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Medical school luring professionals back home.

The start of something new is a tremendous opportunity for innovation and it is that potential in the Northern Ontario Medical School (NOMS) founding dean Roger Strasser says is attracting a lot of highly qualified attention.

Strasser says the school has received over 200 applications for nine academic position appointments this year and the same amount next year. Many of them are "high quality" including people who have worked in Northern Ontario before and some who originally come from Northern Ontario and want to return.

Leading the hiring is the appointment of Dr. Dan Hunt as the Northwest Ontario dean. Dean has been hired from the University of Washington in Seattle. In addition to being one of the top 10 medical schools in the United States, the university is also the focal point of the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) network, a rural medical education and research network similar to what is being set up in Northern Ontario.

In total, the medical school will have 30 full-time equivalent medical and human science faculty and over 600 "clinical" faculty.

Strasser says the likelihood is for 100 appointments by the time students begin their first year in September 2005.

What is attracting the interest is the opportunity to try something new, he says.

"One of the realities of a medical school is, once it is well established, it is hard to change things and be innovative," Strasser says. "Of course, with our new medical school, it's a fresh start and we are very innovative. So we have had quite a number of applications from people who are well-established faculty in other universities and have strong academic track records who would otherwise not consider moving. With such an exciting opportunity with a new medical school, that's what they want to do."

NOMS has also hired Dr. Greg Ross as dean of research for the school who, in addition to having familial ties to Northern Ontario, is also involved in medical research in Northern Ontario. Strasser says the presence of a Northern Ontario medical school will boost efforts to position Northern Ontario as a place for leading-edge medical research.

"What we're doing with the medical school is to act as a facilitator, a catalyst, to raise the level and range of research happening in Northern Ontario, to build on established strengths, to create new strengths with an emphasis on health problems in Northern Ontario and address research questions that will help the people in Northern Ontario," he says. "It's reasonable to expect that, as we build the research effort, that is going to create other opportunities as they spin off from research, certainly recruiting researchers and building research institutes and potential other spinoffs, commercial applications and other economic development opportunities that might follow."

The medical school will be seen as a significant economic driver, not only in the fact that it will provide new doctors, but it will also stem the "brain drain" of people from Northern Ontario into other parts of the province, out of Ontario and out of Canada, says Strasser.

"Already, the hospitals in the two larger centres (Sudbury and Thunder Bay) are finding the recruitment effort (for new doctors) somewhat easier because of the anticipated presence of the medical school," he says. "With one of the aims of the medical school to be a medical school for all of Northern Ontario ... we're looking to develop a distributed network of research and learning facilities all over Northern Ontario's large and small communities. Those effects of the medical school will be felt quite widely."

There was a sod-turning in early March at the NOMS campus on the grounds of Sudbury's Laurentian University, marking the start of construction of the two facilities that will make up the core of NOMS. Construction of the buildings, one at Laurentian University and the other on the campus of Lakehead University in Thunder Bay will rely heavily on the expertise and workers of companies in Northern Ontario, says Strasser.

The construction contract for the medical school will be awarded in late April and the construction period will extend from May 2004 to July 2005. Construction of the West Campus at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay will begin this summer.

The medical school is slated to open in September 2005.


Northern Ontario Business
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Title Annotation:News; Northern Ontario Medical School
Author:Wareing, Andrew
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Apr 1, 2004
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