As I write this blog I sit looking out on beautiful and sunny Lake Waskesu while taking a break from the discussions at the Dean’s Retreat. I am confident the University is on an upward trajectory as we head into a new academic year and welcome a new class of future MD’s and graduate students. Having sat on the Presidential search committee I am excited about the leadership of our incoming President, Peter Stoicheff, and within the CoM I am equally excited about the leadership of our new Vice-Dean Education, Kent Stoubart, and our soon to be chosen new Vice-Dean of Research.
I returned Sunday night after a great 3-week vacation in the Maritimes and on the last Saturday celebrated with family and friends a wonderful and joyous wedding where my youngest daughter married her childhood sweetheart. Thanks to all of the warm wishes and congratulations from so many of you. I have to say despite loving my previous 56 years as a Maritimer, after experiencing rain on about 15 of the 22 days I was there made me realize how much I loved returning home to Saskatchewan and sunshine!! (The sun did shine for the outdoor wedding.)
This is an important moment at the CoM as seen in today’s announcement on the offer being made to our MD faculty who are part of the University Of Saskatchewan Faculty Association. This is an important step in the process of restructuring the College of Medicine as planned in The Way Forward. And it is an important step toward our goal of being the best “small medical school” in Canada and eventually one of the best overall, while serving the people of Saskatchewan better than any other school serves its constituency.
For me this step is part of a plan that brings us towards the goal of one united MD faculty, more MD’s actively engaged with and supporting the CoM and finally ensuring both fairness to MD faculty and accountability for the resources we are provided by our university, health regions, government, citizens and each other. My advice to the team that negotiated this package was that the transition must be optional, fair, transparent, and attractive and I believe this package achieves those goals.
One Faculty. Over the past 15 months I have come to know many of our MD faculty and have come to value and respect their contributions to the CoM. What I see is a love and passion for the CoM, our learners and research. And this love and passion is equally found between both the MD members of USFA and those who are designated community faculty appointees. Increasingly the academic contributions and the quality and quantity of scholarly work are also found on both sides of this historic divide. While this divide is both historical and structural it is no longer about academic commitment and it is imperative that we make room now for our MD faculty to become united under one umbrella of engagement with and contribution to the CoM.
More Faculty. I have repeatedly, and in multiple venues, presented the data that show our medical school compared with all of our peers, is running on substantially less time from MD faculty. This is multi-factorial and in part due to the overall shortage of MD’s in Saskatchewan, but it is also largely structural. Our successful peers have in place structures and compensation schemes that allow the majority of the MD’s in the academic health science centers (SHR and RQHR) to be actively engaged in their medical school on an equitable basis and they are ahead of us in engaging MD’s in smaller and rural settings. Using CIHI definitions we have around 70 – 80 FTE’s of MD time at the CoM while our peers are around 150 FTE’s. My goal in restructuring the CoM is to have many more MD’s actively engaged with the CoM and passionate about teaching and research.
Fairness and Accountability. The University decided two years before my arrival to stop recruiting MD’s to tenure track positions. I saw immediately the need to complete the implementation of the Academic Clinical Funding Plan and was supported tremendously in that goal by SHR, RQHR and the Ministry of Health. As this package was developed I also saw that for many of our faculty, their current compensation would not be competitive with the ACFP. We have already signed up 9 doctors to the ACFP who have the benefits of working with clearly defined academic and clinical deliverables and very competitive compensation. My goal has been that faculty members have an attractive incentive to transition to the ACFP where they can continue to do the academic work they love.
I recognize that while our current resources are excellent, we will eventually require more resources if we are to meet our goal of being one of the best medical schools in Canada and the one that serves its province better than any other. To be deserving of that investment we must demonstrate to our funders and our public that we hold each other accountable for the delivery of our entire academic and clinical commitment.
While I believe the ACFP will eventually be the choice of many (and for sure the majority of young faculty) I would reiterate we would continue to engage with others on the basis of contracts and stipends. But, regardless of compensation scheme we are will now be all part of another step toward becoming one faculty with a shared commitment to our learners, our research, our patients and our College of Medicine.
I encourage all who are offered this package to take your time, discuss with your peers, get professional advice as needed and discuss with your leaders. Please feel free to call or visit me to discuss. My door is always open. No matter what your choices are my goal is to retain all of the current MD USFA members as active contributors to the CoM and I sincerely believe that for the majority this transition to a new model of faculty engagement will in the end see us all in a better place.