Re: One country, too many licensing bodies

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Re: One country, too many licensing bodies (Letter to editor, Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Written: July 25, 2006

I agree with the points raised by Stephen Sullivan in his letter published in CMAJ (CMAJ 2006; 175: 62).

I raised the same point 26 years ago in a letter to CMAJ (CMAJ, Vol. 132, May 15, 1985) where I expressed frustration experienced by foreign medical graduates (now called international medical graduates)when it came to dealing with numerous licensing bodies with selective and restrictive criteria to control the flow of doctors in their province.

Not much has changed in the last 26 years. I don’t think much is going to change in the next 26 years. I feel if a doctor has LMCC and one year of internship then he or she should be able to practice anywhere in Cananda.

Noorali Bharwani, FRCSC, FACS, General Surgeon, Medicine Hat, Alberta

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Docs for Cancer – CMAJ News

Excerpt from: CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)
September 2, 2003; 169 (5):

Doctors for Cancer? In a gesture of support for his patients, Alberta general surgeon Noorali Bharwani had his head shaved to raise $2200 for the Canadian Cancer Society. “We deal with so many cancer patients but we don’t have a way to empathize with them,” Bharwani said after his close shave. “This allows you to appreciate, at least in part, how they feel.” The Medicine Hat surgeon hopes the idea catches on with other Canadian doctors. He notes that police officers already have Cops for Cancer, through which they gather pledges before having their heads shaved. And not only do people appreciate the gesture, says Bharwani (, but being a one-man comb-free zone “is very nice for the summer.” -Barbara Sibbald, CMAJ

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Graduates of foreign medical schools: false hope.

Canadian Medical Association J, Vol. 132, May 15, 1985

Letter to the Editor

Graduates of foreign medical schools: false hope

I read Chouinard’s article on foreign-trained physicians with interest (Can. Med. Assoc J 1985; 132: 231).

Most graduates of foreign medical schools who come to North America have no illusions about the problems facing them. The fact that they have to take a number of “knowledge” – testing examinations and the experience of dealing with several licensing bodies in one country prepare them for the worst, unlike in the United Kingdom, where there is one licensing body for four countries.

What upsets foreign-trained physicians is the deliberate coolness or harassment of some of the licensing bodies. The physicians are kept running from pillar to post to fulfil the requirements in a frustrating vicious circle consisting of the evaluating examination, rotating internship, licensing by the Medical Council of Canada and postgraduate training for certification.

Most foreign-trained physicians suffer in silence, afraid of offending those in authority. There is no organization sympathetic to their plight, and their point of view is rarely heard.

I have experienced such obstruction twice. In 1979 I was told by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) that to practise as a surgeon in Alberta I had to be a licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. After I had fulfilled these criteria, I was told that I should be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant (which I am) and that the CPSA was “reluctant to register anyone who is outside the province unless they are actually going to start working in this province”. When I protested this new requirement, I was told that it had been laid down in the Medical Profession Act and its bylaws since 1975. Why did the CPSA not tell me at the start what the act required?

The second experience occurred when I was offered a fellowship in surgical oncology by the M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute in Houston. I had been working towards this goal during my research and residency years, and when I received the offer I was ecstatic. I was eligible for a licence in Texas, but when it came to obtaining a non-immigrant visa for 1 year of training in the United States, the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates refused to approve my application because I had not passed the basic science portion of the Visa Qualifying Examination. Anyone who has taken this test knows how difficult it is to pass a pure basic science examination after being qualified for 5 to 10 years. I had to have up-to-date knowledge in basic medical science to obtain a temporary visa.

Graduates of foreign medical schools are ready to take up any challenge to make themselves acceptable and useful in Canadian society once they are allowed to enter the country. The ultimate effects of obstruction on their personal and professional lives are largely unknown. It is time someone looked at this problem.

Noorali Bharwani, MB, BS, FRCS (Edin), FRCS (Glasg), FRCSC
North Battleford Medical Clinic
North Battleford, Sask.

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