05/22/2015 20:56 EDT | Updated 05/22/2016 01:59 EDT

UBC Aboriginal Doctor Program Beats Graduate Goal Five Years Early

The UBC medical school has already reached its 2020 goal of 50 aboriginal graduates.

Eryn Rizzoli/UBC
Lee-Anna Huisman from Terrace, B.C. is one of the doctors who graduated through UBC's aboriginal MD admissions program.

The University of British Columbia has reached its goal of graduating 50 aboriginal doctors by 2020 — five years earlier than expected.

The UBC medical school set the goal in 2002 to increase indigenous representation. Now, 54 students have graduated through the Aboriginal MD admissions program, 35 more are enrolled and another 17 new students are expected in the fall.

Graduate Roisin Dooley, who will be doing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology in London, Ont., says she was motivated to become a doctor at a young age.

"Growing up, I had some aboriginal doctors in my life," she told The Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

"I think they served as a very positive role model for me and seeing them, I kind of got an idea that there's no limit to what I can achieve with education."

Dooley says she hopes her achievement can inspire her younger cousins back home in Northern Ontario to pursue their education.

James Andrew, UBC's Aboriginal Student Initiatives Coordinator, stresses the importance of having aboriginal doctors who can relate to clients on a social and cultural basis.

Though the program appears to be a success in the eyes of the university, Andrew says there's a lot more to do when it comes to training more aboriginal physicians.

"In reality, we still have a shortage of aboriginal doctors and if you do the math across Canada and B.C., less than one per cent of doctors are aboriginal," he said.

Listen to the full interview.


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