With the burgeoning role of distributed medical education and the increasing use of community hospitals for training purposes, challenges arise for undergraduate and postgraduate programs expanding beyond traditional tertiary care models. It is of vital importance to encourage community hospitals and clinical faculty to embrace their roles in medical education for the 21st century. With no university hospitals in northern Ontario, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and its educational partner hospitals identified questions of concern and collaborated to implement changes. Several themes emerged that are of relevance to any medical educational program expanding beyond its present location. Critical areas for attention include the institutional culture; human, physical and financial resources; and support for educational activities. It is important to establish and maintain the groundwork necessary for the development of thriving integrated community-engaged medical education. Done in tandem with advocacy for change in funding models, this will allow movement beyond the current educational environment. The ultimate goal is successful integration of university and accreditation ideals with practical hands-on medical care and education in new environments.