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Is summer over already?

Posted on September 12, 2023
Read the latest from Northern Routes: Is summer over already?

We’re back to class. Whether you are a new MD, dietetic, Master of Medical Studies student or continuing your studies with NOSM University, we welcome you. You are starting on a great adventure of learning and exploring; you are now part of a community that values inclusion and health equity. I hope you have a wonderful journey here at Canada’s first and only independent medical university.

As we head into fall, it is nice to reenter the work world with a renewed sense of energy and purpose.

Summer was swift. Taking advantage of these last few weeks of sun and avoiding the end of summer blues, I asked myself: Did I make it through my summer bucket list? Partly. I did the “Marie Kondo” declutter for my DVDs, CDs, books and kitchen wares. Purging was therapeutic, yet nostalgic. Mindful discarding made me think about many other elements of cleaning out the cobwebs and finding renewed meaningfulness in the joys of work, life and society. Before I get obsessed with pumpkins and fall colours.

Is it possible that decluttering some of our processes to become more effective and efficient might be a way of thinking that might be applied to health care and education… and possibly, to research? Possibly to “spark joy?” When did health care spark joy in you? Lately, there has been so much depressive news that I have to watch that the joy doesn’t slip through my fingers.

These ideas might help the with mindful decluttering in health care.

new survey of more than 1,300 family doctors, conducted on behalf of the Ontario College of Family Physicians, outlines the overwhelming administrative burden family doctors are experiencing:

  • Family doctors report spending 19 hours a week on admin—most of which is unpaid and unnecessary.
  • 94 per cent said they are overwhelmed with administrative/clerical tasks.
  • A full day of seeing patients results in up to five hours spent on admin work.
  • Family doctors need and want more time for direct patient care, but right now about 40 per cent of their time is spent on admin.[1]

In many cases, this administrative work takes place after hours—extending the workday and negatively affecting work-life balance. According to the CMA’s latest National Physician Health Survey, nearly 60% of physicians have said these are issues that directly contribute to worsening mental health.[2]

Seventy-five percent of doctors have said their administrative workload is also a huge impediment to caring for patients, getting in the way of important relationships and their satisfaction in work.[3]

How can we reduce administrative work? 

  • Train medical administrative assistants. This is an emerging career that NOSM University will be exploring.
  • Explore digital technologies. They can enable scheduling, follow up and integration of patient care. Use the technology to free people from too many visits to the doctor for routine follow up that a machine can manage. For example, diabetes care can be fully managed by sensors.[4]
  • Use AI to manage care in the home. Deep learning algorithms are now available to manage your own data and your own health. Check out The health sector is amongst the slowest to embrace innovation. Technology in phones, streaming, and home delivery have rapidly evolved with societal needs yet health-care systems still plod along.
  • Innovate with AI to fundamentally change the patient-doctor relationship. AI can provide algorithms for diagnosis and treatment and there are now machines capable of showing empathy and compassion. Believe or not, a recent study in JAMA showed a chatbot generated better empathic responses to patient questions than the physicians.[5]
  • Reduce the interminable waiting. Between travel or prescriptions at the pharmacy, to dates for specialists and appointments for tests that are poorly coordinated, we wait for everything. Wait times are the most significant factor that affect patient satisfaction. Patient Portals provide open access to personal health information and appointment bookings, but they are not available everywhere. I recently made an appointment to see my family doctor via an online portal. Easy peasy. But, I still receive phone calls and snail mail to book tests or specialist appointments. Surely, we have the technology to facilitate efficiencies.
  • Get rid of doctor’s sick notes. André Picard said it best: “When people are sick, especially with infectious respiratory diseases, the last thing you want them doing is sitting in a doctor’s office exposing others to their germs, not to mention that it’s often a waste of doctors’ time…”[6]


Chat bots are rocking the entire education world.

I asked ChatGPT to write 100 words on the use of artificial intelligence in health care.

Here is what it gave me in less than one minute:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing health care by enhancing diagnostics, treatment, and patient outcomes. AI analyzes vast medical data swiftly, aiding in early disease detection through pattern recognition. Machine learning refines predictive models, improving personalized medicine and drug development. Natural language processing streamlines documentation and communication. Surgical robots enable precise procedures, minimizing invasiveness. AI-driven wearable devices monitor vital signs continuously, enabling proactive interventions. Despite challenges in data privacy and algorithm transparency, AI’s integration fosters efficiency and accuracy in healthcare, ultimately saving lives and reducing costs while propelling medical research into a new era of innovation and improved patient care.

Amazingly, ChatGPT may already be obsolete; overtaken by Google Bard—an AI that uses emotional intelligence. Although not yet available in Canada, one can eventually use Google Bard to ask any question and get a written answer. An incredible research tool, Google Bard can write poetry that has empathy and compassion and source images to accompany any topic.

The end of summer 2023, is exploding with opportunity and possibility—for those starting new degrees at NOSM University, to those entering their final years of study. As summer concludes, less daylight marks the season’s end—and hopefully embrace new beginnings for all of us.

I am excited as I look to the future—learners, faculty, staff, alumni, and donors are making a meaningful impact. At the core of NOSM University is a conviction that everyone, regardless of circumstance or geography, deserves the dignity of fair access to health-care practitioners who are culturally competent, understand the realities of living in the rural and remote North, and lead with compassion and integrity. We know that effective and fair health promotion comes down to access, equity, community engagement, and human rights.

Miigwetch, thank you, marsi, merci,

Dr. Sarita Verma
President, Vice Chancellor, Dean and CEO
NOSM University

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

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[1] “Urgent Need to Cut Red Tape and Admin Burden to Support Ontario’s Family Doctors and Patients.” Ontario College of Family Physicians,hours%20spent%20on%20admin%20work. Accessed September 1, 2023.
[2] “A profession under pressure: results from the CMA’s 2021 National Physician Health Survey.” Canadian Medical Association Accessed September 1, 2023.
[3] “Administrative burden.” Canadian Medical Association Accessed September 1, 2023.
[4] “Controlling Diabetes with a Skin Patch” MIT Technology Review, Accessed September 1, 2023.
[5] John W. Ayers, P. (2023, June 1). Comparing physician and chatbot responses to patient questions. JAMA Internal Medicine. Accessed September 1, 2023.

NOSM University receives transformational $10 million gift from Temerty Foundation

The Temerty Foundation, established by James and Louise Temerty, has made a $10 million gift to support NOSM University medical students and to advance and grow social accountability and health equity initiatives. In recognition of this transformational gift, NOSM University’s Centre for Social Accountability will be named the Dr. Gilles Arcand Centre for Health Equity.

Read more.


2023 MD Admissions Statistics

The statistics for the entering 2023 MD class are as follows:

  • Total admitted = 79 (1 MMTP stream student)
  • 24 – Average Age
  • 3.77 – Average GPA
  • 21 or 27% – self-identified Francophone admitted applicants (26% in 2022)
  • Of the 21 Francophone admitted applicants, 16 applied through the Francophone Admission Stream.
  • 13 or 16% – self-identified Indigenous admitted applicants (16% in 2022)
  • Of the 13 Indigenous admitted applicants, 11 applied through the Indigenous Admission Stream.

The rurality statistics do not include MMTP as the context was not taken into consideration. Therefore, these statistics reflect the 78 seats.

  • 37 or 48% – Urban Northern Ontario (47% in 2022)
  • 33 or 42% – Northern Ontario Rural (44% in 2022)
  • 5 or 6% – Rural Southern Ontario or Rural Rest of Canada (8% in 2022)
  • 3 or 4% – Urban Southern Ontario or Rest of Canada (Indigenous applicants) (1% in 2022)

Job Posting

Vice President, Clinical Partnerships and Hospital Relations

Based in Thunder Bay and representing NOSM University in the Northwest, the Vice President, Clinical Partnerships and Hospital Relations will act for the President in the Northwest and be supported by a new unit.

Review of applications will begin on October 16, 2023. Learn more.