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The Northern Ontario School of Medicine has received full accreditation for the first time as a stand-alone university.
This accreditation means the school has met the standards of education set by various oversight organizations in North America, and is formally recognized as an accredited medical school. NOSM separated from Laurentian University and Lakehead University earlier this month, after Laurentian University declared insolvency in February.
“Those changes at Laurentian affected some of the elements that will require monitoring on our accreditation,” says Interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Medical Education, Dr. Lee Toner. “As NOSM continues to evolve and develop, the accreditors will want us to make sure we can meet the standards with any new processes that we establish.”
The school was founded in 2005 with a specialization in training medical professionals to practice in historically underserved areas in Northern Ontario, such as Indigenous and Francophone communities.
“It’s a work in progress, as there are areas in Northern Ontario who haven’t received as much benefit as others,” says Toner. “But we continue to strive to make that our goal, to resource all the communities with healthcare through admitting students from rural areas and encouraging them to work in rural areas or in Indigenous Peoples’ health and wellness.”
NOSM is the first university in Canada to receive accreditation after a “virtual visit.” The Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) reviewed the school late last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Toner says the virtual format was helpful given the school’s unique nature.
“Because of our distributed campus, we have people from all over Northern Ontario, so it really gave everybody equal footing in these meetings, as opposed to being a face on a TV screen in the corner,” says Toner. “This allowed everybody to really participate actively from all corners of Northern Ontario, which I think was a plus in our case.”
Toner says he’s thankful for the extra work put in by NOSM staff and students to facilitate the “virtual visit,” as well as the accreditation team for informing the school as it transitions to standing alone.
“They really give us an idea of where our strengths and weaknesses are, and they provide us with a roadmap of things that we need to address to become the institution we want to be moving forward,” says Toner.