Medical students at northern Ontario’s NOSM University can now complete some of their mandatory courses in French, thanks to a pilot initiative.
The medical school, with campuses in Sudbury and Thunder Bay, launched the Francophone Curricular Initiative last year and is continuing it with the latest group of first-year medical students.
In 2022, 90 per cent of first-year medical students at NOSM took part in the initiative.
“The main objective is to better serve francophone patients and, in the longer term, increase access to French-language health services,” said Dr. Nicole Ranger, a family physician in Sudbury and NOSM’s francophone curriculum lead.
Before the initiative, Ranger said, any French sessions were not part of the mandatory curriculum, which meant francophone students did them in addition to their regular coursework.
“This amounted to having them having to do extra work,” she said.
Ranger said it’s important to make it easier for francophone medical students to learn in French, because it helps them better serve northern Ontario’s francophone community.
She said it’s especially important because a lot of newcomers to the region speak French as their first language.
“Having learners being able to provide services in the French language based on the fact that they themselves are francophone will certainly allow for improved communication between physicians and patients.”
As a physician, allowing a patient to speak in their mother tongue can make any medical encounter a better one.– Félix Lavigne, medical student
Medical student Félix Lavigne said in a news release that it’s important for him to be able to offer care in both English and French.
“As a physician, allowing a patient to speak in their mother tongue can make any medical encounter a better one,” Lavigne said.
Ranger said last year’s and this year’s group of first-year students will continue with the pilot initiative and it will become a fully integrated part of the program by 2024.