The future of NOSM as an independent medical school

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

On April 15, 2021, the Government of Ontario introduced legislation to establish the Northern Ontario School of Medicine as an independent, standalone degree-granting institution. If passed, the legislation would formally recognize the integral role NOSM play in providing students with access to medical training right here in Northern Ontario. NOSM currently has strong affiliations with both Laurentian University in Sudbury as well as Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

In light of Laurentian University’s recent CCAA proceedings, NOSM has found themselves having to navigate through a number of hurdles including a loss of $1.5 million in revenue as well as scrambling to protect endowments that total about $14 million due to Laurentian’s current situation.

Since 2009, NOSM has graduated 714 medical doctors with 48 self-identifying as Indigenous and another 151 self-identifying as Francophone. In addition, 579 residents have completed NOSM programs. More than half of these health-practitioners have stayed in Northern Ontario, with the majority establishing their practice in Sudbury and Thunder Bay. NOSM also supports nearly 900 full-time jobs in the North.

“The strategy is working but we have much more work to do. We have to help meet the current shortage of over 300 physicians across the North—and lead impactful population-based research.”

Dr. Sarita Verma, President, Dean and CEO of NOSM issued the following statement today:

“Since our founding, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine has been a point of pride for Northern communities. The Government of Ontario’s announcement of their plans to make NOSM an independent institution is the next step on our mission to strengthen health care and education across the North.

Despite the work NOSM has already done to educate the best doctors in the world, right here in Northern Ontario, health care in Northern communities remains in crisis: access to physicians is limited and inequality is worsening in Indigenous, Francophone, and rural and remote communities. At NOSM, we are committed to fixing this.

NOSM doesn’t belong to any institution, it belongs to the people of Northern Ontario. By making this step towards maturity, we will be able to strengthen our ties to both Sudbury and Thunder Bay while extending our reach into every corner of the North. Inaccuracy about the next steps regarding this legislation should be weighed carefully. To contribute to the public consultation, here is the link.

Every step of the way through this process we will continue to work with our municipal partners, rural, Indigenous, and Francophone communities, staff, learners and faculty, and our institutional partners. These groups will all play a key role as we build an even stronger institution to prepare world-class health-care professionals to practise in Northern Ontario.

None of this will change with this new independent status. NOSM will continue to leverage its full potential across all of Northern Ontario.”

The Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano, issue the following statement in support of NOSM becoming an independent, standalone degree-granting institution on behalf of the Government of Ontario:

“The Government of Ontario believes that the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) is critical to ensuring the availability of health human resources in Northern Ontario and that NOSM is ready to take the next step in the evolution to becoming an independent, degree granting post-secondary institution.”

The proposed legislation to make NOSM an independent university is a recognition of the fact that NOSM has an ongoing reputation of delivering high-quality degree programming. This legislation will allow NOSM to offer the same high-quality degrees they offer today, but now under their own name. This will also allow NOSM to become more agile and nimble to the changing environment for students as they help tackle the health human resource needs of Northern Ontario.

The decision to include NOSM in the red tape bill also furthers our government’s mandate to reduce burdensome regulations and red tape. It is important to note that NOSM already operates largely independently, and the Ministry already funds NOSM directly. In addition to championing the evolution of NOSM as a University, the proposed legislation will reduce duplicative and unnecessary administration and governance.

The evolution of an institution to a fully independent university is a process that has occurred many times in Ontario including at Lakehead University which institution began as a Technical Institute, then became a College before becoming the outstanding University they are today.

The Government is proud to support the Northern Ontario School of Medicine as an independent university. I look forward to continued collaboration with local communities and institutions to grow and support Northern post-secondary education.”