Partnership with Ottawa Medical School aims to train more Inuit health professionals

The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa will have two places specifically for Nunavummiut, starting in September 2023.

It is 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 doctors in the health system and promises “targeted supports” to students who enroll, according to a joint press release.

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

Nunavut Inuit applicants are also eligible for additional assistance with their applications, such as meeting prerequisites, through NTI and the Makigiaqta Inuit Training Corporation’s Quvvariarniq program.

Once admitted to the program, students will have access to a stipend for childcare, tutoring, and other educational opportunities.

Nunavut Health Minister John Main said he hopes the initiative will bring more Nunavummiut to work in medicine.

“It’s a big thing for our department that more and more Inuit are working in the department,” he told CBC News. “We all know services are needed.”

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 says the number of Inuit employees represented in health care in the territory has remained relatively stable over the past 20 years, at approximately 11 to 17 percent of Nunavut’s 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 to us as a department because we rely heavily on a traveling workforce,” Main said, referring to medical professionals who come from southern Canada or other jurisdictions.

“There is an added value when Nunavummiut are the ones who fulfill these roles as health professionals because they have a solid understanding, obviously, of the territory.

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

“Over the next few years, we would like to see several cohorts of Inuit from Nunavut begin training to become doctors,” Kotierk said in the press release.

“The training and employment of Inuit health professionals is essential for accessible, safe and 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 Inuit student would not have to bear any cost to attend medical school. He said a non-Inuk student would still receive support from the territorial government, but would still have to cover some of the cost.

Apps for 2023 must be submitted to the University of Ottawa no later than October 1, 2022.