The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) is founded on the principles of social accountability and has as its mission the training of more physicians from remote, rural environments and Aboriginal and Francophone backgrounds.
The need for a focus on youth from Northern Canada stems from the knowledge that young people, especially from Aboriginal backgrounds, Francophone backgrounds, and rural environments, are at higher risk of not completing high school. This is why NOSM is hard at work developing enrichment programs targeting at-risk youth.
Current NOSM Aboriginal and Francophone medical students are eager to play a role in working with youth by serving as role models for high school aged students. Two flagship programs - the Youth Health Career Awareness Program (YHCAP) and the Youth Science and Technology Outreach Program (YSTOP) provide the funding neccesary for a variety of youth initiatives including the NOSM Summer Science Camps. The first Summer Science Camp was held at West Campus at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay in July 2006. In July 2007, another Summer Science Camp included twelve students who participated in the five day event. The numbers included four Francophones, four Aboriginals, and one from the remote community of Lac Seul.
The Summer Science Camps provide students with information on health-care career opportunities and the practical applications of science and technology research. Faculty members play a role in designing the curriculum and then supervising the Aboriginal and Francophone medical students who worked directly with the targeted high school students. The intent was to maximize the time that the Aboriginal and Francophone medical students spent with the high school students from similar backgrounds.
The program’s success provides the basis for future high school enrichment summer activities involving participants from all parts of Northern Ontario.
Additional initiatives include the Northern Ontario Summer Studentship Program (SSP). The SSP provides paid jobs for four to eight weeks in health-care settings across Northern Ontario. The work is varied and may include research, special projects, and “shadowing” health-care professionals. The SSP is intended to enhance the learner’s knowledge of health care in the North.
Consistent participation in festivals, symposia and conferences is an excellent way for NOSM to continue to attract Northern youth to health-care professions.
In keeping with its founding principle of building new possibilities for Aboriginal and Francophone youth in Northern Ontario, NOSM will continue to develop a platform of complementary initiatives in order to expose, inform, and attract students to careers in health care and related fields.