Innovate Health Professions Education 

Patients model for training doctors in educational center

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. 

Innovation drives the education of NOSM University’s next generation of physicians, registered dietitians, physician assistants, medical physicists, other health professionals and scientists. 

This strategic direction is interwoven with NOSM University’s mandate to advance social accountability. Dr. Lee Toner, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education, notes that NOSM University is recognized as a leader in developing an innovative education model that is imbued with instruction on equity, anti-racism, diversity and social accountability, all of which has been highlighted in a recent accreditation report. Dr. Toner also notes that a big piece of this education is the effort to which the University goes to expose learners to a variety of health-care settings, including rural and remote settings. 

One innovative way that NOSM University is sorting for students who are most likely to understand and adopt these principles is requiring Active Offer certification upon admission to the University. Active Offer is the overt offer of health services in French as required by Ontario’s French Language Services Act. These and other efforts are absolutely essential to training health-care practitioners who stay to practise in the North, as they must have a clear and compassionate understanding of the realities of living in the region. 

This year, the Government of Ontario announced that NOSM University will see an added 30 MD and 41 residency spots over the next five years. Dr. Toner says that aside from the major boost to health human resource planning for Northern Ontario, this expansion is an excellent opportunity to look even deeper at how NOSM University delivers health education, to make sure that we are not only in line with current best practices, but to make sure that true innovation is our driving force. He also says that with this expansion, there is an opportunity for NOSM University to move to a more layered learning model in which UME students are integrated with PGME students; effectively, this innovative team-based style of teaching would see medical residents teaching and mentoring less experienced learners. 

Dr. Robert Anderson is Associate Dean, Postgraduate Medical Education and Health Sciences with NOSM University. He says he views innovation as a piece of the institutional resiliency puzzle, and echoes Dr. Toner in reflecting on the unique skill set necessary to be an effective health-care provider in Northern Ontario. Dr. Anderson says the NOSM University’s curriculum must not simply be leading edge in a content or technology sense: it must be customized for Northern Ontario, and adapted to parameters including geography and available resources. He posits questions including how to train people with certain medical skills in places where doctors aren’t available, and discusses the idea of enhanced skill training for Physician Assistants. 

With the aforementioned expansion of NOSM University, Dr. Anderson says there can be transformative change to the curriculum, starting this year. For example, NOSM University has just launched two new enhanced skills medical residency programs in Addiction Medicine and Sport and Exercise Medicine. Resident doctors who have completed a two-year family medicine program can now apply to a third year of family medicine training in the Addiction Medicine and Sport and Exercise Medicine programs. Available to resident doctors from across Canada, the programs will help improve equitable access to health care for Northerners. 

Innovation drives NOSM University’s next generation of physicians, registered dietitians, physician assistants, medical physicists, other health professionals and scientists. 

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