A year of transformation

Dr. Sarita Verma

The Spring 2021 report focussed on Community. With the pandemic pushing boundaries and transforming medical education, Transformation is the theme of this Fall 2021 report.

By definition, to transform is to dramatically change in form and to move from one given state to another. This year, through incredible innovative efforts, a massive transformation has happened at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). This has been demonstrated by our collective ability to make decisions, lead with empathy, fight racism and achieve reconciliation while navigating through several crises.

I want to express my gratitude and admiration for the strong, resilient team of faculty, staff and learners at NOSM and our amazing Board of Directors. Also, let me thank you, the people of Northern Ontario. You formed the anchor that allowed our medical school to transcend at a pivotal moment in time. Change is not easy and yet, at every opportunity you stood up, rose to the challenge and remained focussed on our mandate to improve access to quality health care for Northern Ontarians.

Whether you were part of the Emergency Response Team, an Operation Remote Immunity volunteer, faculty who engineered new curriculum, an essential worker on the frontline or doing your part from home to keep our important work continuing, thank you. Miigwetch. Merci. Marsi. NOSM has led innovation in transforming the way we teach, learn and deliver health care.

Our learners are exceptional. Through many volunteer initiatives they found ways to improve our society. They challenge themselves to improve lives, find solutions to longstanding issues, and address and advocate for inequities. 

Thank you to our stakeholders, including communities, health-care centres and hospitals, who truly make this a real team effort. We can all be proud of the many accomplishments and improvements we have implemented over the last year which benefit our learners, learning environment, faculty and our programs.

We do not need to wait until the pandemic crisis is over to celebrate the wins made through adaptable transformation. Indeed, calm decisiveness and dignity through the pandemic and our journey to becoming the first free-standing medical university in Canada can be seen across all NOSM stakeholders. Change has happened while we have transformed ourselves.

Although these changes have been swift, other transformations are taking place to address continuous improvements in our curriculum, in securing financial aid for our learners and in supporting personal wellness for our people. 

NOSM is creating a climate where the NOSM community can expect the highest standards of respect, kindness and professional collegiality and civility. The Respect the DifferenceTM movement developed by the School continues to bring awareness to a culture of kindness and respect in the learning and work environment. NOSM partners, health-care centres, hospitals, patients, and medical schools across the country have also taken notice of NOSM’s pronoun pin project created by two NOSM students to increase the understanding and recognition of gender identities and assist in delivering inclusive, patient-centered health care. 

The preparation for the transition to NOSM University is underway. We are awaiting Proclamation in Force for this Act, which is reliant on the Minister of Colleges and Universities and several legal and political processes. In the meantime, the partnerships with Laurentian University and Lakehead University are highly valued. A fulsome consultation and engagement process which includes a public survey, meetings, focus groups, interviews and town halls is already underway. You can complete the survey and contribute your input at bit.ly/NOSMUSurvey.

As you read through this report, I invite you to learn how the pandemic helped NOSM transform through the outstanding leadership of many across Northern Ontario. In many ways, there is no looking back. Find out why NOSM has the most diverse incoming MD class in its history. Discover how the School’s Summer Studentship Program made the crucial difference in Hearst. Be amazed by the reinvention of CampMed. Read about how NOSM is moving social accountability forward on a global scale. 

James MacGregor Burns first identified the idea of ‘transformative leadership’ in his book in 1978 (Leadership, NY, Harper and Row) and this has become the defining characteristic of successful leaders especially women in international politics including Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern and Kamala Harris. Such leaders help organisations evolve in unique ways by altering the status quo and leveraging strengths to propel them forward—way ahead of their peers. NOSM is doing just that. The transformation to NOSM University, during a pandemic and under a partner’s insolvency, has become an inspiration.

I hope you enjoy this edition of the Dean’s Report, which highlights achievements in our transformation, provides updates on my performance goals and addresses the progress of the NOSM Strategic Plan. 

Dr. Sarita Verma,
Dean, President, CEO
Northern Ontario School of Medicine