A trailblazer in rural medical education: NOSM’s first dean named 2020 Honorary Fellow
During his 17 years as the first dean and CEO of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), Roger Strasser, MBBS, played a pivotal role in the transformation of health care delivery in northern Ontario. The professor of rural medicine’s work has had a ripple effect across Canada, with numerous other schools now adopting NOSM practices to better meet the needs of rural and remote communities across Canada.
For his far-reaching impact as a leader in medical education in Canada and around the world, Dr. Strasser, NOSM’s founding dean emeritus, has been named a 2020 Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
“A dean’s role is always challenging, no matter what the faculty or university, but a founding dean’s role is very special,” says Richard Reznick, MD, FRCSC, former dean of Health Sciences at Queen’s University. “By any measure, NOSM has succeeded far beyond any reasonable expectations, and no doubt, Dr. Strasser’s skill, tenacity and purpose of mind was the key success factor.”
Former NOSM students laud his contribution to rural, socially responsible medicine.
“By bringing this expertise to the Sudbury and Thunder Bay campuses of NOSM, he demonstrated to the region and to the country what innovation and determination can do,” says NOSM graduate Jeniva Donaleshen, MD, FRCSC. “After all, he initiated and implemented a strategy that would ultimately populate the northern, rural, and remote communities of northern Ontario with family physicians and specialists alike.”
As NOSM’s dean and CEO, Dr. Strasser was consistently a strong advocate for social accountability in medicine.
“I think one of the keys to the development of the school and the success of the school is the social accountability mandate,” he says. “The founding documents that established the school were very specific about the social accountability mandate to the people of northern Ontario. That’s very important. We are always measuring what we do in terms of improving the health of people in northern Ontario.”
NOSM has over 90 sites throughout northern Ontario where students and residents take part in clinical learning. In third year, students live and learn in 15 communities, excluding Sudbury and Thunder Bay, for their comprehensive community clerkship, a world first model of longitudinal integrated clerkship (LIC).
“They make the transition from being classroom learners to being clinicians,” he says. “They learn pediatrics, obstetrics and other specialties through patient interactions in family practice and hospital settings. They have the same learning outcomes as in other medical schools, but rather than block rotations they are learning in community practice.”
NOSM is also the first medical school where all students undertake a four-week immersive cultural experience living and learning in Indigenous communities, with impressive results. Research shows that “NOSM graduates are more sensitive, responsive, culturally competent and culturally safe in the way that they care for Indigenous people,” says Dr. Strasser.
Rural generalist pathway
Another significant impact NOSM has had on medical education during Dr. Strasser’s tenure is the development of a rural generalist pathway.
“We talk about the life cycle of a rural physician starting in high school or even earlier, talking to students, facilitating a pathway into university and medical school, residency, professional development and really supporting a whole career in northern Ontario… So NOSM has now formalized this pathway in northern Ontario and I see that as important for the whole of Canada – not just for rural and remote medicine but really for the whole system to support medical graduates who choose to practice as generalists within their specialties.”
Read more about Royal College Honorary Fellowship.