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It’s official! NOSM University is Canada’s first independent medical university

Posted on March 8, 2022

With the final dash of a pen at Queen’s Park in Toronto, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) has become the first independent medical university in Canada: NOSM University.

This is a profound and historic moment for the NOSM community. I will take this opportunity to reiterate our gratitude to Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities and the Ford government for this incredible commitment to health education in the North and our renewed focus on health equity across our vast region.

NOSM has blazed trails since its establishment in 2002. The unique, distributed, community-engaged learning model has grown into something extraordinary. This model requires strong ties with remote, rural, Indigenous and Francophone communities. NOSM University will continue its partnerships with more than 500 organizations, in 90+ communities, and more than 1,800 faculty across all of Northern Ontario.

NOSM University is our new, purpose-built path.

And now, with the green light, we can leap forward with our plans: renew curricula, establish new programming, expand on our strategic directions, and more, all with the autonomy to achieve what we desire. We can go in the direction that makes the most sense for the betterment of health equity in Northern Ontario.

Collectively, so many people have been involved with NOSM along the way. I want to thank you all. We are truly a village of movers and shakers! Those who came before us with this incredible vision created the successful foundation of NOSM some 20 years ago. Thank you to everyone who has helped build upon the legacy of that vision, which has led to today and to this incredible moment.

The recent announcement is invigorating for all of us. Personally, it’s a renewed source of energy and a sense of endless possibility. Leading with self, moving away from fear, and focusing on what can be done in the present is what really matters in times like these.

Reports from Ukraine over the past weeks are disturbing. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine has captured the hearts of the world as he exudes his own unique form of leadership—his leadership style has been called the real deal and he has been called a hero for the ages.

As I said in my statement on Ukraine last week, I am deeply concerned about those who are personally affected. Ukrainians have a deeply rooted history in Northern Ontario and we stand in support of everyone who may be struggling. There are supports available to the NOSM community.

It’s time to “draw a line in the sand.” I’m borrowing that line from Dr. Homer Tien, trauma surgeon and Ornge President and CEO, a keynote speaker at Northern Lights, NOSM’s annual leadership gathering. He was referring to respecting Indigenous guiding principles—the fundamental principles that must be respected when you’re an outsider in someone else’s community. Respecting the priorities and values of a community is paramount. It is not a grey area, nor up for debate. That “line in the sand” must not be crossed, even under the most challenging circumstances.

This has been our approach to NOSM University and our ongoing approach to addressing the health-care needs of the North through our strategic plan, The NOSM Challenge. Our core mission remains: To improve the health of Northern Ontarians by being socially accountable in our education and research programs and advocating for health equity. And we’re coming at it from our own unique perspectives.

Northern Lights speaker Dr. Nel Wieman Canada’s first female Indigenous psychiatrist spoke about ‘two-eyed seeing.’ That is a term coined by Mi’kmaw Elder Albert Marshall in 2004 that speaks to those who walk in two worlds, and the advantage that comes from having two parallel, equally valuable perspectives or lived experiences that are gained from the teachings of both worlds. There is great beauty in diverse perspectives—it drives innovation.

At Northern Lights, health leadership coach Amanda Bjorn shared advice and encouragement for keeping our heads held high in the face of challenges. “You only have influence over yourself and how YOU want to be in this world… your personal climate can either draw people in or push them away. Be aware of your climate, shift to the coaching approach of collaborative, caring compassionate leadership,” says Amanda. Strong leaders are skilled at listening with determined, full attentiveness.

I was inspired by the ‘Aspire Mindset’ of Dr. Zaki Ahmed. He shared that leadership is about action, not just your job title. Successful leaders are appreciative, strength-based, possibility-orientated, open and curious, non-judgmental, responsive and generous. Leaders—regardless of their role—shine through in their values and compassionate service. Every individual can be inspired to lead and reflect NOSM’s values.

Without a doubt, these are highly tense times in the world. What are your contributions? Are you fueling the fire or amplifying the tension? Are you asking deeper questions? Offering calm pathways forward? We all have a role in combating stress, anxiety, and burnout so we emerge with our team’s personal health—AND our own—intact.

Today is International Women’s Day—a day to celebrate achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality. NOSM is so very fortunate to have a rich group of women trailblazers in all areas of the school—from new learners to women in leadership and mentorship roles—collectively championing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Let’s continue our important work. Keep an eye out for more announcements and celebrations as NOSM University gains momentum.

Miigwetch, thank you, marsi, merci,

Dr. Sarita Verma
Dean, President and CEO
Northern Ontario School of Medicine

If you have any feedback or comments, please reach out at and follow me on Twitter @ddsv3.

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Northern Lights – A big success

Thank you to Dr. James Goertzen and his incredible CEPD team for coordinating this year’s exceptional lineup of leaders. More than 66 people participated virtually each day. A special thank you to all of the speakers who inspired a greater awareness of oneself as a leader in a time when we need leaders the most. Leadership matters, now more than ever, at NOSM University. Join us as we chart a new course.

Northern Health Research Conference

The call for abstracts is now open for the 17th annual Northern Health Research Conference (NHRC) to be held on Friday, June 24, 2022. Deadline for abstract submission is Friday, March 18, 2022.