Episode 4: RUSM and Canada


This episode is entirely dedicated to our Canadian applicants! Meet the Director of Admissions in Canada, Tom Harkness, who covers the differences in the application process, interviews, campus life for Canadian students, clinical rotations and the differences in applying for the US and Canadian residency programs.

Episode 4: RUSM and Canada Transcript

Milena Garcia: Tom. Thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me.

Tom Harkness: Thanks Milena, great to be here.

Milena Garcia: let's start with you telling us a little bit more about yourself.

Tom Harkness: Hi, everyone. My name is Tom Harkness and I'm the Director of Admissions for Canadian and international applicants. I do admissions and recruitment across the country, along with my colleague, Leah, who does admissions and recruitment in Ontario. I've been with Ross since 2008. My whole career has been in admissions in recruitment. I live in Ontario. I live in a small town called Port Hope, which is about an hour east of Toronto. So if you haven't discovered Port Hope come and visit us.

Milena Garcia: Tom, again, you should be careful because you invite me and I show up. Now I'm the only Canadian in town. I always encourage everybody to go visit you and your home. But it is a lovely town to visit. So we do appreciate you taking your time to meet with me, Tom is a very busy man as Director of Admissions for the entire Canada and international. Now, Tom. I think most of our listeners know by now that we are an international school located in Barbados, we follow the equivalent curriculum to the U.S. schools, where our preclinical part of the curriculum is done in Barbados and the clinical curriculum is done back here in the U.S., our Canadian students are eligible to practice in all Canadian provinces and all 50 US states if they choose to stay here for their residency. We also have a special website dedicated entirely to the Canadian applicants, so please everyone. Check it out at medical.rossu.edu Now, Tom. I know that the Canadian student body actually comprises 8% of our student body. And that's approximately 130  grads for us. So what provinces are the Canadian students coming from

Tom Harkness: So the Canadian students are coming from all of the 10 provinces and territories. We recently had a student from the Yukon come in two semesters ago which was great. Of course, Ontario, where I live, in being the most populous province, the vast majority are coming from Ontario. And then we have students coming from British Columbia and Alberta and then all other provinces, so we have students from all across the country coming in.

The RUSM Application Process for Canadian Students

Milena Garcia: Can you talk about the application process for Canadian students? What's unique to them?

Tom Harkness: So when the admissions committee looks at a Canadian applicant, with our university system across the country, it's publicly funded. We don't rank our universities like the US does so it doesn't matter if you went to the University of Victoria in British Columbia, or if you went to Memorial University in Newfoundland and Labrador, you're getting the same quality publicly funded education. So the committee looks at that differently from the US applicants because they know that Canadian university grading system is much more difficult than what US applicants may receive, depending upon what tiered education they receive. So that's a good thing for you as a Canadian applicant because they look at your grade. And then they say, okay, well that grade from this Canadian university iss probably much higher if we compare If we compare it to a US University grade.

Milena Garcia: And I can speak from personal experiences because we consider a holistic approach to our application process. I called you on many occasions to ask you about the caliber of the school if I happen to have a transcript in front of me because yes we are aware that the different schools compare differently. The Canadian schools compared differently when they’re next to a US school

Arriving in Barbados as a RUSM Student

Milena Garcia: Right, how do the Canadian students arrive in Barbados?

Tom Harkness: So Canadian students can fly directly from Toronto on Air Canada. They fly 365 days of the year. So that flight leaves at 8:10 in the morning, you get in at 1:30-45. Into Barbados is the first international flight of the day, which is great for you because then you have no problems at customs and immigration. Now if you're coming from the East Coast or the West Coast, you may have to overnight in Toronto. And then get onto your 8:10 am flight the next day. Some students from the West Coast choose to fly Vancouver to Miami, they then have to overnight in Miami and then fly out on Jet Blue or American Airlines. Then next day to Barbados.

Milena Garcia: And once the students arrive in Barbados, the timeline for the Canadian students is pretty identical to all the other students, meaning they're there in Barbados for the next four semesters and then they come back to the US for the clinical training that's semesters five through 10 now at Ross. We have several support resources available for all students, such as the Academy for Teaching and Learning, the Counseling Center, clinical advisor, student services, The Office of Career Attainment; What additional support does Ross have for just a Canadian students?

Tom Harkness: So the first thing is when you are in orientation week you need to join the Canadian students society. It is a group that has a Facebook page with a lot of alumni, Canadian alumni that are a part of that. It's a great resource for you to ask questions for those alumni. It's also a social group because they celebrate Canada Day on July 1, they celebrate Thanksgiving. In October, when it should be celebrated. They also have each semester, a day where they prepare poutine, which is a french fry dish with gravy and Kurds, which they sell to the American students. It's a lot of fun. But as you know, I go down each semester to meet with Canadian students society, along with my colleague Kelly Tesler, who's the Director of Student Services, also Canadian from Ajax, Ontario, and then we just were there to support you and also the Office of Career attainment. There's a team dedicated to Canadian students that have decided to apply to Canadian residency programs through kharms, that's led by Elizabeth scenario. And so they will support you and provide you with all the documentation that you are required to have in order to submit your applications through kharms for Canadian residency programs. So there's a lot of support, we're there for you. You can always reach out to me or my colleague, Leah, with any questions or, Kelly Tesler, whatever is going on. I follow the Canadian students society Facebook page and I'll answer any questions that you have.

Milena Garcia: Yeah, you are very involved. And so after their time in Barbados, the students will come back to the US for their clinical training, as I mentioned before about semesters five through 10 for a total of nine weeks. And that's including the Canadian students. How does the work visa work for the students at that time?

Tom Harkness: So when you enter your third year we provide you with documentation. To enter the US on a B1-visa, which is actually a business visa, but under that business there's a section that includes medical training. So you fly in or you cross the border, say at Pearson, or Vancouver, or wherever you're coming from and you go through US Customs and Immigration, you provide them with the documentation and then they give you the B1 visa. There are certain points where you may have to renew that visa during your two years in the US. But again, we are there to support you with Kelly Tesler and student services to provide you with the documentation for renewal.

Canadian Board Exams

Milena Garcia: And what board exams do the students take while in medical school or right after medical school?

Tom Harkness: Of course the Canadian students take the step one and step two CKCs. But if you want to apply for Canadian residency programs through kharms you have to take two Canadian board exams through the Medical Council of Canada. The first one is the Medical Council of Canada qualifying exam. Part one, that's the same exam that fourth year Canadian medical graduates must take in order to start their residency program and then you must take what's called the knack ASCII. It's a clinical skills exam. It's very similar to the step to clinical skills exam. The only difference is that in the step to clinical skills exam, everybody in the room is testing you as an actor, following a script in the Canadian exam. EVERYBODY'S AN ACTOR, except the doctor. The doctor is an actual Canadian physician. And he or she can go off script, if he or she feels that you may know more than the script is allowing in their questions. So you can get peppered with some additional questions. I've talked to some of our Canadian alum about that and they said it was a bit off putting at first, but they realized then that the Canadian citizen was just trying to help them to improve their score because he, the doctor, felt that they knew more than the script was allowing

Milena Garcia: I hope earning brownie points for that, showing off some additional knowledge. And in fact, a great majority of our students do apply for residency here in us in Canada. In fact, for everyone who's listening. We have 15 years already posted of residency attainments on our website, so do check it out at medical.rossu.edu. we had a 95% match rate last year, so I certainly encourage everybody to look that up. Now, Tom, how do they get back home to practice after passing all these board exams?

Tom Harkness:  If they match here at home in Canada, then they just go through the same processes as Canadian Medical Graduates, but if they're coming out of the US residency program, The easiest pathway home right now is if you do family medicine in the US. It is the fact that every province and territory needs family physicians. So the provinces and territories do not require you to take the Royal College exam. They will set you up with a family physician mentor who will shadow you, kind of follow you for six to eight months and then write a report to your provincial medical board saying they're good to go. They should receive licensure and then you receive full licensure, you know, under that sort of shadowing observership. You do have sort of a semi-half license, but then once you get full licensure, then you can get hospital responsibilities as well. So that's the easiest pathway home. Here in Ontario, for example, if you did internal medicine in the US there is a three year program in Canada. It's a four year residency program so Ontario requires you to take a fourth-year chief residency year and then you can apply for your license, but you still have to write the world college exam.

Milena Garcia: I think we shared a lot of information with the listeners at this point. Any last advice or suggestions or recommendations?

Tom Harkness: It's so difficult to get into Clinton County Medical School. We have 17 schools across the country to which are French, and we have very few spots in the medical schools across the country. Some of the schools may have 115 spots. They have 3,000 applicants to those spots. And it can be very difficult, and I suggest that if you don't get in the first time look at other options because going on to do a master's does not necessarily improve your chances, because then you go into a different pool of applicants. You're not looked at from applicants that are coming directly out of their undergraduate, you're looking at more mature applicants and that becomes even more competitive. So if you're passionate about becoming a physician, look at other options abroad and that option for you is Ross University School of Medicine. Consider this option, and I look forward to speaking with you.

Milena Garcia: I second that. Don't give up. Having a senior organic chemistry does not mean you can't be a doctor.

Tom Harkness: Exactly, you know, somebody who is an A student versus a B student and I interview those two applicants, I am looking at, you know, recommending that B student because while they had a B, they did so much to, you know, increase their chances in a lot of volunteering and shadowing. Whereas an  A student, all they did was study and they got an A, but they have no volunteer community shadowing experiences because they were just focusing on their academics, I may feel that they're not the right applicant. Maybe the B applicant is better. You know, so do everything you can to improve your chances, you know, and with our holistic approach to the admissions process don't look down on yourself because you only got a B. When Milena and I interview our applicants, you know, we're looking for that passion. And why you want to become a physician.

Milena Garcia: Alright, Tom, appreciate your time. Thank you so much. Thank you for being here with us and for everybody out there. Thank you for listening. We appreciate your time as well and check back for next week's episode.

Tom Harkness: Bye bye greetings from Canada.