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Ontario to help pay more doctors get Northern residency training

New program begins Saturday to create opportunities for medical students to complete residency training in Northern Ontario 
NOSM University students Conner Sonke, left, Phoebe Bruce and Annie Dube.(NOSM University Photo)

NOSM University expects to benefit from a new physician training program that is kicking off July 1. 

The program is the Northern Ontario Resident Streamlined Training and Reimbursement (Nor-Star), a Ministry of Health initiative aimed at removing barriers to training for more physicians in the North. 

The new portion of the program that launches on Saturday will reimburse the costs of travel and accommodation for medical residencies on elective in Northern Ontario, said a news release from NOSM.  

Dr. Sarah Newbery, associate dean of the physician workforce strategy at NOSM University, said the program will make it easier for new physicians to get a residency elective.

“The Nor-Star initiative is well-timed to help us meet physician shortages across our region. This new funding will help create opportunities for medical residents to get to know what it is like to live, learn, and work in our communities and to collaborate with our terrific clinical faculty here,” said Newbury.

NOSM data shows that for medical students who complete an elective in Northern Ontario, one in five will return to practice medicine in the North, said the news release.  

NOSM said the data also shows that medical learners who complete both their medical degree and a residency elective in Northern Ontario, the likelihood of practising in Northern Ontario increases to one in two. Additional physicians will return to work as locums, providing important support for local doctors, said NOSM.

Currently in Northern Ontario, active recruiting is underway to attract roughly 350 new physicians, said NOSM. This does not take into account upcoming retirements. 

Dr. Kyle McKechnie, chief of critical care at Health Sciences North (HSN) in Sudbury, said he is looking forward to the new program.

“Our critical care department at Health Sciences North (HSN) is actively working on our physician resource planning to ensure that we have a great team here serving northeastern Ontario,” said McKechnie. 

“The opportunity to bring physicians training in critical care to Sudbury will help us to continue to deliver excellent care well into the future," McKechnie added. 

NOSM said the new program is open to medical residents in any discipline, from family medicine to pediatrics to critical care. 

Funding is provided by Ontario Health for three groups of postgraduate learners:

  • residents from any Canadian medical school who are undertaking an elective (launches July 1, 2023);
  • residents from any Ontario medical school who are working with a locum (launched March 2023);
  • and residents in their last months of training who work as a locum on a restricted license under Northern Specialist Locum Programs (launched March 2023).