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Northern medical school celebrates first convocation since independence

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine celebrated its first convocation as a standalone university Friday.

It also installed inaugural chancellor Cindy Blackstock, a well-known Indigenous children's rights advocate.

"Her vision, her strength, her values, all speak to what we are at NOSM University," said Dr. Sarita Verma, university president.

"We're at the birth of a great time in our institution."

The province granted the university its independence more than a year ago. Verma said students have gone through a lot in the last four years.

"They had to take all their classes online, but then their patient care had to switch to personal protective, immunizations and all the things we had to do to protect the public and then we went through insolvency," she said.

In all, 66 graduates crossed the stage to receive their medical degrees, including eight Indigenous and eight Francophone students. Verma said she's proud of the school's diversity.

"We have the largest number of Indigenous students that come into our university and that’s the largest number in Canada," she said.

Verma said 50 per cent of the graduating class will be going into family medicine, which she said is desperately needed across Canada and in northern Ontario.

Rachel Peet is one of the class's valedictorians. She is excited to move on to pursue her passion for general surgery at Western University.

She said the last four years have been a lot of hard work.

"I'm happy to be here with all my friends and after four years together it's really important for us to acknowledge the work we put in and officially call ourselves doctors," Peet said.


For Aurijoy Gupta, convocation was extra sentimental. Being 'hooded' is a part of graduation, where someone places a hood on students' shoulders as a symbol of graduation. For students with parents in academia or medicine, they can request to have their parents hood them.

Gupta's parents are in the medical field, so they got to share that special moment with him.

"It's really exciting," Gupta said.

"My younger brother will be in the audience and he's just starting out at NOSM in his first year so I hope to be a good role model for him as well."

Amy Lovelace said it took a long time to get to this moment. She said she began her career as a massage therapist, switching to nursing and eventually finding herself at NOSM.

"Mine was a bit of a longer journey within medicine," she said. "I did lose my mom during my third year of medicine, so it extended my time here a little bit. But everyone at NOSM was supportive and it was a great environment to be in."

Verma said NOSM's plan is to grow in medical education and health professions education.

"Canada needs everything," Verma said.

"We need physios, physicians assistant, PSWs, we need all the healthcare workers to serve the needs of Canadians." Top Stories

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