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Canadian Federation of
Medical Students
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About the CFMS
The CFMS is an organization representing over 8,000 medical students from 15 Canadian medical student societies from coast to coast. We represent medical students to the public, to the federal government, and to national and international medical organizations.
Member Memo #3: COVID-19 Effects on Medical Education and CFMS Operations
March 20, 2020

Dear Students,

The CFMS remains committed to providing you regular updates on the evolving situation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the many effects on organizational operations and our medical education. 

We hope you and your families are keeping well. We encourage all students to first and foremost practice social distancing and stay safe. 

I want to thank all students who have taken time to write to me with your concerns. During this period of uncertainty, it can be very frustrating to not have specific answers, but all of your thoughts and feedback are very helpful and they are forming the foundation of our advocacy.


As we noted in a memo on March 15th to final year students, the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) has postponed the MCCQE Part I exam. We have been in close contact with them to represent your views and advocate for a solution.

We want to be very clear; the MCC and all other medical education organizations have all communicated that a delay in writing the MCCQE I will NOT delay the start of residency. Regardless of which province you start residency, there will be no additional prescribing or practice restrictions other than those already placed on residents in that jurisdiction.  As I noted to final year students on March 15th our general advocacy principles are:

At this time, we are still uncertain as to when the exam will be re-scheduled. Our exams are written in the Prometric sites which are currently closed and we do not know when they will be re-opened. An update from the MCC to students will be released shortly. We continue to invite students to share their concerns with us. We are committed to responding to and forwarding them to the MCC on your behalves. 

Second Iteration R1 2020 Match:

All interviews for the second iteration R1 Match have been moved to an online/virtual format. The timelines for the second iteration remain the same. Rank lists for the second iteration are due April 2nd at 15:00 EST. We continue to have a number of supports for students who are entering the second iteration of the 2020 R1 match which are listed here

Clerkship-Clinical Learning:

As of the evening of March. 18th, all 17 medical schools in Canada have temporarily removed clerkship students from clinical duties. We want to ensure students are safe and that learning continues to be the primary reason you are in the clinical setting. During this time the medical schools are assessing the learning environment to determine what criteria will need to be met for learners to be re-introduced formally into clinical clerkship. We expect that the temporary suspension will last longer than the initial 2 weeks that some schools had indicated, and we have begun preparation for program changes that will need to be made to accommodate this.

We want everyone to know that we are fully committed to ensuring that students will return to clinical duties at a uniform time and that should adjustments to the 2021 R1 match timelines and graduation dates need to be made, we will advocate for a national approach to this. The faculties have indicated their commitment to ensuring that students are not unfairly disadvantaged with changes. 

Visiting Electives/AFMC electives portal:

At this time all Canadian medical faculties have suspended any visiting (domestic or international) clinical elective experiences and are not accepting new applications. We have advocated to ensure that information on the AFMC portal is clear and that there are refunds for students who were participating in or have upcoming visiting electives that are now cancelled. For the time being, we will ask that the portal be closed and be re-opened at a uniform time in the future.


Universally, pre-clerkship activities have been moved to an online format. So far, we have heard positive feedback from students that this is generally going well with some expected adjustments given the rapid nature of the change. We encourage students to provide us feedback, share positives and areas for improvement so that we can communicate this to school across the country to ensure we optimize the virtual learning environment.

Getting Involved:

We are very proud of the initiative that students from all of our member schools have taken to support health care workers and the greater community with local community care initiatives. #caremongering! This google sheet includes the link to sign-up for some of the opportunities at your local schools. The CFMS had the opportunity to do a radio blitz this week promoting the local initiatives. 

Students have been asking about ways to get involved in other activities including with public health, such as contact tracing, 811 call centers and more. Your schools are considering this and we are supporting your MedSoc executives in liaising with your schools in regards to these opportunities.

We encourage students to ensure they are taking social distancing into consideration. Students may also consider donating blood as another way to contribute during this time of need.

Additional Questions Members have raised:

I have received emails from students about the possibility of returning to some clinical duties on a voluntary basis given the general sentiment that we may need more “frontline hands”. This has not yet been actively discussed and there are many considerations including insurance, regulatory college and legal opinions and your overall health and safety, but it will be addressed in the near future and we will communicate these perspectives.

Many of you have also noticed the stories from Italy where students are being advanced early without the final exams, given their urgent need for healthcare professionals. At this time there are no plans or formal discussions about final year students starting residency early.

CFMS Spring General Meeting and Elections:

We continue to work on details for SGM. We hope to provide a new agenda and additional details very soon and we apologize for some delays in releasing information on this. We are discussing with the CCME organizers and other medical education organizations to ensure our virtual meeting time will not overlap with other sessions and to ensure as many of you can join the meeting as possible.

We have confirmed a virtual platform that we will use and have issued refunds to all those who had paid their registration fees for the in-person meeting. Registration for the virtual meeting will re-open soon and we will announce election details when finalized in the coming days. We are likely to move forward with both the President and VP/Director elections. At this time the resolutions session at SGM will be cancelled and deferred to AGM.


I want to extend sincere my gratitude to all the MedSoc executives at our member schools who are working tirelessly to ensure you are well represented. We have had excellent engagement and discussion with them. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has already been a stressful and uncertain period for all of us as we adjust to this new “reality”. While we practice social distancing please do not forget to reach out to your friends and colleagues through other means. We all need to support each other. Practicing physicians and allied health professionals, especially need our support right now. Their efforts are truly heroic and we are so thankful for their work and sacrifice.

As always if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected]


Victor Do

CFMS President, 2019-2020


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