Head of northern med school says it 'doesn't belong to any institution,' welcomes move to make it independent
Published Tuesday, April 20, 2021 2:48PM EDT
SUDBURY -- The head of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine issued a statement Tuesday embracing the province's plan to make it a standalone university.
Dr. Sarita Verma, the school's president, dean, and CEO, said the announcement is "the next step on our mission to strengthen health care and education across the north."
“None of this will change with this new independent status," she said. "NOSM will continue to leverage its full potential across all of northern Ontario.”
The Ontario government said April 15 it was introducing legislation to make NOSM and the Université de Hearst independent. Both universities had a relationship with Laurentian University, which announced April 12 massive cuts to programs and faculty as it deals with insolvency under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
However, NOSM has been affiliated with Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, where the med school also has a campus.
In a statement last week, Lakehead opposed the decision to separate.
"The Northern Ontario School of Medicine is an integral part of Lakehead University and our community," Lakehead's statement reads. "We know the north is stronger when we work together. This partnership, forged by the long-standing collaboration and support of so many local partners, has had a significant and positive impact on our region."
Lakehead claims it was not consulted about the decision.
"We are in the process of reviewing this decision and determining its impacts. As we conduct this important work, our priority is protecting the interests of our students and our communities and ensuring that northwestern Ontario is championed every step of the way," Lakehead said.
But in her statement, Verma said becoming independent is the school's logical next step.
"NOSM doesn’t belong to any institution. It belongs to the people of northern Ontario," she said. "By making this step towards maturity, we will be able to strengthen our ties to both Sudbury and Thunder Bay while extending our reach into every corner of the north. Inaccuracy about the next steps regarding this legislation should be weighed carefully."
Despite the progress the school has made, Verma said many northern communities remain in "crisis."
"Access to physicians is limited and inequality is worsening in Indigenous, francophone, and rural and remote communities," she said.
"Every step of the way through this process, we will continue to work with our municipal partners, rural, Indigenous, and francophone communities, staff, learners and faculty, and our institutional partners. These groups will all play a key role as we build an even stronger institution to prepare world-class health-care professionals to practise in northern Ontario.”
To comment on the province's plan, Ontario has set up a website where opinions can be submitted.