Community engagement: A central feature of NOSM's socially accountable distributed medical education.
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Background: Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) serves as the Faculty of Medicine of Lakehead and Laurentian Universities, and views the entire geography of Northern Ontario as its campus. This paper explores how community engagement contributes to achieving social accountability in over 90 sites through NOSM's distinctive model, Distributed Community Engaged Learning (DCEL). Methods: Studies involving qualitative and quantitative methods contribute to this paper, which draws on administrative data from NOSM and external sources, as well as surveys and interviews of students, graduates and other informants including the joint NOSM-CRaNHR (Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research) tracking and impact studies. Results: Community engagement contributes throughout the lifecycle stages of preadmission, admission, and undergraduate medical education. High school students from 70 Northern Ontario communities participate in NOSM's week-long Health Sciences Summer Camps. The MD admissions process involves approximately 128 volunteers assessing written applications and over 100 volunteer interviewers. Thirty-six Indigenous communities host first year students and third-year students learn their core clinical medicine in 15 communities, throughout Northern Ontario. In general, learners and communities report net benefits from participation in NOSM programs. Conclusion: Community engagement makes a key contribution to the success of NOSM's socially accountable distributed medical education.