Students in Saskatchewan will be taught remotely by faculty in the MRI program at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN, seen here in a photo shot before the COVID-19 pandemic, in a new partnership aimed at opening pathways for training in high-demand medical services. (Photo: UHN)

Timely access to medical imaging is a high priority in Saskatchewan and across Western Canada, and a new partnership between The Michener Institute of Education at UHN and National Medical Imaging Clinic, Education & Research Centre (NMICERC) is supporting efforts to open educational pathways for high-demand services such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

To help build capacity in medical imaging, NMICERC will bring Michener's MRI Technologist Training Program to Saskatchewan and across Western Canada starting in September. This partnership also provides the opportunity for additional educational experiences, including a bridge program for Indigenous youth to enter into the MRI Technologist Program and pursue a career in health care.

NMICERC is a unique partnership led by James Smith Cree Nation and DR Links Holdings Inc. that has created Saskatchewan's first MRI and computerized tomography (CT) medical imaging, research and education centre, serving patients in Western Canada in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, as well as boosting economic development and increasing health care capacity.

"Shortages of health personnel, not just doctors and nurses but the army of other professionals working in health care, represents the most acute challenge facing health care across Canada," says Michener Principal Harvey Weingarten. "We are proud to have been asked to partner with James Smith Cree Nation on solving the shortage of medical imaging technologists in Saskatchewan and look forward to working together to build health system capacity."

Dragan Racic, President and CEO of NMICERC, is excited about bringing the MRI Technologist Training Program to Saskatchewan, as well as the opportunity to offer the program in NMICERC's fully operational clinic with the most advanced MRI and CT equipment.

"Our goal to establish a base in Saskatchewan for medical imaging technologists in Western Canada to complete their MRI training through us was fully supported by Saskatchewan's Ministry of Advanced Education and Ministry of Health, as well as the Saskatchewan Health Authority," says Dragan. "We will be working with all of our Indigenous partners across North America to promote this career path for Indigenous youth."

National Medical Imaging Clinic, Education & Research Centre is a unique partnership led by James Smith Cree Nation and DR Links Holdings Inc. that has created Saskatchewan's first MRI and CT medical imaging, research and education centre. (Photo: Courtesy NMICERC)

The MRI program course content will be delivered remotely by Michener faculty, and students will complete their clinical training using NMICERC's facilities in Saskatoon. Because there isn't currently an MRI training program offered in Saskatchewan, medical imaging technologists who want to begin practicing this modality must travel outside of the province to obtain certification.

"Many of these individuals will go to a school in Alberta to complete their training, such as the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, and then are recruited to work there, so they don't end up returning to Saskatchewan," says Dragan. "We need more MRI technologists in Saskatchewan so our hope is that by offering the program here, some of the graduates will stay in the province to work.

"That way, we'll be supporting medical imaging activities in Saskatchewan and Western Canada for the next 10 to 30 years."

In response to this new partnership, NMICERC has received positive feedback from the government of Saskatchewan, provincial health authorities and practicing medical imaging technologists. The Federation of Sovereign Indian Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, has also welcomed the program as it will offer a new opportunity for Indigenous youth to jump start their career.

Looking forward, Dragan hopes to also offer some of Michener's continuing education and professional development courses so that practicing radiological technologists can maintain their credentials at home.

"I want to stress that we would not be able to do this without the tremendous support from Michener's leadership team, especially Principal Harvey Weingarten and Head of Academic Affairs and Operations Fiona Cherryman," says Dragan. "The Michener team has been extremely responsive and helpful in working with us to make this happen."

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