A week of progress… and back to accreditation!

Last week was an exciting week here at the College of Medicine. The week started with introductions to my new boss! Dr. Tony Vanelli will join the University of Saskatchewan as our new Provost and Vice-President Academic in August. He comes to us from the University of Guelph where he served as the very highly regarded Dean of Engineering for two terms, and prior to that was at the University of Waterloo. We got to interact over a day and a half at a U of S senior leadership summit. Tony is very interested in the CoM and anxious to learn more over the next six months to support us on our journey to be one of the best Canadian medical schools.  The University and the CoM have had incredible support from both Acting Provosts, Ernie Barber and Michael Atkinson, but I know both are thrilled to pass the baton to a new permanent leader in the Provost role. This is an important step forward for the U of S.

On Wednesday night I was on hand with our President, Peter Stoicheff, and our Board Chair, Lee Ahenakew to welcome the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the U of S, the Health Sciences Building and the CoM. The town hall was extremely interesting to observe as the PM responded to a variety of questions with some appropriate emphasis on Indigenous concerns, although some controversy arose regarding some of his comments. On the other hand, the town hall was less raucous than some were across the country.

Even more important on Wednesday evening was the Faculty Council support for two major policy initiatives at the CoM. First congratulations to Dr. Keith Ogle on receiving support for the Policy and Procedures for the appointment of medical faculty. While our transition to a One Medical Faculty model as part of an overall united One Faculty model has been well discussed here in the past, this step was an important formal step in realizing this ambition.

Further congratulations to our Admissions Committee and Dr. Barry Ziola as Faculty Council voted to support a new admissions policy that designates six of our UGME seats for students from socio-economically disadvantaged background. The evidence is that the average family income of a Canadian medical student is at least 3 times that of an average Canadian family. I recall many years ago doing a CaRMS interview and being amazed by this individual’s academic prowess, grade 12 piano by the Royal Conservatory of Music, provincial tennis championship and stellar list of volunteer contributions. I knew two things for sure: this applicant would be an incredible doctor, and this applicant was rich! I recall thinking I wonder how many bright compassionate people never get the chance, and this is a big step towards fulfilling our mandate to be socially accountable and in ensuring our student body reflects the people we serve.

And then on Thursday we had the wonderful announcement of the recruitment of Dr. Michael Levin to the Chair in MS Clinical Research. Dr. Levin comes to us from the University of Tennessee and is an accomplished MS neurologist and clinician scientist. Dr. Levin joins Dr. Valerie Verge in the Cameco MS Neuroscience Research Centre, Dr. Katherine Knox in PM&R and other neuroscience researchers at the U of S. Furthermore the CoM and the health region have been successful in recruiting Dr. Ilia Poliakov, a neurologist who just finished an MS Fellowship at U of C. We will also be recruiting an RN and a Nurse Practitioner to further enhance the care in the MS clinic. Almost overnight we will revolutionize MS care and research in the province!

While the CoM took the lead on the recruitment this could only come to pass with incredibly important partners including SHR and the MoH. Of huge importance was the MS Society, the community of MS patients and their families and friends and the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation. However the endowment that underpins the Chair was raised by Saskatoon City Hospital Foundation ably led by its Board and the ever enthusiastic CEO, Mr. Steve Shannon. Thank you!

I find this story very inspiring as this money was raised in the community, at events, and one small donation at a time. The province of Saskatchewan has the highest MS rates in the world and this is a perfect example of working with the community to be a socially accountable medical school and change care for MS immediately here, and through our research around the world.

Finally, this Sunday evening we start our mock accreditation. We will be visited by Dr. Tom Marrie, my former dean at Dalhousie University, and Dr. Cam Enarson from the University of North Carolina. This visit is an essential step in our preparation for the full accreditation visit October 29 – November 3. The ‘mock’ will serve as a dress rehearsal for many. We have dramatically increased the team of faculty and staff supporting UGME and most have not been through an accreditation before so rehearsal is good. But more importantly it is a fact finding mission. We already know of things that must be fixed by the fall and have been working very hard for two and a half years on those. By engaging experienced accreditors to do a rigorous review we hope, to paraphrase Mr. Rumsfeld, find the gaps in accreditation standards that are the unknown unknowns.

So as I have said many times accreditation is a team sport and we look forward to your active participation in the mock accreditation. More importantly we will need to all work hard together with the feedback from our mock accreditors to prepare for the fall.

As always I welcome your feedback, and my door is always open.

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