Passionate high achievers
The Faculty of Health Sciences educates physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and researchers, drawing some of the country’s best and brightest students to Queen’s.
Each year, the three schools of the Faculty of Health Sciences – Medicine, Nursing, and Rehabilitation Therapy – receive some 5,500 total applications, and admit about 330 new students in total.
Walk into any Health Sciences classroom, and you’ll find intelligent, motivated learners. Most will be from Ontario – specifically the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and as such they reflect that city’s cultural diversity. The rest will be from every province of Canada, with a healthy sprinkling of international students. These days, there will be as many women as men.
Health sciences students come from increasingly diverse backgrounds and experiences. Yet they share a passion: to help humanity. They study hard while also promoting better health in the community, and internationally.
Dr. Richard Reznick, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, says he aims to instill in each student the thirst to do something special. “I’m not interested in just making a student into a general surgeon, a nurse practitioner, or a physical therapist working in Brockville. I’m more interested in making a student a professional who works in Brockville and also implements a new teaching curriculum for Eastern Ontario, or who takes two months off a year to volunteer in Rwanda,” says Reznick.
The School of Medicine
The four-year Doctor of Medicine program receives about 3,300 applications each year, but only 100 students are accepted. Last fall, 80 per cent of those who were admitted to first-year studies had a Bachelor’s degree, and 20 per cent had an advanced degree.
Students are chosen for strong academics, as well as personal characteristics, says Dr. Anthony Sanfilippo, Professor and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education. “It’s not just high marks – ethics, communication skills, cultural sensitivity and problem-solving are also essential.” Sanfilippo notes that medical students are getting younger. “The average age is 22 entering first year,” he says. And, he adds, they’re coming from an increasingly wider range of disciplinary backgrounds.
“There used to be a focus on sciences, specifically biological sciences. We still have prerequisites, but now students come from English, anthropology, psychology, fine art, as well as health disciplines such as nursing and pharmacy.”
Unlike other Canadian medical schools, where the number of male students has been dropping over the past 15 years, Queen’s has a 50/50 gender balance.
As the only medical school in Canada where admissions are not geographically determined, Queen’s medical students reflect the country’s population distribution. “While students come from across Canada, about 75 per cent are from Ontario. Of those, half are from the GTA,” Sanfilippo says.
If there’s one thing all have in common it’s that they are driven by a strong work ethic and sense of service, often sponsoring charities and working in the community. They are also self-starters. “For example, we had three students in Perth doing family medicine rotations. They saw a need, and went to talk to high school students about safe sex. This was something they did on their own,” says Sanfilippo.
Queen’s School of Nursing
In 2011, the School of Nursing program headed by Associate Dean and School Director Jennifer Medves is celebrating its 70th year. The school’s four-year undergraduate program typically receives about 900 applicants per year, and it admits 90 first-year students.
The average mark last year for admittance into the program was 87 per cent, and students require a background in science.
Dr. Dana Edge, RN, the Graduate Coordinator in Nursing, says most undergrads hail from Ontario. “Many come from the multicultural GTA. We usually also have students from various provinces, plus a handful of U.S. and other international students.”
Though the School of Nursing’s student body still tends to be female, there has been a slight increase in male enrolment in recent years, says Edge. “The shortage of nurses means there’s always demand, and it’s a well-paying job,” she notes.
The school also offers a Master’s program with thesis and non-thesis options, and a PhD in nursing. There are 39 students engaged in studies leading to a Master’s degree, and 14 PhD students. “Aside from a few international students, most grad students are from eastern Ontario – the Kingston-Ottawa area. We’re filling a local need,” says Edge.
In the near future, undergraduate enrolments will remain steady, but the plan is to admit about five more students annually to the Master’s thesis program.
Queen’s School of Rehabilitation Therapy
The School of Rehabilitation Therapy, under the leadership of Associate Dean and Director Elsie Culham, PhD’92, offers MSc degree programs in Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy, and research-based graduate programs in Rehabilitation Science at the Master’s and Doctoral levels. Each year, the School receives nearly 1,300 applications, and it admits about 132 students. Future enrollment is expected to maintain steady.
Dr. Kathleen Norman, Rehab’87, Chair of the Physical Therapy program, reports that last year, the Master’s program had 751 applicants for 66 spots.
Students must have a four-year undergraduate degree and good marks, the prerequisite courses–though their Bachelor’s degree can be in any discipline – and they must demonstrate knowledge of the profession.
“About 75 per cent of the students are coming out of Kinesiology, Health Sciences, and Life Sciences. And the vast majority have a degree from a university other than Queen’s,” says Norman.
Most of the students hail from Ontario, and historically, many come from Atlantic Canada. Classes are gradually becoming more culturally diverse. At the same time, says Norman, “PT has been female dominated, and we’re drawing from a primarily female pool of applicants. But the number of men has been edging up, and the current level fluctuates around 20 per cent.”
She describes PT students as “physical, get-it-done types” and notes, “People are often struck by how active and fit they are. We get a high proportion of students who have had sports scholarships during their undergraduate years.”
Also noteworthy is how involved the students are in their communities, volunteering in programs for kids or adults with particular health challenges, for example.
Associate Professor Donna O’Connor, Rehab’76, MEd’95, the Admissions Coordinator for the Occupational Therapy (OT) program, reports that last year, the program received 526 applications for 66 spots, an increase of 200 applicants over 2006. Better knowledge among prospective students about the scope of practice in OT, and personal exposure or volunteer experience that influences career choices, are two reasons for the program’s high popularity.
How are students selected? “A research study showed us that our best indicator is cumulative grade point average. It has to be above 3.0 – plus we ask for a statement of intent and two reference letters,” says O’Connor.
Most OT students are from Ontario – 89 per cent of them – and of these, 42 per cent come from the GTA. Most are women. Says O’Connor, “We have between one and seven men per year in a class of about 70.”
There are no prerequisites for admission, and so students have diverse undergraduate degrees, about half from arts, half from sciences. “The mix is increasingly broad: we have students from kinesiology, psychology, music, dance, education and fine arts,” says O’Connor.
She adds that this year, eight per cent of students had a Bachelor’s degree from Queen’s; a large cohort came from Western, Guelph, and Toronto, and a small number of students come from across Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
One thing they have in common is that OT students like to get involved, and so there’s a very collegial learning environment in the program. “Learning teams are used as preparation for the practice setting,” says O’Connor. “As well, they have a real awareness and involvement in the Kingston community, where they do placements and volunteer work.”