Nunavut, University of Ottawa partner to train Inuit for medical school

Up to 2 seats secured for Inuit starting in 2023

Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated has partnered with the Government of Nunavut and the University of Ottawa to provide seats for Inuit in medical school. (File photo)

By Nunatsiaq News

Up to two Nunavut Inuit will get a shot at a seat in medical school so they can train to become doctors at the University of Ottawa, starting in 2023.

The opportunity comes as a result of a partnership between the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the University of Ottawa.

“The training and employment of Inuit health-care professionals is essential for accessible, safe, high quality Inuktut health care in Nunavut,” said Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. president Aluki Kotierk, in a statement.

This means that if a Nunavut Inuit student meets the requirements to be accepted into the University of Ottawa medical school, they will only be competing with other Nunavut Inuit for one of the two seats, the GN’s Department of Health chief of staff Francois De Wet said.

Forming a partnership with the University of Ottawa made sense, De Wet said, considering the size of the Inuit population in Ottawa and the medical resources already available for Inuit in the city, such as the Larga Baffin facility.

The seats in the four-year program will be paid for as well, with each costing approximately $65,000 a year.

The first seat will be paid for by the University of Ottawa, but if more than one student is eligible for the program, the GN will buy the second seat, said De Wet.

Increasing the number of Inuit doctors serving other Inuit is the intent of the program.

“It’s a very traumatic thing to have to go to another city, with strangers, for your medical needs,” De Wet said.

Having Inuit physicians in communities would mean addressing those needs by having a doctor who understands the language, culture and history of the community, as well as the everyday trauma faced by patients, he said.

Inuit representation among health professionals still remains low in the territory according to the GN’s employment statistics.

In 2021, 17 of the territory’s 164 health professionals were Inuit, which comes out to approximately 10 per cent.

As well, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report called for an increase in the number of Indigenous peoples working in Canada’s health-care fields.

As to whether the students accepted into this program will have to serve an Inuit region after graduating, De Wet said the GN is working with NTI to establish criteria on what would be expected.

Whether the program continues beyond the first year is also still to be decided.

Supports for students who are trying to apply to medical school and those who are accepted will also be available.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s Quvvariarniq program will help students meet the requirements for medical school. As well, the GN is working with the University of Ottawa to develop a three-year program to give students the requirements to go into a health-related field, including medical school.

Once in medical school, students will receive supports such as a child-care allowance and tutoring.

Applications for the University of Ottawa medical school program are due Oct. 1.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by John W Paul Murphy on

    Well if that isn’t an opportunity for Inuit students, I don’t know what is.

    Good luck to anyone who wants to work hard for their community.

  2. Posted by Alex on

    This is amazing! Hopefully we have some BA students who will take advantage of this program!

  3. Posted by Good Luck on

    Hopefully the GN will not repeat the mistakes of the past.

    Mistakes like the Social Workers. Nunavut Arctic College graduated about 20 students one year with degrees in Social Work. No one told Family Services. Family Services was not hiring Social Workers when they graduated. Result, Inuit graduates with no jobs.

    Nurses. Health Department treats Inuit nurses like it does other northern hires. That is to say, no housing. You are a Nurse, share a room in your parents’ house. You know how well that goes over, when Nurses can get jobs anywhere in the world.

    We are told it is important to have Inuit doctors in Nunavut. Will the GN act as if it is important? Will Health be hiring doctors when these students graduate? Will they be offered housing?

    First step is to change Cabinet confidentiality rules. Currently, only Cabinet members know why Cabinet reaches a decision and only the Deputy Minister in the affected deprtment knows what is decided. By the time action is needed there is a new government with new Cabinet Ministers. Deputy Ministers serve at the pleasure of the Premier and are swapped between departments quite regularly. In short, there is no continuity. There is no “corporate knowledge”.


  4. Posted by Dr Sandy Macdonald on

    Congratulations to all parties on the new opportunities for Inuit from Nunavut to attend medical school. And congratulations to the University of Ottawa for coming to the table for Nunavut. Nunavut has been helping to train post graduate medical students in Family Medicine and Pediatrics from University of Ottawa for many years.
    As the former Territorial Chief of Staff I worked hard with Ottawa and other academic partners including Memorial University of Newfoundland, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and University of Manitoba to improve opportunities for Nunavummiut to study medicine and pursue other health care education.
    We created the NunaFam program with Memorial University which brings post graduate students in Family Medicine to Nunavut for 6 months of their 2 year training. This has been very successful in bringing young family physicians to work and live in Nunavut.
    We also established an innovative program in pediatrics training called “Northern and Indigenous Child Health” in partnership with University of Ottawa and Northern Ontario School of Medicine. This program would train pediatrics specialists with a focus on Indigenous/Inuit children and the trainees would have spent 25 % of their four year training in Nunavut. Unfortunately I understand that this program has been dropped since I retired from practice in Nunavut in 2018.
    Memorial University also offers seats in medical school to Nunavut land claims beneficiaries and offers a bursary to successful applicants to assist with the costs of the education. Northern Ontario School of Medicine considers Nunavut Inuit on a par with other indigenous students when it comes to admission.
    One big challenge for Nunavut is to bring the educational standard of Nunavut applicants up to that needed to succeed in Medical School so I am particularly glad to see that NTI and U of Ottawa are helping to provide the necessary educational preparation for entry to medical school for Inuit students.
    Having Inuit physicians in Nunavut would be a great benefit to the people of Nunavut and I look forward to further enhancements of educational opportunities for Inuit in all areas.

    • Posted by Hopefully Not Again on

      Hopefully the GN will not repeat it’s earlier perfomance.
      Some years ago a student who graduated from high school in Nunavut sought GN support to go to medical school in exchange for a commitment to return to Nunavut to practice medicine. The GN declined to provide the needed support and the student did not study medicine. The reason for the refusal was never officially spelled out, but the student was not an Inuk.
      So much for public government.
      There are already several Inuit doctors in Canada. Perhaps the GN should invest some time to understand why they choose to practice medicine elsewhere in Canada.

      • Posted by Dr Sandy Macdonald on

        I can shed some light on these comments.
        When I was Chief of Staff/Medical Director for the Dept of Health (2001-2018) we did support 6 Nunavummiut financially during their time in med school and 5 out of 6 returned to Nunavut to provide service as per their agreement. One decided to become a radiologist, paid back the money provided and went their way.
        Our policy for support was that the individual had to get themselves into Medical School (we would write letters of support etc but did not purchase a seat such as was mentioned in the article above). We had no capacity to evaluate their likelihood of succeeding in Medical School so had to leave it up to the Med school to do that.
        This approach outlined in the article is an excellent arrangement whereas U of Ottawa or Memorial will do the assessment of the candidate’s ability to succeed and make the decision. The GN will provide finacancial support and work on a return of service agreement etc.
        As for the Inuit who are already physicians in Canada, there are some beneficiaries of the Nunavut land claim who are physicians but they chose to be specialists in areas where there is no jobs available in Nunavut and their skills would not be useful in Nunavut except as possibly visiting consultants. Hopefully they will do that.
        I hope that helps everyone understand this complicated business.
        I think that Nunavut is on a good path now to having Nunavummiut obtain the education to work in the health field in many different jobs.
        Thank you.

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