Northern Ontario medical school launches five-year strategic plan

·2 min read

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) is not sitting still. Pandemic or no pandemic, NOSM Dean and CEO Dr. Sarita Verma said the school is moving forward with a new five-year strategic plan despite the fact the plan was conceived amid a time of uncertainty.

NOSM announced details of its new plan -- The NOSM Challenge 2021-2025 -- through an online video conference Tuesday morning.

"Even before the COVID-19 crisis, we were witnessing a worsening in health equity issues; rapid technological change, growing economic interdependence, and frankly, mounting political instability, which continues and conspires to make the future increasingly murky," she said

She added that when the pandemic hit, a lot of medical schools opted for efficiency at the expense of innovation.

Dr. Verma said NOSM was already poised to immediately address the challenge of the pandemic with virtual education.

"At the same time we were already pivoting towards the realistic future of virtual health education and population based research. We were all ready and we still are ahead of the curve," Verma told the online audience Tuesday.

The new plan includes an updated mission statement:

"To improve the health of Northern Ontarians by being socially accountable in our education and research programs and advocating for health equity."

The plan also identified four strategic directions:

1. Transform Health Human Resource Planning.

2. Advance Social Accountability.

3. Innovate Health Professions Education.

4. Strengthen Research Capacity in Northern Ontario.

The first objective will include focusing health human resources (HHR) to Northern Ontario’s needs (Francophone, Indigenous, rural, and urban) with a focus on specialist and subspecialist physician training.

The next objective, to advance social accountability, will focus on measurable, transformative, and sustainable change in health-care systems for Northern Ontario.

Verma said social accountability at NOSM would also mean inclusiveness and respect. She added that NOSM would tackle any racism issues directly. Part of that will include an initiative called Respect the Difference.

The third objective identified the need to innovate health professions education. NOSM will strive to be recognized across Northern Ontario for developing innovative models of education in Northern, Indigenous, Francophone, rural and remote medicine that lead to well-trained health-care practitioners who stay in the communities of the North.

The fourth objective is to strengthen research capacity in Northern Ontario by aligning with health-research partners to improve performance and measurable outcomes in health services, quality health care, health and biomedical research and knowledge translation.

With respect to the cost of the new initiative, Verma said NOSM is not unlike other institutions facing financial restrictions.

She said even with NOSM agreeing to take on extra students this past year, NOSM’s funding has not increased. That said, Verma revealed that requests are being made to higher levels of government for additional financial support.

"We are already hitting the ground running. We are not putting a plan into place that is not realistic," said Verma.

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,