By Pascal Zamprelli
There is new hope that a shortage of physical therapists in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac St. Jean area will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to a new partnership between McGill’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy and l’Université du Québec à Chicoutimi (UQAC).
Beginning in September 2011, UQAC will offer two McGill programs by extension: the Bachelor of Science (Rehabilitation Science) and Master of Science, Applied (Physical Therapy), the latter being the degree required for a licence to practice physical therapy.
“Teaching excellence, innovative ideas and projects at the cutting edge – that is what our two institutions will share in a spirit of collegiality and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Principal Heather Munroe-Blum at a ceremony marking the signature of the formal agreement between the two schools on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Roughly 30 UQAC students per year will undertake the McGill Physical Therapy Extension Program, which will allow them to graduate with both the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees over the course of about 4 1/2 years. There will be a local program director in Chicoutimi, and while McGill professors may teach some of the courses at first (as visitors or via teleconference), the goal is for UQAC to recruit its own faculty to deliver the program.
Over time, the partnership should allow the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region to address its shortage of physical therapists, in that both local students and those from elsewhere will be drawn to the area for the program, thus increasing the chances they will choose to remain and practise in the area as well.
“When students from there go to Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto [for their schooling and training], it’s difficult to get them to go back to the region after graduating,” explained Judith Soicher, Director of McGill’s Physical Therapy Program. “Our objective is to train people in the Lac St. Jean area and have them stay there.”
Mandated by the Ministry of Education to explore ways to deliver such a program and address the shortage, UCAQ decided to reach out to McGill, which enthusiastically embraced the idea of a partnership that allows it to expand the reach of one of its world class programs in a co-operative, rather than competitive, manner.
It is above all, in Soicher’s view, “a great opportunity for McGill to help a region that needs it.”