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Making a List

Posted on December 18, 2023
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Phew: what a year!

The latest President’s Report is all about momentum, of which we certainly had plenty this year. In some traditions around the holidays, people keep a running list of “naughty and nice.” In reflecting on the year that was, I have made a list of all the excellent things we achieved together in 2023.

Importantly, we stayed the course and held to our values of innovation, respect, inclusiveness, social accountability and collaboration. I believe one of the biggest success factors in any organisation is working as a real, galvanized team. It is an energetic and amazing team at NOSM University, from learners to staff, faculty, leaders, our Board of Governors and indeed the many communities upon whom we rely for so much support. Thank you all for your contributions and hard work.

On the subject of collaboration, I extend my congratulations to Dr. Lynn Wells, the very accomplished incoming President and Vice-Chancellor of Laurentian University. I remain optimistic about the future of our ongoing partnership with Laurentian University.

As many of you have learned by now, I have decided to retire, and have declined the invitation from our Board of Governors to renew for five more years. It was a tough decision, and not one I took lightly. Much consideration and reflection went into it, and I have had an incredible journey serving at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and NOSM University. This is a vibrant and exceptional place of innovation, collaboration and excellence. My term ends in June 2024, but I have agreed to stay on until my successor is appointed.

I hope that this holiday season you find some respite and rest and maybe a few giggles in a holiday-themed flick that fills you will some warmth (think mulled wine or hot chocolate) for your soul.

Favorite movie together at home and self-isolation during lockdown. Smiling young african american lady with popcorn, guy with remote control, covered with blanket watch film in interior with garlands

In that spirit, let me continue with a tradition I started in 2019: my list of top-ten movie picks (some repeats) for this holiday season:

  1. It’s a Wonderful Life. (Frank Capra, 1946.) Starring Jimmy Stewart, this canonical film was nominated for six academy awards. It is a story about being the best version of yourself, being the one who looks out for others and gives up the pursuit of possessions for a higher cause. It asks the question: what would life be like if you were never born? I put to you: what would Northern Ontario be like without NOSM University?
  2. Die Hard. (John McTiernan, 1988.) Starring Bruce Willis, the debate about whether this is actually a holiday movie rages on in my family. However, I have to say it is a well-paced classic with both a charismatic protagonist and antagonist, and a lot of fast-paced action (much like the last four-and-a-half years!)
  3. The Preacher’s Wife. (Penny Marshall, 1996.) Starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, this is a light, heartwarming comedy set against a dark undercurrent of marital insecurity, failure of leadership and testing one’s faith. The pandemic definitely tested our faith, but we survived!
  4. The Grinch. (Scott Mosier and Yarrow Cheney, 2018.) This version of Dr. Seuss’ Grinch story stars Benedict Cumberbatch (although I am fond of the Boris Karloff version, too.) It is a true holiday classic with political undertones. The assault on cynicism is dearly needed in today’s post-pandemic world. We all need a Whoville singalong this season.
  5. Home Alone. (Chris Columbus, 1990.) Starring Macaulay Culkin, this film’s scary-yet-funny premise of an 8-year-old home alone gets me every time with its slapstick humour (I love the throwbacks to the Three Stooges) and bad parenting advice. I watch it and am reminded of my own perils, trying to get across Northern Ontario on tour, and facing the realities of rural and remote travel: road closures, flight cancelations and frequent delays.
  6. Smoke Signals. (Chris Eyre, 1998.) Starring the now MD Evan Adams, this is an awesome film about Indigenous identity. It skewers every cliché that Hollywood invented about Indigenous people, and portrays shared pride and pain with deep emotion, grace and irreverence. It is storytelling that—as both a skill and a cultural legacy—I have observed in Northern Ontario at its best.
  7. 8 Femmes (8 Women). (Francois Ozon, 2002.) This is a funny and quirky murder-mystery comedy about eight women, gathered for the holiday season, trying to figure out who has murdered the only man in the house. It is in French and is testament to my ongoing efforts to be more fluent. There are a lot of dramatic moments in this movie, so it was helpful when learning some short, expressive phrases that I have used this year at NOSM University, like: Ça suffit ! — That’s enough! Qu’est-ce qui se passe? — What’s going on? C’est pas vrai ! — It’s not true! C’est grave? — Is it serious?
  8. Scrooge: A Christmas Carol. (Stephen Donnelly, 2022.). Featuring a cast of stars like Luke Evans, Olivia Colman and Johnathan Pryce, this version is an animated musical comedy. It is a timeless story about miserliness, and the true cost of greed. Very fortunately at NOSM University, we have experienced the very opposite this year. The generosity of our visionary donors was truly breathtaking. Merci, thank you, and miigwetch to our incredible benefactors, especially the FDC Foundation and the Temerty Foundation, and of course all the donors who make our work so meaningful.
  9. Gremlins. (Joe Dante, 1984.) A large cast with Howie Mandel as the chief Gremlin voice, this 1980s-style sci-fi/horror fantasy fits the bill for holiday film that brings artificial intelligence and technology to the fore. (I read into it a bit of foreshadowing about health care reform.)
  10. Serendipity. (Peter Chelsom, 2001.) With John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale, this is the story of star-crossed lovers who fall for one another but are separated, each knowing intuitively that the other is “the one.” It is a silly romantic film about destiny, sweet and goofy, but worth a watch on a cold winter’s evening. For me, it was serendipity that led me to the North, and my destiny to find such fulfilment here.

Have a happy holiday. Get some rest. I believe 2024 will be another incredible year. I extend my thanks to everyone here at NOSM University and beyond, and I look forward to the New Year ahead.

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 and follow me on X (formerly Twitter) @ddsv3.

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Search for new President

NOSM University Begins Search for New President to Lead into the Future

Change is on the horizon for NOSM University as Dr. Sarita Verma, a distinguished leader serving as President, Vice-Chancellor, Dean, and CEO, announces her retirement. Dr. Verma will conclude her impactful term on June 30, 2024. In preparation for this transition, a presidential search committee has been assembled, entrusted with the responsibility of identifying and evaluating potential candidates.

The presidential search committee operates under a set of guiding principles, which can be explored on the university’s dedicated presidential search webpage. These principles form the foundation for the detailed screening and selection process that will ultimately determine the next president of NOSM University.

The committee’s mandate goes beyond merely filling a position; it involves identifying an individual whose vision, values, and leadership align seamlessly with the ethos and aspirations of NOSM University. The chosen leader will be instrumental in shaping the institution’s trajectory, fostering academic excellence, nurturing innovation, and furthering its commitment to excellence in education and research.

As NOSM University embarks on this pivotal search for its next president, stakeholders, including faculty, learners, staff, and the broader community, are encouraged to engage actively in the process. The university values diverse perspectives and input, recognizing that this collective participation enriches the search for a leader who will inspire, innovate, and drive positive change.

As the search committee diligently works towards identifying the ideal successor, the institution remains committed to its core values and unwavering dedication to excellence in education and research.

Stay tuned for updates and announcements regarding the search for the new president of NOSM University.

For more information and updates on the presidential search process, please contact the University Secretary at

Family Medicine Forum

NOSM University was well represented at the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s (CFPC) Family Medicine Forum (FMF) in Montréal last month. We extend our appreciation to everyone who contributed to the valuable conversations about the future of family medicine in Canada. The NOSM University Family Medicine (FM) leadership team met with the CFPC’s leadership to discuss the Outcomes of Training project and the path forward given the decision of the CFPC to pause the planned third year of family medicine training. That same day, a reception celebrating NOSM University Family Medicine—generously sponsored by MD Financial Management Inc.—was attended by more than 70 faculty, learners and staff. Thank you MD Financial!

Attendees at the 2023 Family Medicine Forum enjoy appetizers.Crowd gathered at the 2023 Family Medicine Forum reception.

Family Medicine Mini Summit

A meeting of several family medicine leaders and Local Education Group (LEG) leads was held on November 4-5, 2023, to explore the feasibility of a departmental structure for family medicine at NOSM University. This summit was a response to the review of the Northern Ontario Academic Medicine Association (NOAMA) by Dr. Bob Bell, who identified that the current lack of structure for family medicine was a barrier to expansion of new models and our success. Two consultants, Dr. Ruth Wilson and Ms. Mary Kay Whittaker, shared their insights after detailed work looking both at family medicine at NOSM University and family medicine departments across the country. Dr. Danielle Martin (Chair, Department of Family & Community Medicine at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine) and Dr. Preston Smith (Dean of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine) also shared their experiences. Collaboratively led by Dr. Sarah Newbery with several NOSM University family medicine leaders, the discussions were constructive, and the consensus was that further exploration was warranted. Further work will be led by Dr. Newbery, Dr. Anjali Oberai, and Dr. Ed Hirvi (Section Co-Chairs). Dr. Kristy Côté has been seconded to the President’s Office to lead this work as Administrative Director in Family Medicine.

Section Co-Chairs, Local Education Group Leads and Administrators Meeting 

In early November, there was also a Section Chair retreat, joint meeting of Section Chairs and Physician Clinical Teachers’ Association (PCTA) Executive, as well as a LEG Lead and Administrators meeting. The meetings allowed NOSM University clinical faculty leaders to spend time thinking about their roles and contributions to the exciting and changing landscape at NOSM University.

It is inspiring to reflect on the great work being done across our distributed sites with excellent leadership by clinical faculty. There are so many passionate and involved faculty and faculty leaders, there is a lot of great work supporting health-care education and research being done by our clinical faculty, and there are opportunities to reimagine how we continue to do this work collectively as NOSM University.

Save the Date: President’s Lecture SeriesPresident's Lecture Series - Square Save the Date 2024

Reviving the Heart of Health Care: The Joy of Practising Family Medicine

Experts will discuss why Family Medicine continues to be a career worth choosing, discuss its challenges, and explore why, more than ever, in Canada––and Ontario, specifically––medical students should choose family medicine as a specialty.

February 1, 2024 | 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Participate live during the Q&A on WebEx or live stream it on YouTube @NOSMtv!

Stay tuned for more details, coming soon!


NOSM University names inaugural Planetary Health Lead

Dr. Elaine BlacklockThe focus on planetary health and the impact of climate change on human health globally is a crucial issue for medical schools—and especially for NOSM University. Recognizing the importance of this issue, NOSM University has established its first Planetary Health Lead, Dr. Elaine Blacklock.

Dr. Blacklock’s extensive advocacy and commitment to advancing planetary health principles make her an invaluable asset to our institution. A climate leader in education, Dr. Blacklock chairs NOSM University’s Action on Climate Change Committee and co-chairs the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada’s Planetary Health Subcommittee on Curriculum. She is also a regular columnist on climate change and health both nationally and in Northern Ontario.

Within NOSM University, her wealth of expertise and visionary leadership will steer the development of a comprehensive Planetary Health Strategy. In addition to embedding planetary health into our curriculum, this strategy will drive ambitious research endeavors and impactful actions aimed at reducing our carbon footprint and environmental impact.

A Message from NOSM University’s inaugural Planetary Health Lead, Dr. Elaine Blacklock

Aerial view of wildfire damage.

Last week in Dubai, many health care leaders attended the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly referred to as COP28.

As the latest hottest-year-on-record winds down, I find myself less and less comfortable with the status quo of how I’m living, more and more inclined to ask myself this: knowing what I know, how then shall I live?

It’s been about 16 months since I became chair of the ACCC, and it’s worth considering what our team has accomplished. Here are a few things:

  • The NOSM University travel pledge is in place.
  • The process of divorcing academic advancement from carbon-intensive travel is well underway.
  • NOSM University signed the AFMC Planetary Health Pledge, which we can leverage for action.
  • Planetary Health curriculum development is well underway.
  • The Planetary Health Strategy Lead position has been posted.
  • NOSM University is again signing up to host the Summer Institute for Sustainable Health systems.
  • We’ve met with Greenly, an organization that could assist NOSM University with reducing its carbon/environmental footprint.

Our next ACCC meeting is at 7:00 a.m. on January 25, 2024. If you want to get involved, please
contact Gina Kennedy at

Dr. Elaine Blacklock, Chair, NOSM University Action Committee on Climate Change (ACCC)


Dr. Owen Prowse named new Vice-President, Clinical Partnerships and Hospital Relations at NOSM University

Dr. Owen Prowse named new Vice-President, Clinical Partnerships and Hospital Relations

NOSM University is pleased to announce that Dr. Owen Prowse has accepted the position of Vice-President, Clinical Partnerships and Hospital Relations, effective March 1, 2024.

Dr. Prowse is an experienced and respected urologist at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and a leader with more than a decade in leadership roles within NOSM University.

His new role, based in Thunder Bay, aligns with the university’s expanding leadership structure, and with the creation of Vice-Presidents to replace decanal positions.

“I look forward to fortifying relationships with clinical partners, hospitals, and communities, especially in the post-pandemic health-care landscape,” says Dr. Prowse. “As we learn to navigate those evolving health-care dynamics, we can strive for improved patient and learner experiences.”

His appointment comes as Dr. William McCready retires from the role of Vice-Dean, Clinical Relations at NOSM University, effective Feb. 29, 2024. A retired clinical nephrologist who provided specialized kidney care to patients in Northwestern Ontario for almost 40 years, Dr. McCready has played an instrumental, foundational role in ensuring the university’s forward momentum. As the inaugural Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs, he oversaw the development of the faculty body, including the Office of Faculty Affairs, and has served in many capacities, including on the NOSM Board of Directors. For these accomplishments, and so much more, the university expresses gratitude to him as he embarks upon his new adventures in retirement.

Read more about Dr. Prowse’s appointment and Dr. McCready’s retirement.