Just what the doctor ordered

A healthier Northern Ontario

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Students at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine are applying what they learn in the classroom in communities across the North.

Ten years after the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) opened its doors, a clear picture is emerging of the tremendous impact the institution is having on the region.

Today, with more than 1,300 faculty members teaching learners across the North, NOSM contributes up to $82 million of new economic activity per year in Northern Ontario. And, since the inaugural class walked through the school's doors, 149 NOSM-educated doctors now practice in the region, which translates to care for more than 178,000 more Northern Ontarians.

Communities like Kenora, for example, are seeing significant benefits from the creation of Northern Ontario's own medical school.

"The Northern Ontario School of Medicine has been a critical success to our community and hospital," says Mark Balcaen, President and CEO of the Lake of the Woods District Hospital. "During the past 10 years, seven NOSM medical students have come from Kenora and six NOSM-trained physicians have begun practising in Kenora upon completion of their residency. We look forward to continuing our partnership with NOSM."

According to Dr. Roger Strasser, NOSM Dean, 94 percent of graduates who have completed both their MD and their residency with NOSM are now practising in Northern Ontario.

"NOSM is contributing to a healthier Northern Ontario from several perspectives," says Strasser. "Of course, our main priority is to train and retain our best and brightest to ensure residents of Northern Ontario have access to quality care right here at home."

"The school is also quite proud of the important research being undertaken with a specific focus on the health needs of the peoples and communities of Northern Ontario, as well as the positive social and economic impacts the school is having in communities across the region."

While NOSM is now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the prospect of having a medical school in Northern Ontario was thought by many to be a longshot when it was first discussed by local stakeholders many years ago. It was at that time that FedNor stepped in to fund a feasibility study that helped make a strong case for the school, leading to the birth of NOSM. When it was time for the bricks and mortar, FedNor invested $6 million for state-of-the-art research labs, helping to make the Northern Ontario School of Medicine a reality.

Today, NOSM says the school's campus is all of Northern Ontario. In fact, students live and learn in more than 90 communities across the region, including Indigenous, Francophone, rural, and remote communities.

"Our learners become part of the fabric of these communities, volunteering and joining local sports teams, for example, and in turn, these communities become their classroom," says Strasser. "This approach supports our efforts to ensure that NOSM is educating health professionals that know and understand the social, cultural, linguistic, and geographic diversity of Northern Ontario."

NOSM's research focuses on questions of importance for the health and communities in the region, including chronic disease, mental health, environmental health factors, and much more. To ensure an accurate picture of local health needs, this research is taking place in laboratories, hospitals and clinics in communities across Northern Ontario. This too ensures that the questions of importance for Northern Ontarians and their health are at the heart of the school's research program.

So what's in the plans for NOSM's future?

"We remain focused on advancing our education and research mandates, our commitment to being a socially accountable organization, and our work with our communities, partners, and other collaborators to address the health care needs of Northern Ontario," says Strasser. "Our plan moving forward, Reaching Beyond Extraordinary Together - NOSM's Strategic Plan 2015-2020, is truly a collective vision for the school that could not have been accomplished without the ideas, guidance, and collaboration of individuals and organizations across NOSM's wider campus of Northern Ontario."

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