Strasser: Partnering with First Nations

Roger Strasser
Founding Dean, Northern
Ontario School of Medicine

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) has engaged First Nations and Métis peoples from communities across Northern Ontario from the very early stages of development. In fact, Indigenous organizations were in the forefront of the widespread community movement advocating for the establishment of NOSM.

Back in January of 2003—only six months into my role as NOSM’s Founding Dean—NOSM hosted a curriculum workshop in Sault Ste. Marie. Fifty of the 300 participants were First Nations and Métis, and it became clear to me at that workshop that if we were really going to address the needs of Northern Ontario, we needed a separate gathering specifically involving Indigenous peoples.

NOSM’s first Indigenous Partnership Gathering was held in June 2003 in the Anishinaabeg community of Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation, near Kenora. More than 100 Indigenous community members from across Northern Ontario contributed to the Follow Your Dreams report, which guided development of the Indigenous dimensions of the School, including all first year medical students living and learning in Indigenous communities.

The second Gathering, at Fort William First Nation in August 2006, was of particular importance in my mind. NOSM’s Charter Class had just completed their four-week immersive Indigenous community placement, and nearly all the Indigenous Local Community Co-ordinators were on hand to share their communities’ experiences of having medical students in their community. And, we were checking in and saying: “This is what we’ve done so far. What do you think? What else should we be doing?”

Since then, Community Gatherings have taken place in 2011 and 2014, as well as two additional Indigenous Research Gatherings in 2008 and 2016.

Recently, Matawa First Nations Management (MFNM) and Eabametoong First Nation (EFN) approached us to help create a remote First Nations family medicine residency stream. The first-of-its-kind in Canada, this collaboration demonstrates elements of community self-determination, which is vital to the work we do here in Northern Ontario.

Roger Strasser is the Founding Dean, Northern Ontario School of Medicine.

Filed in: Commentary, Education

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