Sudbury

Donors raise $600K for NOSM University as medical school's endowments tied up

A group of donors has raised $600,000 to help cover bursaries for medical students at NOSM University.

Laurentian University owes NOSM $14.6M in endowment funds

Donors have raised $600,000 for NOSM University medical students to cover their bursaries while the university waits to get a $14.6 million endowment fund back from Laurentian University. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

A group of donors has raised $600,000 to help cover bursaries for medical students at NOSM University.

Before it became a standalone university in June 2021, NOSM was affiliated with Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., and Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Dr. Sarita Verma, NOSM's president, dean and CEO, said that when the university was founded, it raised $11 million in northwestern Ontario and $14.6 million in northeastern Ontario, which were held in accounts at Lakehead and Laurentian, respectively.

The interest from those accounts has covered bursaries for students. 

But when Laurentian filed for insolvency in February 2021, NOSM lost access to the $14.6 million it had tied up with the university.

Verma said two anonymous donors helped make up the difference last year. This year, the donors include the FDC Foundation, the Lougheed Family Foundation, the Métis Nation of Ontario, Gerry Perdue, Power Corporation of Canada and Technica Mining.

"Ninety-one per cent of our students get bursaries to help them get through medical school and on average they might get $5,000 or even up to $10,000," Verma said.

"For a student, that's a lot of money to help defray the cost of medical school."

Verma said NOSM students generally have more debt than other medical students in the province and are often the first people in their families to go to university. 

In its plan of arrangement, which was approved on Sept. 14, Laurentian listed returning NOSM's $14.6-million endowment in full as its second priority. The first priority would be to repay a $35-million debtor-in-possession (DIP) loan it received from the province.

Laurentian was scheduled to get court approval for the plan, which sets out the terms with its creditors, on Oct. 5.

But last week, the university asked for an stay extension to push back that deadline, and its period of creditor protection, to Nov. 30, 2022.

"The requested brief extension of the stay period is required to enable LU (Laurentian University) to continue operating in the ordinary course while preparing for the sanction hearing," the university said in its court submission.

Verma said she was a bit worried about the extension, and hoped the matter could be resolved by early October.

Dr. Sarita Verma, the president, dean and CEO of NOSM University, said many of the medical school's students need more financial aid than students at other institutions. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

She said it's important that NOSM students get as much financial support as they can to help address the shortage of health care workers in Ontario. 

"Many people in this province do not have family doctors," Verma said. "We need 360 physicians in northern Ontario alone, right now as we speak."

In March, the province announced NOSM would gain an additional 30 spots for undergraduate medical students and 41 for postgraduate students over the next five years. 

"This expansion will increase access to family and specialty physicians and other health care professionals in every corner of the province to ensure that Ontarians can access the health care they need, when they need it, wherever they may live," Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop said in a news release at the time.

With files from Kate Rutherford

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