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The Year of Artificial Intelligence

Posted on January 23, 2024

It was with great sadness that we learned of the sudden passing of our friend, colleague and NOSM University Dryden Site Administrative Coordinator (SAC), Chuck Schmitt.

From the early years of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and the development of the MD program’s third-year Comprehensive Community Clerkship in Dryden, Chuck was eager to get involved. Over the years, he warmly welcomed hundreds of medical students, residents and other health learners to the community and made them feel at home. A great mentor to physician recruiters and NOSM University’s SACs across the North, Chuck was always thrilled to share his wealth of knowledge.

Chuck was special in so many ways. The supportive environment he created in Dryden enabled him to recruit many physicians to the Dryden Regional Health Centre and the Dryden Area Family Health Team. He was proud of the NOSM University graduates who chose to practise in the community, and of their commitment to health equity—particularly for the Indigenous, Francophone and LGBTQ2S+ communities.

This tremendous loss will be felt by so many across Northern Ontario. A friend to so many of us, Chuck leaves behind an incredible legacy and lengthy list of accomplishments in supporting health care in the North. Without a doubt, he changed our lives, and we are better for having known him. I will always remember his smile, his vivacious joie de vivre and his hospitality.

This news has come as a shock, and we are all grieving this loss. Support is available for members of the NOSM University community. Please reach out if you need help.

Dr. Jason Shack
Assistant Dean, Learner Affairs

Dr. Sean Sullivan
Assistant Dean, Resident Affairs

Dr. Sherry Mongeau
Director, Learner Support Services

Contact info for your Learner Affairs Officer is available on NOSM University’s Virtual Health and Wellness Hub.

Homewood Health
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Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP)
Staff and full-time faculty can access 24-hour, seven-days a week secure and confidential access to a range of support services via or by calling 1-844-880-9142.

OMA Physician Health Program
Physician faculty members, residents and medical students can access the OMA’s Physician Health Program confidential support at 1-800-851-6606 or email

The Year of Artificial Intelligence

AI chatbot - Artificial Intelligence digital concept

I am deeply curious about Artificial Intelligence (AI), and as a novice observer with nothing to gain, I will mention a few of the players that have caught my attention in 2023—the year I believe many of us watched in awe as AI emerged as the force to be reckoned with. Perhaps the best known of the AI tools, Chat GPT seems to be on its way to creating a seismic change in society by generating everything from real estate ads to research papers. AI “chatbots” like Claude are trained to communicate like humans, and they are coming fast and furious (just like the video games in the 1980s). In education, there are tools like Khanmigo, the Khan Academy’s tutoring program that can teach just about anything.

Whether we are ready, I have no doubt that AI is the future of health care and medical education.

AI tools are now coming online that may put human caregivers partially (but not completely) out of business. I hope they will improve efficiency and allow for better, safer, more accessible health care. Check out MedLM, a system for the medical field that is trying to improve workflow and charting across the USA. Tools that have only just taken hold in Northern Ontario may soon be obsolete. Are our decisions and policies keeping up with the rapid progress being made in AI? (Consider that some physician offices still use fax machines, and some are just getting started with email portals.) Have a look at Augmedix, through which doctor-patient interactions are captured through “ambient medical documentation” and converted into chart notes. I believe that with these and other tools, the massive reduction in administrative workload will improve health care and patient satisfaction and reduce burnout.

I also believe that AI-informed health-care data management will see a massive shift in 2024. It is about more than chart management; I am expecting to see patient analysis including predictive factors. Imagine, we now have blood glucose monitoring on a watch! It seems that in a very short time, we have moved from needle pokes to sensors to watches. With AI, data-driven diagnostics and treatment are at our fingertips. I expect those tools will augment the services of health-care providers, not replace them.

So, what are we doing to change our curriculum to address these revolutionary advances? Work is being done as we undergo a process for curriculum renewal in the MD and residency programs and look at new and emerging health-care professions of the future. Some universities are developing courses specifically to address this gap. For example, MIT is offering a micro-credential in “Artificial Intelligence in Health Care,” as is Stanford University with Coursera, but much more work is needed. I refer you this take:

The field of combining AI with medicine/medical education is steadily expanding, and the most urgent need is for policy makers, experts in the medical field, AI and education, and experts in other fields to come together to reach consensus on ethical issues and develop regulatory standards… most medical students are positive about adding AI-related courses to the existing medical curriculum… [however] the quality of research on “AI+medical/medical education” is poor.

In other research, Civaner et al. find:

Students expressed a desire to gain specific knowledge and skills on many more topics related to AI, such as applications for assisting clinical decision-making and reducing medical errors, AI-assisted emergency response, and AI-assisted risk analysis for diseases. In addition, we found that the students would also like to be trained on the ethical issues that may arise due to AI applications; they felt this was one of their most important topics.

As NOSM University evolves into a full medical university and forges its path in this unique space in Canada, our willingness and ability to be ahead of the curve in AI, health education and service delivery is critical.

Something called “Institutional Continuous Quality Improvement” is part of that process. On January 30-31, 2024, we will undergo an external assessment of our MD Program under the Institutional Quality Assessment Process (IQAP). Since 2010, the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance has had oversight of all degree and graduate programs. Now, as NOSM University (we participated under Laurentian and Lakehead in the past), we are directly part of this quality audit process. Provost and Vice President Academic, Dr. Céline Larivière, is the lead on our IQAP file, and has very quickly developed the NOSM University IQAP Framework.

The IQAP will foster an institutional culture of structured and ongoing analysis of our degree and graduate program quality and will thereby guide curriculum improvements. The IQAP ensures the academic excellence of NOSM University’s programs and their consistency with the quality of comparable postsecondary programs in Ontario. I am hopeful for excellent advice and guidance to emerge from this IQAP review. Many thanks to Drs. Larivière and Lee Toner, to John Friesen, and to the MD Program team for continuing to carry the workload involved with this process, and to all others who have participated.

So: hello 2024! Each new year offers amazing opportunities for new resolutions, fresh beginnings, and new paths. The year stands before us like a blank page, waiting for us to draw upon it. As George Eliot said, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.”

And where AI is concerned, let us learn more, embrace change and reach for the stars.

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.

Momentum – President’s Report

Now three years into NOSM University’s five-year strategic plan, The NOSM University Challenge, it is necessary to again assess where we are on our path. What have we accomplished to this point? Are we still on the right track? Dr. Verma provides a brief update because, while it is tempting to look up from our work, it is far more important at this stage to harness our considerable momentum and continue to make it about the work—and about meeting the challenges still before us. Read Momentum, the latest President’s Report.

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

Join us at the upcoming President’s Lecture Series, Reviving the Heart of Health Care: The Joy of Practising Family Medicine. When it comes to family medicine, it’s all too easy to focus on the challenges, including fewer medical residents choosing the profession, and the issue of family physician burnout being so pervasive in the media. However, this narrative ignores the good news. NOSM University consistently has the highest rate of Canadian medical student graduates who chose family medicine—almost 50 per cent. What’s more, many physicians find joy in practising family medicine. This event will showcase why family medicine continues to be a career worth choosing, explore its challenges, and highlight why, more than ever, in Canada—and Northern Ontario, specifically—medical students should choose family medicine as a specialty. Read more about the topics and speakers.

Thursday, February 1, 2024
6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST.
All are welcome to watch live on YouTube.

Annual Sault Ste. Marie Hockey Tournament Shoots for $500,000 for Student Bursaries

Ask Frank DeMarco where he’ll be next year for the annual Bring a Doctor Home Hockey Tournament, and he’ll joke, “This is the last one! I’m never going to do this again!” It is a big job to pull off the popular tournament. DeMarco has been the Executive Director of the event for the last five years and has been involved for at least a decade. He says Bring a Doctor Home has swelled to 27 teams over six divisions, with more than 450 participants.

The tournament has so far raised $461,951.93, and the goal this year is to reach $500,000. DeMarco says in years past, some very generous and “amazing” anonymous donors matched donations raised through the tournament, which he one day hopes to turn into an annual invitational tournament for all of Northern Ontario. All proceeds from the charity tournament—which celebrates 20 years next year—go towards a NOSM University bursary for select students from the Soo and area. The hope is that with a financial boost, more graduates will come home to practise medicine. Learn more about how Sault Ste. Marie supports NOSM University.

2024 Upcoming Events

February 1 → President’s Lecture Series: Reviving the Heart of Health Care: The Joy of Practising Family Medicine
February 15 → NOSM University Senate Meeting
February 21 → NOSM University Board of Governors Meeting
April 11 → NOSM University Senate Meeting
April 12-15 → International Congress on Academic Medicine (ICAM), Vancouver
April 14 → President’s Reception at ICAM (Invitation to follow.)
May 2 → Northern Lights
May 3-4 → Northern Constellations, Northern Connections, and Northern Lights
May 3 → NOSM University Achievement Celebration
May 24 → Thunder Bay Convocation
May 31 → Sudbury Convocation
June 10-11 → Northern Health Research Conference

Delegation from Jeollanamdo province, South Korea, visits NOSM University

Signing of Letter of Intent with South Korean delegation, 2024

Bringing rural doctors home and solving rural health human resource challenges are global problems—and NOSM University is proud to collaborate with national and international leaders as we strive to improve rural health care.

On January 15, 2024, NOSM University hosted an impressive team of 17 South Korean delegates, including Kim Yung-rok, Governor of Jeollanamdo province, as well as academic executives Dr. Song Ha-Cheol, President of Mokpo National University, Dr. Park Byeung-Hee, Head of the medical school establishment task force at Sunchon National University, and Dr. Kim Dae-Sung, Head of Social and Cultural Research at Jeollanamdo Research Institute. The delegation is working to establish a new medical school to improve rural health care in Jeollanamdo province.

During a ceremony, NOSM University leadership and South Korean delegates signed a Letter of Intent to mark their collaboration, which started right away with a series of presentations from leadership on both sides—including a focus on the importance of social accountability to bring physicians to rural areas.

Many thanks to Miriam Cain and Drs. David Marsh, Erin Cameron, and William McCready for their preparations to host the delegation.

Introducing The Dr. Sarita Verma Awards for Distinguished Leadership at NOSM University

NOSM University learners, staff, and faculty members will be honoured for the first time this year with The Dr. Sarita Verma Awards for Distinguished Leadership at NOSM University.

Dr. Verma, NOSM University’s inaugural President, Vice-Chancellor, Dean, and CEO, has established the annual awards as she prepares for retirement.

Each year, three awards will be given in the Northwest and three in the Northeast to a learner, staff and faculty member, respectively. Recipients need not reside in Thunder Bay or Greater Sudbury. Nominees must have demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities, such as effective communication, collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to NOSM University’s values and mission, and contributed significantly to the betterment of the NOSM University community.

The awards will be given each year at the annual NOSM University Achievement Celebration. Learners, staff, or faculty can nominate their peers for the awards. All current part- and full-time learners, staff, and faculty are eligible. Nominations close on Thursday, February 8.

For further information, please contact