Northern Ontario School of Medicine marks first day as standalone institution

On Thursday, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine became a standalone institution, the first of its kind in Canada.

NOSM's president and CEO Dr. Sarita Verma said this is a significant milestone.

"With royal assent, we will transition to becoming a degree-granting university -- it's really great news for northern Ontario," Verma said.

The decision was not without controversy, after Lakehead University launched a campaign to keep the status quo.

"It's a trend in the world -- in the United States there are a lot of new universities that are medical schools," Verma said.

"There's also some amazing top 50 universities like the University of Vienna where Sigmund Freud studied ... this is not unusual. Like the pandemic, people have had to shift and move quickly."

Verma said NOSM is in a great position to move forward and diversify and innovate as it looks to find its footing. She said students won't notice any changes.

"There will be a change in the degree itself," said Verma. "It'll have a NOSM seal on it, not Laurentian and Lakehead, but other than that there isn't a lot of difference. Our degree was accredited to NOSM, it wasn't accredited to Laurentian or Lakehead. The degree that's in the college license is NOSM."

"Lakehead had an interesting propaganda campaign run by a communications firm and I think some innocent bystanders got harmed by it, frankly," she said.

Since opening its doors in 2005, NOSM has produced 714 doctors, many of whom self-identify as either Indigenous or French. The school is also graduating 66 new doctors this week in both Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

The school is planning to move ahead with its strategic plan that focuses on health impacts for the region.

Administration will begin broad consultations about the next steps over the summer months.