Letter: Government must take steps to protect the Northern medical school

It is time to grant Northern Ontario School of Medicine freestanding degree-granting status

To the Expositor:

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) was established as a solution to the doctor shortage in the North. It was set up as a stand-alone legal entity and maintains independent finances, administration and its own board of directors. 

Yet, this proven strategy still relies on Laurentian University and Lakehead University to grant its degrees. 

In light of what is happening at Laurentian University, why isn’t the government taking measures to protect NOSM and ensure that it continues to thrive as an independent, viable medical school in the North?

As champions in establishing NOSM, we recall the momentum across the entirety of the North to come together and build a solution to health-care disparities from which future generations would benefit. 

There was an emergence of widespread political and Indigenous organization support for the notion of creating the new medical school. Since this time, NOSM has developed partnerships with over 90 communities in Northern Ontario in an award winning distributed learning model that connects our vast region.

It has produced 714 MDs, and 579 residents who have completed NOSM programs with more than half of these health-care professionals practicing in the North.

NOSM develops its own curriculum, is accountable for its own accreditation, has its own faculty, recruits its own students–by all counts, NOSM is our medical university for the North. 

So why is its fate limited by the formality of its construct?

None of us would have predicted this situation when NOSM was founded sixteen years ago but we cannot sit idle watching a critical health-care strategy be derailed because it is not truly autonomous. 

We know that the government must recognize the positive impact NOSM has had across Northern Ontario. We call upon the government to step in and grant NOSM university status so it may thrive in its social accountability mandate and address the critical health disparities in the North.

Sincerely,

Jim Gordon

Ken Boshcoff

Angèle Brunelle