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New residency stream trains doctors in Eabametoong First Nation

Posted on August 8, 2018
Remote First Nations Residency Stream

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine , Matawa First Nations Management and Eabametoong First Nation signed an agreement in 2016 to create a new Remote First Nations Family Medicine Residency stream.

The new stream allows medical school graduates to complete their Family Medicine residency in a remote First Nation community in Northern Ontario. It also includes a return of service commitment to serve in Eabametoong or another Matawa community for four years following the completion of the residency. The residency stream began as a pilot in December 2016 with the selection of the first resident, Dr. Deepak Murthy who began in July 2017. Two more residents are starting this July.

The application process for prospective residents is one hallmark of community direction to this new stream. Candidates participate in two rounds of interviews: the first with a selection panel that includes family medicine faculty and a resident representative from NOSM, as well as members of the First Nation community, to ensure the candidates meet the benchmark requirements for a family medicine resident in Canada; and a second with a selection panel that is made up almost entirely of Eabametoong community members.

Dr. Claudette Chase, Site Director for the Remote First Nation Family Medicine Residency stream, is present during the second interview, but does not have a say in the final decision about which resident will be accepted into the stream.

“Our goal for this residency stream is to produce culturally competent residents who can deliver culturally safe care in a First Nations community,” says Dr. Chase. “The partnership is not in name only. Power is actually being shared, and that is different from most other things I’ve ever been involved in.”

Molly Boyce, Family Medicine Community Residency Liaison Coordinator in Eabametoong First Nation, says she is excited about the community’s involvement in both the selection process and the curriculum design.

“With this new program, we make that choice on who we’re going to allow to come into the community and who’s allowed to assist us in our health care,” she says. “Our traditional medicines and way of life were put down for so many years, and it’s so exciting that there is recognition that there is a need for our traditional medicine, and the choice that this presents for us now as Native people.”

Murthy came to Canada approximately five years ago. He says he has worked in rural and remote areas in India, and was drawn to the idea of working in a similar environment in Canada.

“It’s a totally different culture, and I’ve enjoyed my time in Eabametoong so far,” he says. “I believe with acceptance from the community earned through my training program and offering culturally safe care, I will quite like living and practising there.”

Medical graduates accepted into the Remote First Nations Family Medicine Residency stream undergo additional training in order to meet the needs of the communities, says Dr. Chase. Dr. Murthy has done obstetrics training, as well as a plastic surgery repairs rotation, and will spend extra time on urgent care skills in order to be prepared to practice independently in geographic isolation. Additional curriculum on cultural safety and trauma informed care is also provided.

During their week-long visits, the residents will also have a half day devoted to community engagement and cultural teachings. As the Community Residency Liaison Coordinator, Boyce is responsible for organizing this part of the program, including arranging meetings with Elders and taking the residents out on the land.

“The program provides a unique opportunity to train physicians in a non-institutional setting where collaborative medicine is a necessity with a limited team of allied health professionals and where mental health, addiction, culture, community and history all intersect,” says Paul Capon, a Policy Analyst with Matawa First Nations Management. “We look forward to its development and expansion.”

Boyce says she hopes the residents who enter the program can manage the challenges of living and working in the community.

“Some people in the community are excited about the program, but some are really not sure yet,” she says. “We open our hearts and we open our minds, and we allow people to come here, so we hope that the residents feel that, and embrace their training and life here.”

Read more stories like this in the latest issue of Northern Passages.