York University unveils future plans for its School of Medicine

(Courtesy of York University)

York University recently announced its plans for a future School of Medicine looking to expand its current collaborations with Mackenzie Health. Citing “preventive health” and an “integrated, community-focused” model for its medical school plans, the announcement was met with support from both health and local government leaders. The university plans to submit a formal proposal for approval to the provincial government later this year.

Paul McDonald, dean for York’s Faculty of Health, says the vision for its medical school is threefold and aligns with York’s institutional values. 

First is to improve the well-being of individuals and communities by taking a “broad approach that helps people to understand the role and importance of social determinants and planetary health.”

The second part of York’s vision is to undertake education that will help to improve the healthcare system with regards to performance, efficiency, and efficacy.

And thirdly, to build an education model that places emphasis not just on treatment and rehabilitation of conditions after they have developed, but also on prevention of illness, assessment, and diagnosis.

Akash Sharma, a fourth-year computer science and health student who is interested in pursuing medical school, says he is excited about this announcement since it adds options within Toronto and “gives hope for applicants who live in the GTA that we can still live in the same community.”

When Excalibur reached out to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities, spokesperson Tanya Blazina stated that although there isn’t a specific formula or process for establishing a new medical school in Ontario, the ministry’s Major Capacity Expansion Policy Framework outlines several guidelines for what institutions need to consider in their planning and proposal.

The Framework includes the following evaluative requirements: significant enrolment growth for both domestic and international students in the medium- and long-term; a plan for the school’s space(s), facility costs, and management; alignment with local labour market needs; a plan for ancillary services, support for students, and educational training activities; and a transportation plan for the proposed location. 

“The policy outlines among other things, that taxpayers are not expected to pay the capital costs of the expansion,” Blazina adds.

“Any potential medical school would require significant planning and oversight from the Ministry of Health to ensure that the health needs of Ontario are being met.”

McDonald states that part of the university’s goal is not just to meet the needs of the local and provincial community, but also globally and nationally — ultimately training health professionals to be “agents of change within the healthcare system’s structure.”

McDonald goes on to explain that there are a number of challenges that healthcare systems around the world are facing, including a substantial growth in noncommunicable (chronic) diseases which tend to “manifest themselves in older adult populations.” 

According to Mackenzie Health, over the next 20 years York Region’s population is expected to increase by more than 35 per cent of which a significant proportion will be aging individuals. 

“If you were to go into a hospital four or five decades ago, many of the people that were there would be treated for more ‘acute conditions.’ And today, a lot of them are being treated for one or more of the more chronic conditions, so it requires a different way of thinking about prevention, delaying conditions, diagnosing them, and ultimately treating and managing them as they occur,” adds McDonald. 

“As the community continues to grow and age in the years ahead, hospitals and the health care sector will continually evolve to address the needs of those we serve,” Mackenzie Health tells Excalibur.

“It’s about helping the next generation of physicians to understand not just the prevention of disease but how that comes about, why it’s important, and to work with people in the broader community…”

As of right now, York has not yet developed the details for its School of Medicine, including logistics about program duration, facility location, and design of the curriculum, but they are committed to “doing things that are a little different.”

Part of the university’s goal is to increase the level of integration in its health programs so that they can create opportunities for health-related professions to study and learn from each other. York already has collaborative partnerships with Mackenzie Health in innovation and nursing education, but the hospital tells Excalibur that they look forward to more opportunities to work together.

With Mackenzie Health’s opening of the new Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital on June 6, they state that this will allow for “greater capacity and flexibility to form such partnerships in the future.”

“It’s also about helping the next generation of physicians to understand not just the prevention of disease but how that comes about, why it’s important, and to work with people in the broader community — both within and outside the traditional healthcare system,” says McDonald.

The logistical needs of York’s School of Medicine will be determined by the nature of the curriculum and the university’s goal to work closely with the community, including local employers, policymakers, and service providers, to name a few.

Mackenzie Health tells Excalibur that they would welcome the opportunity to have their clinical leaders involved in some of the planning, including leaders from departments such as medicine and surgery.

“I also hope that they offer cross designation programs like MD/JD or MD/MBA,” says Sharma. “I believe this is where our strengths are, since York’s affiliated business and law institutions have outstanding reputations.”

Mackenzie Health states that next year they will “explore opportunities in the areas of education, professional and community development, in health research and innovation, including informatics, technology, and medical devices.”

This may include the “development of research capacity and opportunities” between faculty at the university and Mackenzie Health. 

Sharma adds that he expects York’s medical school to be as successful as its other health-related academic programs.

“I hope that we will be leaders in the field,” says McDonald of York’s future School of Medicine. “That it will be one of those aha moments where others say, ‘gosh that makes a lot of sense, we should be doing that too.’”

While York has expressed strong interest in submitting a formal proposal to the provincial government later this year, they haven’t yet targeted a date. McDonald cites, “It’s a matter of doing our due diligence to gather the information we need and undertake consultations that are required to put in a first-rate proposal.

“We have to not only think about what the needs are now, but what they’re going to be in the future and develop a plan for them.” 

More to come on this developing story.

About the Author

By Mahdis Habibinia

Former Editor

Mahdis is a York University graduate with an Honours BA in Professional Writing, a Certificate in Spanish Language Proficiency, and an expected Master of Journalism '23. She is also fluent in Farsi. She began her journey with Excalibur as a contributor in 2017 then worked as executive editor from 2018-2020. For the 2020-2021 year, Mahdis served as editor-in-chief. She is curious about the world, BIPOC stories, and passionate about writing as a platform for advocacy and representation. She hopes to one day add to the diversity of Canadian media both in the content it produces and as a staff member. When Mahdis is not writing or editing or correcting people on the spelling of her name, she is likely marathon-viewing thrillers and crime shows that oddly bear no impact on her sleep.


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