Reflecting on 2014, looking at The Way Forward in 2015

As 2014 draws to a close, I want to take a moment to express my thanks to all of our learners, educators, researchers, and staff for all the great work you do. And to all our College of Medicine stakeholders and partners, thank-you for your engagement and your support.

On a personal level, I have to thank all of you for the incredibly warm welcome and great support Jane, Marie, and I have received since arriving in Saskatoon. That goes for Murphy too.  He’s now a certified pet therapist and official member of the volunteer workforce at RUH (picture on his name tag and all!).

However, as a college community, we have an especially important thank-you to express to Martin Phillipson as he finishes his role as Vice-Provost, College of Medicine. Martin has made an amazing contribution to our College of Medicine over the last three years and has done it all with remarkable good cheer!  Today, he presented an update on The Way Forward to University Council.

Martin was asked to assume this role in July 2012 and lead, with the dean, the renewal and restructuring of the College of Medicine.  I can assure you one could probably count on one hand the number of senior university leaders across the country willing to embark on such a daunting task. As the old joke goes, if a university president or provost keeps waking up in a cold sweat, it is probably due to a recurring nightmare he or she has two colleges of medicine.

Change is always hard and no medical school wants to think there is need for renewal. Martin took up this challenge with great determination and enthusiasm. While challenging the status quo he always took time to search out multiple perspectives and listen to diverse opinions. And he was always building relationships and endeavoring to bridge divides.

The creation of the Dean’s Advisory Committee opened up the CoM to our many stakeholders. Martin put together the many working groups that contributed to various parts of the strategy that became The Way Forward. I can’t emphasize enough the endorsement this document has received from our university leaders, our funders, our partners and in particular, our accrediting  bodies.

Another old saying is that when you have seen one medical school, you have seen one medical school. But Martin believed there had to be many best practices we could learn from our peers. He did his research and visited nearly all the other 16 medical schools. I often say, and truly believe, Martin knows more about how medical schools are run in Canada than many of the deans and most of the faculty at those schools.

Martin’s work and relationship skills have been particularly effective in growing our stature in the university and it was not without criticism he promoted us as the “Flagship College” at the U of S. It is a worthy and lofty goal that is assumed by many of our peers. He also promoted us as a foundation of the provincial healthcare system.  That vision – more than any other factor -drew me to Saskatchewan. Through that vision, and Martin’s great relationship skills, we have established a strong working relationship with our government partners.

Finally, I want to recognize and thank Martin for his support to the interim deans (which in itself is no easy task) and to me.  For the last seven months, Martin has been an invaluable source of history (almost as good as Kathy Kalyn), and a great advisor. The business world calls this period “on-boarding” and universities are not known for being good at it, but my transition has been remarkably smooth. My personal thanks (and a good bottle of Scotch) go to Martin.

Martin is going on a well-deserved one year administrative leave, but will be here on campus and be with us from time-to-time to assist on some ongoing projects such as the provincial ACFP.

I keep saying in the short term we can be the best small medical school in Canada. While challenging at times, Martin’s and your hard work over the last three years has prepared the foundation for achieving that goal. I firmly believe we are ready and able to “fly on our own”. However, I would like us to pause and thank Martin for his enthusiasm, determination, hard work, warmth and good cheer in contributing to our journey.

Jane, Marie, and I would like to wish all of you the best this wonderful holiday season can bring – with plenty of rest, time with family and friends, and the occasional indulgence! We hope for you and your family, and the College of Medicine, a warm (figured out to live here I must always mention the weather), rewarding, and prosperous 2015.


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