the demand for health-care professionals is only expected to increase.

“Primary care is at a critical juncture in B.C., especially in our rural communities. By engaging new learners, early in their training, we have an opportunity to support and build capacity for the next generation. An Island Pre-Health Science program would allow us to share our experiences of a health-care career in our own community,” said Dr. Glenn Kisman, a Comox Valley family physician.

The program will begin in the fall of 2023. There will be 16 seats. A virtual information session will be taking place Thursday, Feb. 23 from 7-8 p.m. To learn more about the program and the info session, visit