Thursday, November 19, 2009

Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Continuing on the topic of aboriginal outreach, we visited the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) at the Laurentian campus this week. At the Cafe Scientifique, I was amazed to hear an aboriginal woman talk about how her aboriginal and "western" doctors communicated and collaborated to provide the best plan for her.

This kind of cooperation and understanding is what the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) is all about. We were lucky to hear from members of NOSM; Ian Peltier, Interim Director; Frances Mandamin, Program Coordinator; and Sam Senecal, Regional Aboriginal Community Coordinator.

The medical school sends their students every year to aboriginal communities so that they get a better understanding of the communities and how to collaborate with them. First year med students do a four week placement in an aboriginal community. Second year students do two four-week in remote and rural communities and third year students spend an entire year in a host community.

Students do a reflective project where they compare their thoughts and preconceptions of aboriginal communities before and after visiting. This type of program is unlike any other program in the world. It gives students first hand experience in Northern communities and it breaks down barriers between students and members of aboriginal communities.

Sam was really proud of the program and the students. He said that he knew they were doing something right when students were calling the community placements "life changing".

The medical students also run a science camp for aboriginal youth during the summer. The youth take part in forensic and medical science activities. It is another way of engaging aboriginal youth and showing them the opportunities available for them to pursue.

Programs that engage aboriginal communities take time, patience, trust and a whole lot of work. You have to take the time to build a working relationship with communities. NOSM is doing a great job and should be a model to follow for other provinces.

For more information on the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, visit their website.

- Justin

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