From the community to the classroom: the Aboriginal health curriculum at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine

Can J Rural Med. 2014 Fall;19(4):143-50.


More undergraduate medical education programs are including curricula concerning the health, culture and history of Aboriginal people. This is in response to growing international recognition of the large divide in health status between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, and the role medical education may play in achieving health equity. In this paper, we describe the development and delivery of the Aboriginal health curriculum at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM). We describe a process for curriculum development and delivery, which includes ongoing engagement with Aboriginal communities as well as faculty expertise. Aboriginal health is delivered as a core curriculum, and learning is evaluated in summative assessments. Aboriginal health objectives are present in 4 of 5 required courses, primarily in years 1 and 2. Students attend a required 4-week Aboriginal cultural immersion placement at the end of year 1. Resources of Aboriginal knowledge are integrated into learning. In this paper, we reflect on the key challenges encountered in the development and delivery of the Aboriginal health curriculum. These include differences in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal knowledge; risk of reinforcing stereotypes in case presentations; negotiation of curricular time; and faculty readiness and development. An organizational commitment to social accountability and the resulting community engagement model have been instrumental in creating a robust, sustainable program in Aboriginal health at NOSM.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Competency-Based Education / organization & administration*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Services, Indigenous*
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Male
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Problem-Based Learning / organization & administration
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration*
  • Young Adult