NORTH Clinic garners honourable mention for MacJannet Prize

Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2022

a graphic that says Navigating Ottawa Resources To improve Health

“The Selection Committee was particularly impressed by the clinic’s strong student leadership, well-documented value and impact, multidisciplinary student involvement, and strong connection with community partners.”

- Talloires Network of Engaged Universities

By Michelle Read

The NORTH clinic, run by medical and law students at the University of Ottawa, has garnered an honourable mention for a prestigious international prize for its exemplary student leadership and provision of social navigation services to Ottawa’s underserved patients.

Thanks to its acknowledgement of the importance of social accountability in medicine and its action to address discrepancies, NORTH—Navigating Ottawa Resources To improve Health—caught the notice of the Talloires Network of Engaged Universities, who bestowed the honourable mention as part of its MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship.

“The Selection Committee was particularly impressed by the clinic’s strong student leadership, well-documented value and impact, multidisciplinary student involvement, and strong connection with community partners,” said the Network in their email notification to the NORTH team.

A key project within uOttawa’s Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) program, NORTH is a collaboration between medical and law students at u Ottawa, supported by social workers and faculty. It is led by an executive team of students, with roles are shared equally between the two disciplines.

“The NORTH Clinic was the vision of my predecessor, Dr. Michael Hirsh, who was passionate about ensuring students could embrace social accountability through rich, interdisciplinary experiential learning,” says Dr. Claire Kendall, associate dean of social accountability at the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine and one of several faculty supporters from uOttawa. “Program evaluations of NORTH have demonstrated the significant impact on learners and clients alike.”

Project co-leads Kylee Hunter and Adnan Mekdachi, both students at the Faculty of Medicine, say the hard work of the NORTH team who have volunteered their time to run the clinics is critical in ensuring clients’ needs are met.

“The interdisciplinary nature of our program enables us to look at a problem from various angles and provide unique referrals tailored to the client’s needs,” says Kylee.

The team is proud of the NORTH model, says Adnan, the first and only of its kind in Canadian Universities.

“We hope that the success of the NORTH clinic would be able to inspire other institutions to establish similar models to serve local communities and improve equitable access to social resources,” explains Adnan.

The Network is “a growing global coalition of 424 university presidents, vice-chancellors and rectors in 84 countries who have publicly committed to strengthening the civic roles and social responsibilities of their institutions.” The MacJannet Prize, established by the Network and the MacJannet Foundation and launched in 2009, recognizes exceptional student community engagement initiatives at Talloires Network signatory member universities and contributes financially to their public service efforts.

The Network, whose secretariat is hosted by Tufts University, is the largest international network focused on university civic engagement. It established the Talloires Declaration on the Civic Roles and Social Responsibilities of Higher Education, which was ratified by a gathering of higher education leaders in Talloires, France, in September 2005.

Winners of the MacJannet Prize are selected annually from around the globe, with 2021’s laureates hailing from South Africa, India and the UK and 3 honourable mentions from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Chile.

NORTH clinic, which began in 2018 as a pilot project with the uOttawa-affiliated Bruyère Family Medicine Centre, and formalized in 2019 at the Somerset West Community Health Centre, initially supported the refugee and immigrant population referred by the Ottawa Newcomer Health Centre.

Today, the program’s services have expanded to the other parts of the Ottawa community through the Vanier Social Pediatric Hub in order to reach a larger group of marginalized populations affected by the pandemic and with diverse social needs. Clients of the NORTH Clinic are those who have trouble accessing the diverse care they need due to the social determinants of health, including vulnerable housing, poverty, and unemployment.

Dr. Sue Bennett, director of social pediatrics at CHEO, is co-medical director at the Vanier Social Pediatric Hub (VSPH). The VSPH, housed at the Vanier Community Services Centre, uses a community-based social pediatrics model to optimize the health and well-being of underserved children and youth with complex psychosocial needs through accessible, integrated and individualized care and services.

“The implementation of the NORTH clinic at our Vanier Social Pediatric Hub has been a win-win,” says Dr. Bennett, “for our preclinical medical students as a unique opportunity to understand and address the challenges and resilience of children, youth and their families living in a vulnerable community, and for our families to receive prompt and compassionate care from a stellar multidisciplinary team of students and faculty.

The project enriches the experiential learning and interprofessional education of participants through its strong focus on developing competence and proficiency in patient-/client-centred care, interprofessional collaboration and communication, leadership and health advocacy.

“A listening ear and a genuine drive to help can go a long way in making a positive impact in someone’s life during their hard times,” says Kylee.

Consider supporting the University of Ottawa.
The Social Accountability Initiatives At The Faculty Of Medicine fund was established to support activities that enhance the reciprocal transformation of the medical school and the communities we serve through meaningful community and stakeholder engagement, enhanced learner experience, and collaborative scholarship.

Kylee Hunter
Adnan Mekdachi

Medical students Kylee Hunter (MD 2024), top, and Adnan Mekdachi (MD 2024) are co-leads of the NORTH Clinic in Ottawa.

The Vanier Social Pediatric Hub

The NORTH clinic’s services have expanded to the other parts of the Ottawa community through the Vanier Social Pediatric Hub (above), housed at the Vanier Community Services Centre.

Oliver Fung
Joseph Benjamen

Medical students Oliver Fung (MD 2022), top, and Joseph Benjamen (MD 2023) were co-leads of NORTH during the 2019–2020 and 2020–2021 periods.


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