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Cape Breton University Receives Funding For Medical And Research Initiatives

Medical education from the Dalhousie Medical School will soon be shared with students studying and training in Cape Breton through the establishment of a virtual campus.

Federal funding for the initiative was announced on Wednesday at Cape Breton University, where classrooms are being renovated and information technology and conference equipment is being added as part of plans to deliver health-related programs.

“Students can actually interact with professors or patients and whatever between the medical school and the campus and the regional hospital so that we can have literally experiments or lectures or patient interaction going on in Halifax or in Sydney seen by the whole of the network,” said Dr. Ron Stewart.

Stewart, a North Sydney native, is professor emeritus in medical education within the faculty of medicine at Dalhousie University as well as in the faculty of health professions. He also holds joint appointments as professor in the departments of emergency medicine, anaesthesia and in the faculty of health professions.

“That means we can actually have senior medical students based here doing their work under presepterships as we do in Halifax but we’ve got to get them out of Halifax. They have to be in the communities.”

Stewart said the technology will put students where patients are in the final years of medical school and give them access to patients in different practice profiles, such as rural areas where a patient may have to drive for a long time to see a doctor.

“They get a much broader education. Otherwise they are in a highly specialized hospital where they are trying to learn how to identify when someone is sick when they have already been identified as sick and are put in a specialty bed somewhere. There’s no challenge to that.”

The development is related to a 2012 memorandum of understanding between CBU, Dalhousie and the Cape Breton District Health Authority to expand health-related educational programs and research in Cape Breton.

Stewart said medical residents already train in Cape Breton but only for short periods of time. The new technology will allow them to train year round, which could lead to other advantages.

“Those are the ones we want to introduce to Cape Breton and be here and trained. If they are trained here, 50 per cent return.”

Equipment installation is under way at CBU and could be implemented as early as July 2015.

Senator Michael MacDonald represented the federal government at the funding announcement of $500,000 from ACOA’s Business Development Program. A further $175,000 will also come from CISCO Systems and Bell Aliant.

Gordon MacInnis, vice president of financial operations at CBU, said health care programming is an obvious area for growth for the university. It will be aided by willing partners at the health authority and clinical experience ranging from urban to remote to suburban.

“This area has a wealth of that clinical capacity remaining when it is pretty much tapped out in the (Halifax) area,” MacInnis said after the press conference.

Like Stewart, he also believes the greater community can also benefit from the program.

“We believe there is certainly a correlation between where people are trained and where they opt to practice. As we like to say ‘why force all of our young adults into the HRM area for purposes of their training and then worry about how do you get them out of that practice setting to places like Cape Breton, Amherst, Yarmouth, etc.'”

A federal contribution of $500,000 to purchase new equipment for the Verschuren Centre was also announced on Wednesday. The project’s goal is to increase the applied research and development capacity at CBU, improve learning opportunities for students and attract highly qualified personnel to the area.

“Essentially what we are doing is acquiring equipment which is specific to industry applications,” MacInnis said.

“We are in discussions with a private sector company who is interested in doing some applied research here that will look at the recovery of medals from waste piles. This equipment will in part help us to strengthen that relationship and deepen that relationship as well as providing a helping hand for academic programs as well as other areas of research at the centre.”