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The end of Summer: Teaming up for fall

Posted on September 1, 2020

Hello. Bonjour. Aaniin. Boozhoo.

As summer comes to an end and the leaves begin to change, we’re gearing up for yet another academic year. Of course many of us have been working throughout the summer and in fact our post graduate programs have been well into their academic year.  I hope everyone was still able to revel in the smells of sunscreen, bonfires, the lake and camp, fresh fish, and forest air. I have to say that I have never seen such bright sunsets, heard such bounding thunder, nor experienced such brilliant rainbows as I did in Northern Ontario.

To me, the mixed weather is a perfect metaphor for my first two months and mixed expectations of what’s to come with a jam-packed academic year ahead for NOSM. I’m wishing all of you a Happy Labour Day weekend – the last real weekend of summer.

Most physicians do not take too much time off. The majority seem to sprinkle their holidays between the summer and winter, depending upon their tastes. I know quite a few were involved in a new initiative to become one of the Ontario Health Teams, announced by the Ministry of Health a few months ago. Apparently, Ontario Health Teams are being introduced to provide a new way of organizing and delivering health care that will be more connected to patients in their local communities.

Under these teams, it’s expected that all the health-care professionals in hospitals, community settings, clinics, and in long-term care will work together as one coordinated team. Several organizations have come together in the North to apply to become Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) and a small list of teams were invited to provide the full application. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine is involved in many of these applications because our faculty and our sites are part of the regions where health care will be delivered by these teams.

The academic mission, especially that of training physicians, will be an integral part of what happens in these teams. Some teams who are being considered for the full application include: Équipe Santé Sudbury and Districts OHT, Algoma OHT, Near North Health and Wellness OHT, All Nations Health Partners OHT in Kenora, and the Muskoka and Area OHT. A full list is accessible here on the Ontario Health website.  The Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres has also been named as one of the innovative models that will be invited to full application. I am hopeful that many, if not all, will succeed.

This is a very exciting time for Ontario and especially for the North if we, together as a unified group, are able to accomplish all the expectations of an Ontario Health Team. NOSM stands ready through its advocacy strategy and its social accountability mandate to support any or all Ontario Health Teams in our geographic area, and to assist in studying whether this will be an initiative that will improve health care in Northern Ontario.

It’s expected that some of the improvements and integrated health care will fundamentally change how patients will experience the system. If teams are successful with the expectations that have been laid out, there will be much more opportunity to have virtual care and easy access to primary care; plus, navigating the system will be made much more flexible to allow for an open transition between health care providers.

For instance, did you know that the new apps can now read your blood pressure by taking a selfie? Or take an ECG on demand using your smart watch? As we speak, personal health data will be as easy to access as the fitness information on a FitBit.
I have often wondered why the health system is the slowest to evolve. Maybe new OHTs will be the answer?

I’m interested in how you’re going to experience these Ontario Health Teams and what you think about them. Certainly, in my opinion, they will require a significant amount of technology to share information and to provide the kind of advances in health care accessibility that I see coming down the pipeline. Also, I’ll be interested to see whether the funding models will create efficiencies. NOSM will be happy to work with our partners to study their impact and the outcomes for the people of the North.
I’m curious about your opinion. Let me know what you think.

Speaking of team work, I want to send a shout-out to the collaboration of our MD students led by Ben Lafleur (fourth year MD student), and by Dr Lee Toner, Phase 3 (Clerkship) Director and faculty member, that resulted in a 98% response rate by 2019 NOSM graduates to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada’s annual Graduation Questionnaire (GQ).

As NOSM’s Senior Director Undergraduate Medical Education, John Friesen says, “Ben brought his positive and collaborative nature to the entire UME student body for the Independent Student’s Assessment which set the stage nicely for the Year 4 students to participate in the 2019 GQ report that we knew would be critical to our UME accreditation visit in April 2020.”

The GQ results are really remarkable and reflect the teamwork of the students, teaching faculty and UME leadership. Your commitment achieved the highest standards of excellence in our MD program. The GQ data released last week by the AFMC shows a major, positive shift in that direction.

By all accounts, the students reported improvements in all areas, especially in accessibility to leadership, in wellness, and with the curriculum. We noted an ongoing issue with career advising and elective choices, to which NOSM is addressing by undertaking several new initiatives. The GQ is a very good measure of the pulse of the medical student experience, and I am delighted to see that, at this time, that experience is good. Thank you to Interim Associate Dean Brian Ross, Senior Director John Friesen, our students and the entire UME team for a job well done! As everyone already knows, we are gearing up for our Accreditation visit next year and this means we are in a good position to do well.

Students, please note: The Dean’s office will be hosting a pub night meet and greet on September 30 at Spacecraft Brewery in Sudbury from 5-7 p.m. Another will be held in Thunder Bay at the Sovereign Room on October 18 from 5-7 p.m. Keep your eye out for a formal invitation.

As usual, you are invited to follow my journey on Twitter @ddsv3 using #WhereisDrVerma. If you have feedback or ideas about how I can better communicate with you, please let me know by emailing me at or by taking a quick survey here at any time.

Also, please help us spread the word about this exciting opportunity: 
The Northern Ontario School of Medicine seeking an Associate Dean, Undergraduate Medical Education to oversee and provide strategic direction for the (UME) program. To learn more information about this exciting role click on this link: Associate Dean – Undergraduate Medical Education