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New TV series patterned after northern medical school

Hard Rock Medical follows a group of medical students at a fictional school in Northern Ontario.

BY LÉO CHARBONNEAU | FEB 06 2012

While spending time in Sudbury, Ontario, over several years to shoot a television series, Derek Diorio would listen to local CBC radio and noticed that the two things they always talked about were natural resources and health care issues. On the latter, one day Mr. Diorio heard an interview with someone at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. “I started listening to what they were doing that was so different, and I thought, ‘This is an interesting topic for a television show.’”

Mr. Diorio, owner of an Ottawa-based production company called Distinct Features Inc., pitched the idea to the provincial television network, TV-Ontario. The network agreed to commission the half-hour drama, called Hard Rock Medical, which follows a group of medical students at a fictional school based loosely on NOSM. The show, scheduled to begin shooting in March, is a co-production between TVO, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Roger Strasser, dean of NOSM, congratulated the producers when the announcement was made in December, wishing them well and saying he hopes the series will “shine a spotlight on the issues of health-care challenges in Northern Ontario.”

The medical school wasn’t always on board. “At the beginning, they were wary about having themselves portrayed in a TV show,” Mr. Diorio admits. He and his co-producers met with the NOSM board and “we told them what we wanted the show to be. They told us what their concerns were, and we listened. When you distill it down, we’re being influenced by the ethos of the school, the things they do differently.”

The school, which opened in 2005 and is run jointly by Laurentian and Lakehead universities, is noted for its community-based training model centred on the needs of the north. Starting in first year, students do a compulsory month-long placement in an aboriginal community, followed by two six-week placements in a remote community in year two. They then spend all of their third year off campus.

It’s this idea of students dealing with difficult and often quirky situations in rural and remote settings that will give the series its drama and humour, says Mr. Diorio. He says that ideally the series will follow the fictional students as they progress through their training over the four years.

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