Twelve years after the first class began at The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, many remote communities have ‘gone from crisis mode to planning mode’ thanks to graduates, the majority of which opt to practise in rural areas
When the Northern Ontario School of Medicine was created, it was based on a simple – but untested – premise: If you educate and train physicians in rural and remote northern communities, they will be more likely to practise there.
Twelve years later, the gamble is paying off better than anyone expected: 94 per cent of NOSM graduates who do a family medicine residency in the North stay there to practise, and 69 per cent of all graduates, specialists and GPs alike, have opted to work in remote and rural areas, particularly Northern Ontario.
“Has it worked?” Dr. Roger Strasser, the dean of NOSM asks. “Yes it has. Many northern communities have gone from crisis mode to planning mode thanks to our graduates. But we’re still a long way from having the medical care we need in Northern Ontario.”
One of the success stories is Chapleau, located 850 kilometres north of Toronto. The blue-collar town went years without a physician before three NOSM graduates decided to set up shop for the 3,000 people in a catchment area that includes the township and the nearby reserves.
The trio established a family health team that operates a family medicine clinic, and they staff the ER in the small local hospital, oversee home care and long-term care, and run clinics in the two nearby First Nations communities, Brunswick House and Chapleau Cree First Nation.