By Keith Lacey
The man responsible for establishing a world-renowned rural medical program in the Land Down Under has been selected to head up a similar program for the Northern Medical School.
In a video conference call from Australia last week, the search committee for the medical school proudly introduced Dr. Roger Strasser as founding dean to the Northern Medical School, effective July 1, 2002.
?I?m very pleased to have this opportunity and I?m looking forward to taking on this exciting challenge,? said Strasser in his deep Australian accent. ?The goal is to make this new medical school an international centre of excellence for medicine, research and scholarship.?
Strasser is a family practitioner who has been involved in medical education for many years and shares particular expertise in rural medicine in Australia. Trained in medicine at Monash University, Strasser came to Canada to study at the University of Western Ontario, where he received his master?s of clinical science in family medicine.
Upon his return to Australia, he became actively involved in promoting the education to rural physicians and was instrumental in establishing the Monash University for Rural Health. In August 1992, he became the first professor of rural health in Australia.
Under his guidance, the centre became the School of Rural Health, the first school of its kind in the world. During his tenure, Strasser, a married father of five, recruited and trained faculty and staff and has developed a range of education, research and development activities.
Strasser said he plans on moving to Sudbury in late June with his family and plans to live here, but he will have offices in both Sudbury and Thunder Bay.
It?s his job to ensure the Northern Medical School has integrated, successful programs at both campuses which will accept students starting this fall.
?This will be a school by northern Ontario for northern Ontario,? he said.
For any new medical school to succeed and be able to attract top-quality students, it must not only offer an outstanding curriculum, but research and post-graduate opportunities for young doctors looking to become specialists, said Strasser.
He looks forward to working with physicians and front-line health care administrators and service providers not only from Sudbury and Thunder Bay, but all communities across northern Ontario, he said.
Establishing a rural medicine program in Australia offers many of the same challenges he expects in northern Ontario because both share a vast geography and both have had difficulties attracting and retaining physicians, said Strasser.
However, like in Australia, if a young doctor trains in a rural area the odds are greatly increased he or she will want to make their living in a rural area. Once the school is operational and starts producing graduates, Strasser said he has every confidence the enormous problem of attracting and retaining young physicians and specialists in the north will be greatly diminished.
Laurentian University president Dr. Hermann Falter said the hiring of Strasser as founding dean is the final piece in a 30-year dream he doubted would ever become reality with the establishment of a medical school designed specifically for northern Ontario.
The search committee had many outstanding candidates, but Strasser emerged as the man to go after because of his outstanding work and credentials established in Australia, said Falter.