Happy New Year and decade!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of the learners, faculty and staff at the CoM a happy New Year and decade! With all the hard work we have done in the last five years and the ongoing renewal, energy and enthusiasm I encounter every day, I believe the decade ahead will be one of extraordinary opportunity and success for our medical school.

I also extend New Year greetings to our partners and stakeholders, including our alumni (who have been very generous this past year) and donors (without whom we cannot thrive), and our partners at the university, in the health system and in government.

Before Christmas, I had noted that the move to A-Wing in the Health Sciences Building for our Saskatoon-based CoM administrative units was nearly complete. As many alumni will recall, A-Wing was the original CoM building. From a heritage perspective the beauty of the outside of the building is unchanged (other than new windows and landscaping), but the inside is new, modern and beautiful.

In keeping with the interprofessional and interdisciplinary ethos of our entire Health Sciences Building, the dean’s and administrative offices of Nursing, Dentistry, and Pharmacy and Nutrition are on the first and second floors of A-Wing. The Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research and the CoM’s Department of Biomedical Sciences office and IT team are on the ground floor. Our biomedical scientists, of course, remain in D-Wing and B-Wing and CH&E and CCHSA are in E-Wing. As the second biggest university college (or faculty) in Saskatchewan, we have a big footprint and we certainly appreciate our new and newly renovated facilities that support us in our work.

My office, the vice-deans of education, research and faculty engagement, and our chief operating officer, and most of their respective teams, are on the fourth floor in A-Wing and our undergraduate and postgraduate teams are on the third floor. The Division of Continuing Medical Education will be moving to the Health Sciences Building from their current space in Royal University Hospital (RUH). Most of our clinical department offices remain in RUH, our Regina campus is based in the Regina General Hospital, and of course we have administrative staff and leaders in other locations around the province.

On the medical education side, as many have heard me say, our campus is Saskatchewan and our medical faculty—nearly 1,900 strong!—inhabit our whole province. In that regard, Dr. Marilyn Baetz, our vice-dean faculty engagement, and I (and others) have plans to visit Regina, Prince Albert, North Battleford and Estevan in the coming months, and other locations as the year unfolds. We look forward to these opportunities to connect with you and hear your feedback.

Similarly, I invite you to come visit us here. This is your CoM and you are most welcome to wander through our new spaces and say hello when you are in Saskatoon. From many of our alumni, I have heard the comment that they are pleasantly surprised to come to what looks like their old stomping grounds on the outside and see how much has changed on the inside. As they know all too well, that change is similar on the curricular side! We are certainly a renewed College of Medicine in so many ways.

So please feel free to drop by. I am happy to show you around if I can, and others on our team are too!

As always, our door is open and I invite your feedback. Happy 2020!

Holiday greetings

I am sharing here a brief update on some activities and some highlights from around the college and the university before we embark on what I hope for all is a restful and rejuvenating holiday with friends and family.

As you may be aware, our USask president, Dr. Peter Stoicheff has been reappointed for a second five-year term. This is great news for our university as we continue to benefit from Peter’s strong leadership and its continuity. Peter has worked with and supported our college and I look forward to continuing this relationship.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to India for 10 days with Peter, and the dean of the College of Arts and Science, Dr. Peta Bonham-Smith, as well as other university colleagues, and my own superb guide, Dr. Anurag Saxena, our associate dean of Postgraduate Medical Education. We all participated in a two-day conference on post-secondary education where our president was a keynote speaker. The primary purpose of the trip was to explore potential collaborations, including student and faculty exchanges, and advance our reputation as a great place to study and advance one’s career.

Dr. Saxena and I visited four different medical schools, one other university, and a nursing college that Dr. Vivian Ramsden, one our Academic Family Medicine researchers, has collaborated with for more than 20 years. Overall it was a great learning experience and we hope it will advance our mission. A further plus: I loved the food, and even finished some dishes Anurag couldn’t!

On this note of collaboration, I would like to highlight one of the commitments of the university plan:

The second commitment in our plan is Boundless Collaboration. It ensures that we invigorate the impact of collaboration and partnership in everything we do through four strategic goals:

  • Enrich Disciplines
  • Align Structures
  • Embolden Partnerships
  • Experience Reconciliation

Now I would like to draw your attention to our CoM news website and the number of news stories that emphasize collaboration. There are many, including the collaborative opportunities with the new Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, but first note the collaboration between our Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health, internal medicine specialist Dr. Alexandra King and biochemist, Dr. Linda Chelico, and this introduction to the story:

“Linda Chelico and Alexandra King genuinely like each other. It’s why they keep finding interesting ways to work together. That, and their mutual respect for the different expertise each brings to the union, plus their willingness to admit their own weaknesses and learn from one another.”

Another is a great story involving a respirologist, Dr. Julian Tam, and a physiologist, Dr. Juan Ianowski, with the introduction:

“Building their partnership took time and diligence, but from the start Juan Ianowski and Julian Tam liked each other and got along well. That made the difference. Together, they have overcome the inherent hurdles in partnering across biomedical science and clinical practice and achieved significant research success.”

There are many more great stories about our researchers, including neuroscientist and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) researcher, Dr. Valerie Verge, who was recently honoured at the 2019 Women Against MS Gala Luncheon. Epidemiologist, Dr. Nazeem Muhharjine, received the U of S Distinuished Researcher Award at fall convocation.

All of these researchers and many more demonstrate Boundless Collaboration and all four of the strategic goals outlined above.

I also draw your attention to the great work of our researchers recently recognized by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) at the 2019 Santé Awards in Regina. College of Medicine researchers took five of the eight SHRF Excellence Awards:

  • Kerry Lavender (PhD); Dept. of Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology— Top Establishment Grant: Biomedical
  • Paul Mick (MD); Dept. of Surgery — Top Establishment Grant: Socio-Health
  • David Kingston (PhD); Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture (CCHSA) — Top Research Fellowship: Socio-Health
  • Francisco Cayabyab (PhD); Dept. of Surgery — Top Collaborative Innovation Development Grant: Biomedical
  • Juan Nicolás Peña-Sánchez (MD, PhD); Dept. of Community Health and Epidemiology — Top Sprout Grant

In other news, many of us in administrative and administrative leadership roles in Saskatoon have recently moved to the newly renovated A-Wing of the Health Sciences Building! The entire building project is now complete with the rejuvenated A-Wing, known by many of our alumni as the original College of Medicine Building. This space is now a truly inter-professional administration building, with the dean’s offices of the colleges of Dentistry, Pharmacy and Nutrition, Medicine, and Nursing co-located here.

Most of our Saskatoon-based CoM leadership and administration are now located on the third and fourth floors of the A-wing; this will support us as we advance collaboration and teamwork. I am particularly excited to have our research leadership team with us on the fourth floor and UGME and PGME close by on the third floor.

We have beautiful space which I hope you will have the opportunity to visit. I have changed up my own office with more inviting and informal seating, so you will have even more reason to drop by and provide me with your feedback on the college or anything else you might like to discuss!

On that note I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone—learners, faculty, staff and partners—for all that you have done for the College of Medicine in 2019. On behalf of myself, my wife Jane, and (of course) our dog Murphy, I wish each and every one  of you a wonderful holiday season filled with peace and contentment, wonderful meals, and special time with family and friends.

Exciting times in biomedical sciences

Guest blog by Scott Napper (Lead, Undergraduate BMSC Program Development)

New biomedical science (BMSC) undergraduate majors are on the way for May 1, 2020. Changes are coming for the honours, four-year and three-year degree programs.

For the honours and four-year degree programs, there will now be a single biochemistry, microbiology, and immunology major instead of two separate majors—biochemistry being one and microbiology and immunology the other, currently. As well,  the development of two new majors: cellular, physiological, and pharmacological sciences; and biomedical neuroscience, replace the current majors of anatomy and cell biology; and physiology and pharmacology.

The current three-year options in the separate majors in each of: biochemistry, microbiology and immunology; anatomy and cell biology; and physiology and pharmacology, will be replaced by a single, unified three-year degree option with the major of biomedical foundations.

Within these new majors, updated content, new classes and an enhanced priority on critical thinking and multi-disciplinary training will serve to better prepare our biomedical scientists of the future. The new majors were formally approved by University Council in Oct 2019. Current students will have the option to continue with their current program through completion (encouraged for those entering their third and fourth years) or transition to one of the new offerings.

A significant new experiential learning opportunity has been offered since 2018-19, when the Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) classes were introduced. They are designed to provide students with an authentic research experience where they develop and test a research hypothesis. This is a considerable departure from traditional lab classes where students follow a prescribed list of experiments to gain competence in specific techniques.

Rather than prioritizing competence in individual techniques, CURE classes challenge students to think and function as independent scientists. On completion, students will be competent in the process of defining a testable hypothesis and designing experimental approaches to test the hypothesis. Students will also have gained valuable experience in planning and preparing their own reagents (substances or compounds added to a system to bring about a chemical reaction or to see if a reaction occurs), setting up and conducting experiments, budgeting of time and resources, scientific communication (both written and oral presentation) and being a productive member of a team.

The changes to our biomedical science program have generated considerable enthusiasm among our faculty and students. Enabling the success of our students ensures the success of our program, at the undergraduate level and in recruitment to our graduate research programs. In addition to higher-quality training, the new program—coupled with USask’s unique infrastructure, such as VIDO-InterVac and the Canadian Light Source—will attract more highly qualified students from across Canada.

A further benefit of these efforts to optimize the biomedical science programs is the closer working relationship growing between the CoM and the College of Arts and Science. The USask biomedical science program is somewhat unique in that the biomedical science departments are housed within the CoM, while the associated undergraduate degrees are offered through Arts and Science. Academically, each biomedical science major reflects nearly equal contribution of courses taught by faculty of each college. While the colleges have historically maintained a strong working relationship, recent united efforts by faculty and staff of both colleges have enhanced appreciation for the greater partnership opportunities that are possible. Ongoing collaborations between the colleges will further improve the program while epitomizing the priority in USask’s Plan 2025 of cross-college collaboration. In this regard, there are other exciting plans for the future!

A history of steady improvement and progress in USask’s biomedical sciences have aligned with these rapidly evolving fields of study. In July 2018, the five College of Medicine departments within the biomedical sciences merged to two departments. This new structure better supports collaboration and multidisciplinary work, as the perceived boundaries between the biomedical science disciplines are becoming progressively blurred. In 2009, a coordinated effort by all of the biomedical science departments resulted in the creation of a two-year BMSC platform that consists of six courses which provide a broad introduction to the biomedical science disciplines. This platform serves as a common foundation of all of the biomedical science degrees. Over the past ten years, the BMSC platform has been highly successful in providing students with a strong interdisciplinary foundation as well as enabling them to make informed decisions of a biomedical science major in their third year. The new platform will include seven common courses.

Excellence and the clinical/learning environment

Leadership Matters – Part III

If you have followed my last two blogs (Inspirational meeting and Equity, diversity and inclusion), you will know I recently attended the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Annual Meeting, Learn, Serve, Lead 2019, and wrote about the inspirational nature and content of the meeting. Many AAMC leaders and speakers spoke out strongly on issues of equity, diversity and justice and called leaders and faculty, staff and learners to activism and advocacy. My second blog in this series of three called on senior leaders to be accountable for advancing equity, diversity and inclusion.

Another theme at AAMC, as in past years, was the joint responsibility of medical schools and the health care system to provide an excellent clinical and learning environment for our medical learners, staff and faculty. I have spoken frequently about the fact the clinical environment and the learning environment are inextricably linked and the quality of care is reflected in the quality of clinical education and vice versa.

The speaker at the last plenary session was superb. Dr. Amy C. Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, delivered an amazing talk, Fearless: Creating Psychological Safety for Learning, Innovation and Growth. A review of her biography documents her expertise in organizational learning, innovation and teamwork. Her most recent book is titled The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth.

Now I know, as does Dr. Edmondson, that psychological safety for some has become a buzz phrase, and some think it is being overused. So, early in her talk she reiterated what psychological safety was not: about being nice; touchy-feely; a license to whine; freedom from conflict; and so on. However, she used logic and evidence to clearly argue that there was no tradeoff between high standards and psychological safety, as illustrated in the following graphic, and argued that it is incumbent on all leaders to expect both excellence in work and excellence in the working and learning environment.

One of the key challenges in our environment is the historical and current hierarchy of academic medicine. In 2007, Darrell Kirch, AAMC president emeritus, called for academic medicine to move from a culture that was hierarchical, autonomous, competitive, individualistic and expert-centered to a different culture that is collaborative, team-based, service-based, mutually accountable and patient-centered. In this talk, Dr. Edmondson illustrated we still have a long way to go!

One fascinating illustration about the importance of leadership in determining the work and learning environment was a study she co-led (Making it safe: The effects of leader inclusiveness and professional status on psychological safety and improvement efforts in health care teams). Like any great speaker and scientist, she used evidence to link hierarchy to psychological safety to clinical outcomes. I am sure you all can picture this argument being built, but just to be clear, higher levels of hierarchy led to worse communication and teamwork and was associated with worse clinical outcomes as well as lower workplace satisfaction.

As one might expect, the study demonstrated overall significant differences of levels of hierarchy from physicians to nurses to respiratory therapists across the 44 neonatal intensive care units studied. However, further analysis revealed that some units were flat! That certainly also implies some units were even more hierarchical. (You might be interested in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman, copyright 2005. Recent events may belay that idea, but I digress!)

So, what was special about the units that were flat? Detailed analysis was done and many factors were considered. In the end, the only common factor in the units where the pecking order did not, in fact, exist was the presence of inclusive unit leaders. Leadership matters!

I need to clarify my ideas on leadership. By virtue of the organizations of which we are all a part, we have positional leadership. But much of what I have read about excellence in leadership in organizations is that leadership is something everyone does. The custodian on the word can change a clinical outcome by speaking up. The learner will challenge the consensus on teams and often be right.

For me, this study and Dr. Edmondson’s talk illustrate that all positional leaders must be inclusive, collaborative and must welcome feedback and dissent. More importantly, it illustrates the importance of front-line leadership and the importance for our patients and our learners that we provide inclusive, respectful, collaborative leadership.

So, as always, I invite your feedback here on my blog. I would also be happy to hear from you face-to-face, and would welcome the opportunity to attend your department or unit meeting and travel to your community.

See also:
Inspirational Meeting – Leadership Matters Part I
Equity, diversity and inclusion Leadership Matters Part II

Equity, diversity and inclusion

Leadership Matters – Part II

This blog is more on the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Annual Meeting, Learn, Serve, Lead 2019, that I recently attended in Phoenix, and most importantly about the work of our CoM Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. As I noted in my previous blog, the audience at the meeting included medical education and healthcare leaders, clinicians and educators. We all benefited from amazing speakers, both from within and outside medicine, who talked about activism, advocacy and change and called on all to advance the fight against inequity, injustice and racism in academic medicine and the healthcare system. One recurrent theme was their call on leaders to be accountable for leading change towards greater equity, justice, and excellence in healthcare—and we were reminded that we will never have the last without the first two.

While many speakers emphasized leadership qualities like humility, curiosity and empathy, it was always in the context that good leadership is essential for success in any organization or enterprise. A number of the speakers talked about racism in the United States and the profound impact it has on health inequity. This included the plenary speaker, Bryan Stevenson, highlighted in my last blog. I was constantly reminded, of course, of our own challenges in Canada of racism and health inequity of Indigenous people. This extends to other groups in our college and country, including those with disabilities, those who identify as LGBTQ, and others.

Another great speaker was Dr. David R. Williams, Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In his talk, Racism, Medicine and Health: We Must Do Better Than This, he too did a remarkable job of weaving data and stories together to illustrate the connections between race, socio-economic status and health (again it hit far too close to home!), and of equipping us with tools to change the narrative.

Dr. Williams reminded us of the innumerable ways in which racism is embedded in our culture and ourselves. Another speaker shared evidence that we are all prejudiced. And Dr. Williams reiterated how racism is based in both neuroscience and history, and some examples are truly ancient and some sadly current. Two data points stick in my mind. The first is that black Americans lag substantially behind white Americans in annual income (I must rely on my memory, but recall it was around 60 per cent), but when it comes to wealth for every dollar held by a white person, just seven cents is held by a black person! The second data point was that the pre-term birth rate for Latino women has risen since 2016—I will let that one speak for itself!

Another overriding theme of the conference was that when it comes to diversity and the challenges of racism, leadership must come from the top. Repeated stories of success in many organizations emphasized that senior leadership must be advocates for change on diversity and racism. I and the leadership of the CoM are committed to being nation leaders on advancing diversity and inclusion. In that regard I would like to highlight the work of our Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (DIWG).

The group was formed in 2017 and its membership includes faculty, senior leadership, and administrative staff, who (in accordance with the DIWG’s Terms of Reference) reflect greater representation of under-represented groups within the College of Medicine. The working group is charged with: developing a plan that aligns with the University of Saskatchewan’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan; putting the plan into action through the development of initiatives and projects to promote the diversity objectives indicated in the plan, and; operationalizing elements of the University of Saskatchewan Diversity and Inclusion Plan that may require unique operational processes due to the province-wide mandate of the College of Medicine. More information about diversity and inclusion in our college, including the just-released annual report of the DIWG, is available on our college website.

I would also like to highlight the work of our Research Equity and Diversity Specialist in the Office of the Vice-Dean Research, and the upcoming Balance and Belonging Speaker Series. Ensuring that the College of Medicine supports a research community in which everyone is represented and supported is vital for increased innovation, relevance, creativity, and impact. The Speaker Series, which offers three presentations over the course of the year, will also offer a Certificate of Attendance to attendees of all three sessions. This initiative is unique in comparison to other universities in Canada and demonstrates the commitment the College of Medicine has, not only to addressing equity, diversity and inclusion in our research, but also to improving inclusiveness and enabling our faculty and staff to feel more welcome and valued at work.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

We now have a full team on the Dean’s Executive with the addition of Dr. Marilyn Baetz as the Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement. I and the vice-deans of faculty engagement, research and education, and the chief operating officer all look forward to hearing from our staff, faculty and students from all backgrounds and groups you identify with—your identity is yours. We hope that identity includes the College of Medicine! And if not, that you will tell us what we can do to make that happen.

See also: Inspirational Meeting – Leadership Matters Part I

Inspirational meeting

Leadership Matters – Part I

I am on my way back from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Annual Meeting, Learn Serve Lead 2019, in Phoenix. As you know, I come from the Maritimes where those with good fortune go to Florida in the winter. Coming here I assumed the attraction to Phoenix was simply proximity and weather but now I really understand its popularity. The climate is obviously remarkable but a side trip one day to the Grand Canyon revealed a varied and beautiful landscape of truly amazing vistas—as well as hikes that can really get your heart rate up!

I have always been surprised and inspired by this meeting. While the Canadian Conference on Medical Education and International Conference on Residency Education are some of the best meetings in the world (also the Association for Medical Education in Europe) for the latest in medical education, this meeting is the best for amazing plenary speakers and inspiration. In thinking about the AAMC one might expect lots of ivory tower privilege and healthcare-as-profitable-business (and fair enough; the Americans mostly wear suits to the meeting).

The surprise and inspiration come from the amazing speakers who in one way or another are always talking about activism, advocacy and change. The audience is medical education and healthcare leaders, from students to deans. In this meeting the AAMC and the invited speakers push leaders to fight health inequity, achieve diversity, teach and implement anti-racism, fight bias, and lead with humility, curiosity and empathy. One very effective strategy is to invite many leading speakers and thought leaders from outside medicine and healthcare, which in itself is very refreshing. Here, I would like to tell you about the opening day plenary speaker.

One quick sidebar first: we were entertained by the students of Rosie’s House, one of the largest American free after-school music programs for socio-economically disadvantaged children. The school’s leader shared that the greatest predictor of success in school in the United States is postal code. Through music, Rosie’s House fights these disadvantages such that 95 per cent of its graduates achieve their educational and career goals! The music and the inspiration was worth the price of the conference.

Now to the opening plenary, American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity, and Making a Difference, delivered by Bryan Stevenson. From the AAMC meeting schedule description, “Bryan Stevenson is a committed, passionate, and eloquent defender of the incarcerated, the poor, and those oppressed by racism. As founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and the mastermind behind the National Lynching Memorial, Stevenson is not afraid to address the dark past of this country and the ongoing injustices that are far too common in 2019.”

Bryan is a remarkable man and one of the best speakers I have ever heard. He was passionate, articulate and used a remarkable balance of evidence and narrative. And he could teach all of us how to structure and deliver a talk. He had four key messages, which he foreshadowed, then built on each with stories and data, repeated them, linked them, summarized and, did I mention, repeated them. It was poetry in motion.

I hesitate to describe an amazing hour in a few short paragraphs, but here goes. (Forgive me, Bryan!)

  1. Proximity: leaders must be present. And by proximity, he means close! To create change, leaders must be seen and engaged with their teams. But it is more than that. To create change we must know intimately the environments and structures that we are trying to change and see first-hand the suffering of those in need of change. Personally, this was an important reminder to me and my team of the need to get out of 5D40 and Saskatoon much more frequently.
  2. We must change the narrative. Bryan repeatedly emphasized that oppression and injustice are often based and justified on misinformation and the narratives of the victors. He emphasized the need every day to change the narrative.
  3. We must remain hopeful. Change is hard and advocating for change is draining. Challenging the narrative upsets people. He said, “Hope is our superpower!”
  4. Change only happens when we do things that make us uncomfortable. In this message, Bryan was clear it was not just those on the receiving end of change who will be uncomfortable. Those advocating for change must also be uncomfortable and must be empathetic towards all who are experiencing change.

My summary has done great injustice to an amazing talk; I will definitely be buying his book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, and learning more.

It was a great conference, and I only hope I can incorporate some of what I learned to serve you better. As always, I welcome your feedback.


Travel, alumni connections and college news

This fall has been a busy one, full of travel—both personal and work-related. On the personal side (as I am sure some of you know because of far too many pictures and bragging), I was back in the Maritimes for the birth of my second grandchild and first granddaughter, Abigail Marie, in late September. She was a healthy 10 pounds at birth and everyone is doing well!

Last week we were back in the Maritimes for what is now an annual gathering of five couples from medical school days; we used to gather in third and fourth year every month for a wine tasting. We were hosted this year by a classmate and his wife in Sydney, NS and enjoyed both the Celtic Colors International Festival and the truly wonderful fall colors of Cape Breton. I highly recommend fall in the Maritimes—if you can avoid the hurricanes. In driving from southwest NB to Cape Breton I drove through more rain and wind in eight hours than I have seen in five years in Saskatchewan! Weather aside, it was so much fun to reunite with classmates. The wine has improved in quality and definitely gone up in price, but the focus on stories, laughter, friendship, some excellent food and great Celtic music has not changed over the years.

Speaking of old friends, we have had a number of alumni events this fall. Medical Education Vice-Dean Dr. Kent Stobart, our advancement team and I joined our college’s Alumni Association to host an event in Regina two weeks ago. Dr. Teresa Paslawski, Associate Dean of the School of Rehabilitation Science, joined us to welcome physical therapy colleagues there. More recently, we hosted alumni at similar events in Calgary and Saskatoon (at the beautiful Remai Modern art museum), and I will travel to Edmonton to host our alumni there in mid-November.

These events are critical to update our alumni, give them an opportunity to reconnect with their college and each other, and thank them for their generous support of the College of Medicine.

This week we join with faculty, staff and alumni from the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology (CH&E) to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The department has long been a strong contributor to our UGME program, providing lots of curriculum and very important leadership, especially in our “Medicine and Society” course. It is home to our Division of Social Accountability and was instrumental in the CoM receiving the ASPIRE award for Social Accountability. CH&E faculty are key researchers on our team who collaborate with clinicians throughout the CoM as well as researchers in all the health professions and across the entire campus, province and beyond. They are the academic home for public health physicians throughout the province and deliver the residency program in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Congratulations to CH&E on this important anniversary!

I attended the International Conference on Residency Education, sponsored by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. It has certainly grown into a preeminent conference on Postgraduate Medical Education! This year, the theme was Diversity in Residency Education: Training in a World of Differences. I have written here before about our commitment to diversity; the conference was inspiring, while challenging, and although we have a long way to go together here, our journey is in line with other medical schools around the world.

So as always there is lots going on at the college. A very significant and wonderful change is just around the corner as we welcome Dr. Marilyn Baetz in her new role as Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement on November 1! I know I will really appreciate her presence and help, and I am certain our faculty will as well. I know that Marilyn is very happy to be starting in this role and looks forward to hearing from you.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

A busy and exciting year ahead

In my recent welcome back blog, I alluded to a busy fall coming up at the CoM. This blog outlines some of the big things going on and what I will be up to in the coming months.

First, I had the great opportunity on Thursday to attend the grand opening of the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital, an incredibly exciting day for our province’s children and their loved ones, as well as our health system and college. Later this month, the first patients will be able to enter this wonderful new facility. We have a great team in the Department of Pediatrics and amazing and dedicated volunteers and organizers to support the hospital as it opens its doors. For our college, it will provide tremendous opportunities for enhanced teaching and research in pediatric health supported by both the new infrastructure and expansion in pediatric specialties.

Also highly significant for the College of Medicine and our faculty is today’s announcement that Dr. Marilyn Baetz will start as our vice-dean faculty engagement on November 1, 2019. Marilyn has done a wonderful job leading the Department of Psychiatry and I am sure will be sorely missed in that role and by the Saskatchewan Health Authority. I am very pleased to announce Marilyn’s appointment and look forward to the work she will do in enhancing faculty engagement (which you likely know by now is one of our top strategic priorities I always include in my elevator speech about our strategic plan).

Fall is now also a busy season for work on budgets, with our fiscal planning at all levels taking place earlier to ensure an approved budget is in place when we start the new fiscal year in April. This timeline also coincides with government budget timelines, and we have already been working with our colleagues at the university and in government on our 2020-2021 budget request.

The CoM’s education portfolio is very active. We have just completed an external review of Student Affairs and Dr.  Kent Stobart and his team are working to continue to enhance student services. Dr. Trustin Domes has taken on the role of Director of Admissions and we will soon initiate a major review of our admissions policies. Some may have noticed Western University’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry making national news for their innovations in admissions—a reminder of the challenge in medical education I keep telling our funders about: the bar is always moving! In PGME, Competence by Design continues to roll out across more programs, with 10 so far that have launched CBD. And in December, we provide the Committee on Accreditation of Medical Schools with the follow-up data they had requested after our successful accreditation visit in 2017. All of these activities align with our strategic priority of quality education.

Work in the biomedical sciences (BMSC) to develop a new undergraduate degree program continues on schedule. Our departments of Anatomy, Physiology & Pharmacology and Biochemistry, Microbiology & Immunology are hard at work recruiting new faculty to replace some of our retirees. And in Community Health and Epidemiology, plans are well underway for 60th anniversary celebrations this fall.

The above provides a few highlights of all that is upcoming—our departments and units across the CoM are doing a great deal more that I will not be able to capture here. We are a big and busy college, there is no question!

I have taken on some additional national roles. I continue to Chair the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) Standing Committee on Education and sit on the AFMC Executive. I represent deans on the PGME Governing Council, the Distributed Medical Education group of the AFMC and the Rural Road Map Implementation Committee led by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada. I am also the CFPC nominee to the board of the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.

Fall is always a busy time for national meetings and I will be away for a few, including the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) meeting, Learn Serve Lead in Phoenix, and the International Conference on Residency Education (ICRE), run by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The AAMC meeting is always a great way to learn about innovations in medical education and ICRE is becoming a huge meeting for PGME that I will be attending for the first time. Finally, as I sit on the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Quality, Safety & Strategy committee, I hope to attend the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) National Forum on Quality Improvement in Healthcare in December. IHI calls the attendees, “passionate professionals unsatisfied with the current state of health care, and unwilling to stand still,” and I am told it is partly professional development and partly a “revival meeting.” I look forward to the experience!

So as always there is lots on the go at the CoM. But I am not ready to let go of summer yet so I thought I might let you know what I was reading this year. I had done so in a previous blog and a number of people asked to hear more. So my summer relaxation was a few of my old, low cognitive load standbys of historical fiction and mystery. I finished Ken Follet’s Edge of Eternity and David Baldacci’s The Fallen and Long Road to Mercy. (This is of course to prove I am not totally a nerd!)

But my real discovery this summer was Louise Penney, a Canadian author from rural Quebec who sets her mystery novels there. It is a series, and this year I accidently discovered her by desperately searching a grocery store in rural New Brunswick for something to read! I read her Kingdom of the Blind and immediately thought, “Where have you been all this time!” So now I have started the first book in the 15-book series, Still Life. They are great mysteries and a charming slice of Canadiana, complemented by a wicked but subtle sense of humor!

To reinforce that I am still part nerd, on September 1 I started Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein. It is written in that modern style of “science writer for the general public,” so there are some great anecdotes, some fascinating research and the odd leap of logic. However, he does quite a job of debunking the universal applicability of Gladwell’s 10,000 hours and other current concepts like deliberate practice, early starts and grit. What I found fascinating was how some of the education research he describes supports what we are doing in our new BMSC undergraduate degree and the Saskatchewan Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship in our UGME program. It also supports some of the themes in the U of S Strategic Plan “The Weave” – especially the themes of Connectivity and Creativity. It is always interesting to see confirming ideas coming from different directions (or is this just another bubble?). I digress; however, I do recommend the book as a thought-provoking read.

This will be a busy fall for everyone as we continue to move the CoM forward. I hope that for some who share my taste in books, these are potential distractions! I hope others will share their favorite books.

And as I always say, my door is open and I welcome feedback. As well, with our new vice-dean faculty engagement joining the team in November, we will have even more opportunities to hear from our faculty. Furthermore, we have a vice-dean education, vice-dean research and a chief operating officer who are all willing to hear from learners, teachers, researchers and staff.


Welcome back!

This is a very brief blog to welcome everyone back for the start of a new academic year. I want to welcome all of our learners: biomedical science students, graduate students, physical therapy students, medical students and residents! We are a big family, with about 2,000 learners here at the CoM.

I want to welcome our first-year medical students, as I missed your Orientation early in August when I was away in the Maritimes. We are thrilled to have you on board and I look forward to getting to know you.

Welcome back to all staff and faculty. I hope you had a restful and restorative summer break. I have been back now for two weeks, mostly on the road in Saskatchewan. I have been to Regina twice for meetings and last week I was at the university’s Senior Leadership Retreat in Waskesiu and an SHA board meeting in Meadow Lake.

With those meetings being back-to-back, I took advantage of the opportunity and the good weather to make it a 1000k motorcycle trip from Saskatoon to Waskesiu, to Meadow Lake, and then back via Blaine Lake, over three days. It was a great ride through some amazing scenery through our Saskatchewan Prairies (mixed grassland to be specific) and Boreal Plains ecozones!

It was great to visit Meadow Lake and meet with members of the community there at an SHA board reception held at the Meadow Lake Tribal Council offices. I also spoke with some of our medical faculty in Meadow Lake. They have done a great job as one of our two inaugural sites of our Saskatchewan Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (SLIC); two new third-year medical students have just started there this summer in that program. (Estevan is our other SLIC site, and we have two third-year students there this year as well.)

The community and our faculty are to be commended for a doing a great job last year and enthusiastically continuing this year despite a significant physician shortage, which the community and the SHA are working hard to correct. I had a great conversation with our SLIC lead in Meadow Lake, Dr. Rebecca Epp, and was very grateful to see the remarkable enthusiasm for medical education and commitment to their community. Both as dean and as an SHA board member I say thank you to these dedicated physicians!

As always, we have a lot to do this fall, with lots of exciting initiatives and, of course, the odd challenge to face. But for now, let’s focus on enjoying our last kick at summer relaxation over the Labour Day long weekend.

Have a great weekend! Go Riders! And remember my door is always open and I always appreciate your feedback.

P.S. Here are a few pictures from my holidays in the Maritimes – a fishing camp on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick and a cottage on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia:


Mid-Summer Check-in

I hope all are enjoying this beautiful Saskatchewan summer and getting some down time. I wanted to give you some brief updates.

First, I want to provide a belated welcome to our PGY1’s as they are now two weeks into their residency programs. I was in clinic on Orientation Day and pleased to see the new Family Medicine residents and especially pleased to see so many familiar faces.

We have had great success at seeing our own graduates choose our residency programs and that bodes well for the future recruitment by the Saskatchewan Health Authority of our graduates. And hopefully the new residents have all successfully survived their first few nights on call and their average daily heart rates are starting to trend back to normal!

Second, I would like to congratulate Dr. Troy Harkness and Dr. Terra Arnason from the CoM and Dr. Christopher Eskiw from the College of Agriculture and Bioresources for their success in the latest Project Grant round of CIHR. They were awarded $872,000 over five years and even more remarkably their project received a score of 4.59 and was ranked second among 54 grant applications. Congratulations to Troy and his team!

I would also like to point out that Troy thanks the CoM for the CoMBridge funding that he received last year that was instrumental in this tremendous CIHR success. Repeatedly researchers who have received CoM support have gone on to national success.

What many in the public do not understand is that local and provincial support to researchers is absolutely essential for success in the big national competitions. Researchers need immense amounts of preparation and preliminary data to compete on the incredibly competitive national stage. The Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation has very limited funding and thus this internal support to our researchers is essential to our research success.

However, what the public may not also realize is that provincial research funding is directly correlated with provincial health outcomes. A paper from the University of Calgary School of Public Policy by Zwicker and Emery entitled, “How is Funding Medical Research Better for Patients?”  is sobering reading for anyone from Saskatchewan or Manitoba!

We all know correlation is not causation but the authors quite clearly demonstrate that mortality from potentially avoidable causes and treatable causes is inversely correlated with provincial research funding. So as a socially accountable organization we must do all we can to support research.

Finally, and on a personal level, I can report our 40th wedding anniversary river cruise in Eastern Europe was incredible! Budapest and Prague are my new favorite cities and the concert on board by Jann Arden was incredible. We also had a few days last week in the Rockies with family and look forward to a family wedding in NB and some Miramichi salmon fishing in early August.

So I hope you all are having a great summer and remember my door is open and I value your feedback.