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Physician mission: B.C. pressed to recognize qualifications of foreign-trained doctors

August 28, 2021

Dr. Harry Tabrizi — an ear, nose and throat surgeon who practised medicine for more than a decade in Iran before immigrating to Canada — now sells hearing aids in Surrey.

The problem? Tabrizi and thousands of other foreign-trained doctors are unable to get approved to work as physicians in British Columbia or other parts of Canada, despite a significant doctor shortage in this province and elsewhere.

“There is a shortage of every (type of doctor) that you can think about in health care. And I’m sitting here, I’m selling hearing aids, basically. I can suture somebody who is bleeding … but he is losing blood and I’m losing my confidence in myself,” Tabrizi said.

“I think that there are some mismatches between the skills available and the people in need.”

Since immigrating to Canada in 2012, Tabrizi has taken and passed nine different tests and exams to prove that his medical qualifications and language skills are proficient enough to be a physician in Canada. And he is willing to work in any B.C. location, as he has experience in both the city of Tehran and smaller communities.

“I worked in a rural area in Iran for three years. And I know what rural medicine or remote area practice means. So I would like to go anywhere and provide the services,” he said.

This is not a new issue, as many Canadians and permanent residents who attended an international medical school have been lobbying provincial governments for years to change the “discriminatory” rules that prohibit the vast majority of them from getting mandatory training spots in hospitals, called residencies. As a result, it is impossible for them to be certified as doctors here.

New campaign

But now there is a new campaign called #EqualChance that’s backed by some heavy hitters, with political and financial clout, that hopes to change the rules so that graduates of international medical schools recognized by Canada can openly compete for all residency positions. Among its backers are the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, a charity co-founded by former governor general Adrienne Clarkson to promote the inclusion of immigrants, and Vancity, which has provided an undisclosed amount of money to the campaign.

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