09/16/2012 05:19 EDT | Updated 11/16/2012 05:12 EST

Med schools try to woo students into family medicine

Hundreds of Quebec medical students took part in workshops this weekend designed to woo them into family medicine and ease the province's shortage of general practitioners.

The family medicine symposium at the Université de Montreal was put on by medical schools, with the aim of introducing students to the realities of family practice and encourage more to specialize in the field. . "A lot of time students don't' know that family doctors do emergency, obstetrics," med student Marie-Pierre Codsi said.

Jean Pelletier, chair of family medicine at U de M, said medical schools are working to attract as many motivated students to family medicine as possible.

"We need to really inform them as much as we can and motivate them as much as we can toward family practice," he said.

About two million Quebecers don't have a family doctor, something all the major parties in the recent provincial election campaign pledged to fix. More med students going into family medicine means more family doctors for the province.

"These kind of symposiums are helping," said Antoine Groulx, president of the Quebec College of Family Physicians. "They are really needed in order to make sure that this family medicine community increases and that the importance of family medicine is recognized also in the community."

'Want to help'

Family medicine is the quickest route into practice for students graduating from medical school. Completing a residency takes two years, compared with five for specialties like psychiatry, anesthesiology, internal medicine and general surgery.

And once they've finished post-graduate training, starting a practice is a cinch. With shortages of family doctors across the country, it takes very little effort to compile a full slate of patients almost anywhere in Canada.

Family doctors can also do an additional year of residency to qualify to work in big-city emergency rooms. In outlying communities, they can usually work in the ER without having to do the extra year.

But what GPs are really after, med student Myrrha Arragon said, is simply the chance to help people.

"It will be very valuable for the entire population, and I think that's why we're in medicine," Arragon said, expressing that family medicine was a clear choice for her.

"We want to be… useful to people, want to help them."