By David Chilton
Special to the Toronto Sun
Jump in a taxi in Toronto and there's a 50-50 chance your driver will be a doctor or some other highly educated recent immigrant.
The same goes for Humber College's clinical research post-graduate certificate classrooms. The classes attract significant numbers of foreign-trained MDs, dentists and others with science degrees who see it as a chance to earn a living doing something not entirely dissimilar to the professions they trained for at home.
Other reasons for entering in the program range from an interest in applied science to a personal commitment to combating disease.
Urszula Kosecka, program co-ordinator at Humber, says she gets students from around the world, listing India, Pakistan, Iran, Egypt, The Philippines and the U.K. as some of the places her foreign-born students come from. More women than men enter the program, she says, putting the balance at 60-40 or perhaps 65-35.
Soft skills assessment
This year, says Kosecka, Humber took 40 full-time students out of 286 applicants. They all need at least a science degree and have to write an entrance exam-essay to test their English skills and pass a personal interview assessing their "soft skills."
The students who are admitted to the program shouldn't have any difficulty completing it since, Kosecka points out, many of them have a background that exceeds what's expected of them at Humber. Still, she continues, "There's a huge workload. It's a time-consuming program."
| URSZULA KOSECKA
Humber College program co-ordinator
The course lasts 12 months, and students have to complete a three-month internship before they graduate. Kosecka says Humber also offers the program part time and the academic content is identical, although there's no work placement. Part-timers usually take about two and a half years to finish their studies. Full-time tuition fees are $4,500.
Christian Dube, president, CEO and owner of CardioMed Supplies in Gormley, just north of Toronto, recently hired a graduate of the Humber program, and he remarks on the high calibre of the students who enrol.
That's both good and necessary considering the responsibilities program graduates take on. Once they've completed any required in-house training, they usually become clinical research associates monitoring clinical trials of drugs, biotechnologies and medical devices such as the dialysis catheters CardioMed makes.
Humber College offers the clinical research graduate certificate full time and part time.
Applicants need a science degree and must pass an English test and a personal interview.
Full-time study takes 12 months and students have to complete a three-month work placement.
Slightly more women than men are enrolled in the program.
Employment rates for graduates of this program are 100% and starting salaries begin at $35,000 a year.
Kim McDonald-Taylor, vice-president of operations for Endpoint Research in Mississauga, says her firm has hired about five Humber graduates, and she's particularly impressed with the doctors and nurses who graduate from the course.
"Nurses, especially, have quicker learning curves," says McDonald-Taylor. "Being a CRA is not an easy job. It requires independence and mature thinking."
Iain Forbes is a 2004 graduate of the Humber program and now works for DHC Research in Thornhill. With a degree in pharmacology and biology from McMaster University, Forbes says he wanted to work in clinical research, and the Humber program gave him the skills and training to do that.
Comparing the clinical research certificate to his B.Sc., Forbes says the workload is similar. "Certainly the standard (at Humber) is very high. It's a lot of work, and competition within the program is quite high."
The employment rate is too. Kosecka says within a few months of graduation all of her graduates are employed, although their starting salaries vary depending on education, work experience and so on. Some will earn $35,000 a year to begin, she says and one graduate, who had already run clinical trials in India, was hired at $70,000 a year.
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