Northern Ontario’s premiere medical university has emerged as a beacon of success amidst the province’s ongoing doctor shortage, earning the spotlight in the Ontario Medical Association’s (OMA) new campaign. NOSM, the nation’s stand-alone university and a remarkable exception in Canada, is being celebrated for nurturing medical competitiveness and excellence across the region.
The campaign, encapsulating a series of seven episodes, was launched by OMA to shine a light on notable physician success stories throughout the province. NOSM’s commendable efforts to combat the persisting inadequacy of doctors in northern Ontario garnered the institute the prestigious privilege of being featured first.
At the helm of the institute is Dr. Sarita Verma, a visionary and the university president who is immensely proud of the strides the school has made over the years. “In a little less than two decades, NOSM’s influence has reached far and wide,” she shared. “An estimated 400,000 individuals owe their healthcare to a NOSM graduate. Interestingly, most of these graduates continue to serve in northern Ontario post-residency.”
Verma reiterated that the institution’s repute for inclusivity is undeterred. Paving the way for diversity, 17 percent of the graduates from NOSM identify as Indigenous, while 25 percent identify as Franco-Ontarians. “Our diversity is our strength; there’s no success story like ours across the nation”, she added.
Despite the acclaim, Verma acknowledges more work remains to be done. She estimated a daunting shortfall of approximately 360 doctors in northern Ontario, emphasizing that this included specialists along with family physicians. She shared further that the waiting times to see specialists, including psychiatrists, could sometimes be as long as two years – a testament to the palpable severity of the doctor crisis.
“It’s an urgent matter of concern not just locally, but nation-wide,” remarked Verma. With an estimated eight million Canadians lacking access to a family physician, the OMA president Dr. Andrew Park echoed Verma’s concerns, noting the detrimental impact on preventative care and chronic diseases management.
Yet, Park assured that physicians are eager to be part of the solution to these complex issues. Meanwhile, Verma spoke about the unique challenges northern Ontario faces due to the doctor shortage, and the consequent impact on emergency care and clinics visitation.
In addition to managing the crisis, NOSM is presently negotiating with the university’s faculty and staff’s representative union, striving to resolve differences as both parties work towards prioritizing student welfare. With negotiations underway, the resolution is expected within the subsequent months. Despite the challenges and the urgency of the ongoing crisis, Northern Ontario’s medical university continues to lead with determination, showcasing the power of perseverance in the face of adversity.