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Ottawa medical school partnership aims to train more Inuit health-care professionals

The University of Ottawa medical school will have two spots specifically for Nunavummiut, beginning in September 2023. 

It’s the result of a partnership between the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) and the university’s medical school. 

The partnership aims to increase the number of Inuit physicians in the health-care system and promises “targeted supports” to the students who enrol, according to a joint news release.   

The release states that the Government of Nunavut will support eligible applicants with travel and application costs. 

Nunavut Inuit applicants are also eligible for further assistance with their applications, such as in obtaining pre-requisites, through NTI and Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation’s Quvvariarniq Program.

Once admitted to the program, students will have access to an allowance for child care, tutoring and other training opportunities.

Nunavut Health Minister John Main said he hopes the initiative leads to more Nunavummiut working in medicine. 

“It’s an important thing for our department to have more and more Inuit working within the department,” he told CBC News. “We all know that the services are needed.” 

ottawa medical school partnership aims to train more inuit health care professionals
Health Minister John Main said he wants to see more Nunavummiut in health-care professions in Nunavut, ‘because they have a strong understanding, obviously, of the territory.’  (Matisse Harvey/Radio-Canada)

The news release indicates that the number of Inuit employees represented in health care in the territory has stayed relatively stagnant throughout the last 20 years, at about 11 to 17 per cent of the Nunavut department of Health and Social Services. 

Main said the new program will also help develop workers who can support a more permanent workforce. 

“It’s important for us as a department because we are highly dependent on a transient workforce,” Main said, referring to health care professionals who come up from southern Canada or other jurisdictions. 

“There’s added value when Nunavummiut are the ones filling those health professional roles because they have a strong understanding, obviously, of the territory.”

Aluki Kotierk, president of NTI and chair of the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation, echoed Main.

“Over the next few years, we would like several cohorts of Nunavut Inuit to begin training towards becoming a doctor,” Kotierk said in the news release. 

“The training and employment of Inuit health care professionals is essential for accessible, safe, high quality Inuktut health care in Nunavut.” 

According to Main, the program will cost about $250,000 over four years.

He said NTI is committed to providing “generous assistance” to Inuit students, and that an Inuk student would not have to bear any of the cost of attending medical school. He said a non-Inuk student would still get support from the territorial government, but that they’d still have to cover some of the costs.

Applications for 2023 are due to the University of Ottawa by Oct. 1, 2022. 

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