10th Annual Northern Constellations focuses on physician wellness and recognizes outstanding NOSM faculty

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Photo: Dr. Sarita Verma, NOSM Dean, President and CEO with Dr. James Goertzen, NOSM’s Associate Dean, Continuing Education and Professional Development at The NOSM Faculty Celebration and Awards in 2019.

Faculty at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) came together to share, network and celebrate its pan-Northern community at Northern Constellations. This was the School’s 10th annual Northern Constellations faculty development conference held Friday, April 30 and Saturday, May 1, 2021.

With close to 1,800 faculty distributed across 800,000 km2 in more than 90 communities, Northern Constellations was developed in 2012 as a way to unite the School’s dispersed faculty who are critical to the delivery of medical education at NOSM. This year’s agenda explored the topic of physician burnout and the need for wider organizational culture change in medicine.

“We deeply value faculty and recognize the weight of their workloads,” says Dr. James Goertzen, NOSM’s Associate Dean, Continuing Education and Professional Development and Thunder Bay family physician. “The conference provides an opportunity to support one another, enrich our own development and explore new ways to address systemic issues, like burnout, as a community.”

Plenary guest speaker, Dr. Jillian Horton spoke about strategies in support of recognizing burnout in health-care professionals. As a general internist, medical academic, author, and former Associate Dean at University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine, Dr. Horton highlighted practical approaches including advocating for organizational change, mindfulness, personal narrative and influencing culture change to “take care of ourselves.”

Other workshops and discussions held during the two-day conference included: medical art, the rural generalist pathway to medicine, learning how to write impactful op-eds for advocacy; supporting medical learner wellness; developing physician competencies for Northern Ontario, and learning from a project promoting healthy lifestyle habits among Indigenous youth through Innu Meshkenu or “the Innu way.”

At a virtual celebration Friday evening, NOSM presented Awards of Education and Scholarship to individual faculty members who enhance the quality of medical education and research. Dr. Zacharias Suntres, a NOSM Assistant Dean and Chair of the Student Assessment and Promotions Committee was the recipient of the Academic Leader Award. Dr. Radu Alexandru Moise, a NOSM faculty member researching the roles of nutrition in health and disease, received the Scholar Award. Dr. Chi Cheng, a leader in developing educational standards in the NOSM Psychiatry Program received the Clinical Scholar Award. Donna Newhouse, a medical educator who led the development of the NOSM anatomy labs, received the Medical Educator Award.

NOSM announced the bestowment of the title Associate Professor Honorarius to: Dr. Lois Hutchison, a psychiatry clinician, teacher and mentor; Dr. Janice Willett, a practising gynaecologist for over 25 years in Sault Ste. Marie and former NOSM Associate Dean; and, Dr. Malcolm Wilson, an active clinician, mentor, and teacher to residents and faculty in the North.

In NOSM’s strategic plan, The NOSM Challenge 2025, the School identifies several strategic enablers that align with the focus at Northern Constellations including; building a culture of continuous learning and mentorship by develop programs for professional development across all stage of careers; preparing teachers and support faculty and students in academic career progression to become leaders and change agents; and building a culture with a focus on wellness and work-life balance and inclusive learning and working environments.