And the CoMRAD goes to…..

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The leadership at the College of Medicine is committed to supporting our researchers and expanding on our strengths as we grow our research mandate. In light of this I am delighted to announce a new and competitive internal funding initiative called the CoMRAD – College of Medicine Research Award.

The official call for applicants will be issued on February 8th, 2016. Researchers within the College who wish to apply will be able to competitively apply for funding for initiatives ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 for a period of one year.

Depending on uptake and peer review the College of Medicine is willing to commit up to $500,000 in this fiscal year.

The office of the Vice Dean Research will be issuing the call and more information about the program including the guidelines and application form will be available on the Vice Dean Research SharePoint website.

We are excited about the possibility of expanding upon our existing strengths in Biomedical Sciences, Clinical Research, Medical Education, Health Systems Services, and Social, Cultural, Environmental and Population Health Research. The College of Medicine recognizes that through the support of our researchers and their endeavours, this work has the potential to make an important and timely contribution to the field of health sciences and health care practices.

Extra Notes on Initiative:

  • $5,000 to $30,000 for a period of one year
  • Funding is provided for 1 year in length.
  • All faculty – Academic and Community Based are encouraged to apply.
  • The call will be issued on February 8th and open until February 29th.
  • There are 5 categories that faculty are encouraged to apply under
    • Biomedical Sciences,
    • Clinical Research,
    • Medical Education,
    • Health Systems Services, and
    • Social, Cultural, Environmental and Population Health Research
  • Preference will be given to Early Career Faculty – faculty whose appointment is within 6 years of July 1st, 2015.
  • Faculty are able to apply as A Principal Investigator on 1 grant and a Co-Investigator on 2 others.
  • The applications will be peer reviewed by a committee established by the Vice Dean Research Office. The panel will consider:
    • the quality and clarity of the research proposal
    • the feasibility of the proposed research (i.e. Timeline)
    • the novelty and innovation of the research
    • the national or international significance and relevance of the proposed research

I would like to thank Dr. Stephan Milosavljevic for his leadership on developing this funding stream for researchers at the CoM. As many researchers have told me Steve has been a “breath of fresh air” in our research office and this innovation coupled with transparent and credible process is typical of the approach he has brought with enthusiasm to this important role. I would also like to thank Megan Steeves, our Research Manager, who has been very helpful, Dr. Bruna Bonavia-Fisher (COM research facilitator) for her thoughts and guidance, and Brad Steeves, our Acting Chief Operating Officer, who has been instrumental in marshalling the resources to support this initiative.

Thanks to all others who have provided input to construct this award. I look forward to seeing our researchers, especially those launching their research careers or those in need of a short term boost take advantage of this opportunity.

Happy New Year!

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First, I would like to wish all an engaging, interesting, and prosperous 2016. Certainly for our college I am confident all three will apply!!

We continue on our agenda for transformation at the CoM. Dr. Marek Radomski, our new vice-dean research, starts on March 14. I also expect to be announcing our new unified heads of medicine and obstetrics/gynecology shortly as well as the chief operating officer.

Our roll-out of the new curriculum continues and this year we will manage the hurdle of the double cohort of JURSI’s starting August 15th. I encourage all to remember we are making this change to bring in line our curriculum with that of other Canadian schools and ensure our students are not at a competitive disadvantage in the increasingly competitive match for residency positions.

This year will also see the implementation of our strategy for distributed medical education. We continue to work on a plan for restructuring our biomedical science programs and departments. As we are well on our way to completing the implementation of The Way Forward it will be time to launch the development of a new strategic plan for the CoM by years end.

In the Health Sciences Building, the renovations to B wing will be completed this summer should be ready for classes after Labour Day and will enhance the learning and laboratory spaces for our students, while the planning for the A-wing renovations is now underway as well. Our changes to the Health Sciences Council are starting to gain traction as we work together to enhance inter-professional education and interdisciplinary health research and hopefully before summer we will see an official announcement on the launch of the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient Oriented Research.

On campus, change continues as our new president, Peter Stoicheff, makes his mark and a new provost will be recruited. In terms of the priority on Aboriginal students and programs, it will be exciting to see the opening of the Gordon Oakes Red Bear Centre. I had a sneak preview before Christmas and it is beautiful. We in the Health Sciences Building are now connected by the tunnel system to the rest of campus. Now I can go to dean’s meetings in short sleeves!

Since I mentioned deans, a fun fact is that the timing of my term is such that by the end of 2016 10 of the 15 dean’s and executive directors of schools will less senior than me!! Who said universities are slow to change?

For me a huge priority remains faculty engagement. We have a team working with those MD members of the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association who wish to transition to a new relationship with the CoM. For many this will be the Academic Clinical Funding Plan, which we see as a major means to engage many more doctors in the work of the CoM. An essential next step is the design of a new model of faculty appointment and promotion that is inclusive of all of those doctors dedicated to the CoM success.

As many know, I took on much of this faculty work myself so as to personally get to know as many faculty members as possible. As you may have seen we have now advertised for a vice-dean of faculty engagement and I would encourage people to think about taking on this role.

This is a unique opportunity to help shape the future of faculty engagement at the CoM and make the CoM the kind of place alumni and graduates from across Canada want to come and practice, teach and do research. The university and the province (despite the financial headlines) are still behind our goal of being the best small medical school in Canada and I think this is an exciting opportunity to make a difference.

Speaking of faculty engagement, I, along with our vice-dean of education, Dr. Kent Stobart spent a day and a half last week in La Ronge. Dr. Sean Groves hosted us and proudly showed us their community, their hospital and their education programs. We had dinner with a group of faculty and did hospital rounds with staff and residents the following morning. It is a great medical community providing great care in the face of some unique and challenging circumstances that many of us never face.

We then spent several hours with the family medicine residents. Having run a FM residency site for six years and visited many I can attest to the fact this was one happy group of residents and a great training program. And they are the only residency program in the county that can claim 100 per cent retention of graduates. In fairness, they are now on their third cohort of two residents per year but is a great illustration of what distributed medical education can do for a community as well as testimony to the quality of the FM trading and FM community.

So our visit to La Ronge was an inspiration and a great way to start 2016! It was not quite as good as spending Christmas with a new grandson (rolling over at three months but grandparents will claim the most ridiculous things) but it was a great way to spend 1.5 days at work.

So 2016 is off to a fast start. As always I am anxious to hear from you through interaction with the blog, by email or in person. My door is open.

Happy New Year.

December Updates…Accreditation & Holiday Cheer!

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Thanks to El Niño we have certainly enjoyed a relatively balmy start to our Saskatchewan winter. However, the pace of activities in the College of Medicine continues unabated. I would like to take this opportunity to provide updates on these activities and to send holiday greetings to all our staff and faculty members across the province of Saskatchewan.

Accreditation has been the theme of 2015 as we faced the fourth visit by accreditation teams to various parts of our college this year. From November 30 to December 3 a 30-member team from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) reviewed 21 post-graduate medical education programs.

I must congratulate co-chairs Dr. Keith Wycliffe-Jones from the CFPC and Dr. Sarkis Meterissian from the RCPSC and their team on the thorough, collaborative, collegial and constructive manner in which they conducted the review and provided their recommendations. At this point, the process is not yet complete and the recommendations must be reviewed and approved by the accreditation committees of the CFPC and RCPSC.

Suffice to say that at this point I am very pleased with the overall outcome of the visit. I was particularly pleased to see the strengths listed included praise for our Associate Dean Post-Graduate Medical Education (PGME), Dr. Anurag Saxena. I was also pleased to see the Academic Clinical Funding Plan identified as a strength and a positive step forward for the College of Medicine. The accreditors were quick to point out that we were in the midst of an ambitious agenda for change. In that regard I was very pleased that virtually all of the recommendations for improvement were in areas that we are already working.

There are many people to thank, but first I must thank our residents for the candid and constructive feedback they provided to the accreditation teams. Next, a profound thanks to the staff of the PGME who were highly praised by the accreditation team for both the daily work they do and the excellent organization of the visit. Our program directors worked hard to prepare for this visit and deserve much of the credit for the level of success we have achieved. Finally, I would like to thank the faculty throughout the province who teach our residents on a daily basis.

The College of Medicine, the university and the health regions are all committed to make the improvements recommended by our accreditors, and in particular to assist those programs identified as needing further follow-up.

Unfortunately, last week I missed the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) 2015 Santé Awards. An unexpected trip to Calgary was necessary as my grandson was in hospital with a febrile illness. As he is just eight weeks of age you can understand why I was concerned, but thankfully all turned out well. However, I certainly regretted missing the SHRF awards celebration as the College of Medicine was incredibly well represented, as you will see on the list of award winners. http://shrf.ca/saskatchewan-health-research-foundation/Sante%202015

In particular, I would like to congratulate Dr. Debra Morgan of the Canadian Centre for Health and Safety in Agriculture for being awarded the SHRF 2015 Achievement Award. The following excerpt is from the SHRF website.

“Dr. Morgan is widely known for demonstrating excellence and achievement in the field of rural dementia health care. She is leading an interdisciplinary research group that has been sustained over almost two decades. Dr. Morgan’s work has fundamentally changed health service delivery in Saskatchewan for older adults with dementia and their family caregivers through the establishment of the innovative, telehealth-supported Rural and Remote Memory Clinic. Her ability to successfully mobilize large interdisciplinary research programs and as an internationally recognized leader in her field, Dr. Morgan is a most deserving winner of the 2015 SHRF Achievement Award.”

Much work in many areas continues at the college. Last week I had some time with a flip chart and now my office is wallpapered with the many strategic initiatives and projects underway at the college. Feel free to drop by and have a look. Most critical, of course, is the work being done on our faculty transition. We’ve created a dedicated team working in collaboration with the health regions and the Ministry of Health, and they are hard at work. You will hear much more about this work in the New Year.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a happy, restful and restorative holiday season. Again, congratulations to our researchers and thanks to all those involved in post-graduate medical education.

I look forward to an exciting 2016 as we continue to move the College of Medicine forward and progress toward our initial goal to be the best small medical school in Canada.

As always my door is open and I look forward to your feedback.

 

 

Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Recommendations

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This past week has been a remarkable one. I believe I have grown in my understanding of the responsibilities of the CoM with regards to Aboriginal communities.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I had the good fortune of participating in Building Reconciliation: Universities Answering the TRC’s Calls to Action. Our chancellor Blaine Favel and our new president Peter Stoicheff demonstrated great leadership in initiating this important national forum at the University of Saskatchewan. Representatives from more than 50 universities in Canada—including 14 presidents—were here to learn, exchange ideas and set collective goals for responding to the recommendations of the TRC.  There were also Aboriginal student leaders, faculty and staff from the University of Saskatchewan who contributed valuable local knowledge to the TRC conversations.

In fact, three of those recommendations are specifically directed at medical schools.

  1. We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.
  2. We call upon all levels of government to:
    1. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the health-care field.
    2. Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.
    3. Provide cultural competency training for all health- care professionals.
  1. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Saturday night I attended the meeting of the Indigenous Physicians Association of Canada (IPAC) and brought greetings on behalf of the CoM. The president of IPAC is Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an alumnus of the CoM and anesthetist in Edmonton. I also had the pleasure of listening to the keynote speech by Dr. James Makosis, a family doctor from Alberta who also has a Master’s degree in Public Health. Dr. Makosis spoke eloquently about issues of reconciliation, aboriginal history and aboriginal health.

I learned many things from Aboriginal and university leaders this week. In the summation on Thursday at noon, a panel of university presidents and an active audience developed some great take-home messages. Dr. Ralph Nilson of Vancouver Island University emphasized the importance of seeing each other as equals and learning to respect different ways of knowing. Dr. William Robins of University of Victoria at University of Toronto said that he learned: stories matter, naming the problem matters, and relationships matter. An Aboriginal leader, Leroy Little Bear, stated that presidents can help change the conversation, and Dr. Vianne Timmons of University Regina extended that responsibility to all leaders at universities.

Peter Stoicheff emphasized again if not here, where and if not now, when? He also stressed that we all should feel a sense of urgency and impatience but should set a tone of hope and enthusiasm. In terms of our obligation to do research that benefits Aboriginal communities, he reiterated the principal that Aboriginal people stress: nothing about us, without us.

Aboriginal leaders included our students, Chancellor Blaine Favel, Chief Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (and from Saskatchewan) and Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Justice Sinclair had, for me, the most important insight for the College of Medicine: education is the key to reconciliation.  Justice Sinclair also said: “By including teaching around residential schools in Canadian curriculum, we are not only opening the door to having Aboriginal people become part of the circle, we are also opening the eyes of Canadians to the fact that they have been educated in the public schools about Aboriginals historically, and even today, in (a way) that is simply wrong and doesn’t contain accurate information.”

With 63 self-identified Aboriginal graduates and 31 Aboriginal students here at the College of Medicine, it could be easy to sit back and say we’re doing pretty good. I came away from this week learning we have so much more to do.  Demographic projections for Saskatchewan now show the population is more than 15 per cent Aboriginal people and suggest that by 2030 this number will be more than 25 per cent. Our current enrolment target of 10 seats for Aboriginal students is inadequate.

I ask what our collective responsibility is in ensuring Aboriginal communities, families, and students feel comfortable to bring their cultures and traditions into our University and College of Medicine environment?  How do we continue to work with Aboriginal students so they feel they don’t have to hide their identity and ways of being in order to fit into the “culture of Medicine”?

While visiting Île-à-la-Crosse this summer, I saw the abandoned building that formally housed sequentially both the residential school and the drug and alcohol treatment facility. I’m sure we fail to teach all of our students the health legacies of colonization, residential schools and current inequities faced by our Aboriginal people and communities.

Yes, we have much work still to do but to paraphrase President Stoicheff: what medical school in Canada is better poised to lead in responding to the TRC recommendations 20, 21 and 22? And if so, why not now?

As always I look for your feedback, welcome your comments on the blog and invite face-to-face conversations. I’m happy to meet anyone anytime on this or any other issue of importance to you. My door is always open…

Physician Employment

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Saskatchewan—like my first province of practice, New Brunswick—is under-doctored. Moving to Nova Scotia I discovered a province that had the highest per capita rate of physicians in the country (this despite one of the lower-pay schedules in the country but that is an entirely different discussion!).  For the first time I encountered signs outside clinics advertising that they were accepting walk-ins and new patients!

So what was the difference between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia? I believe it was, of course, the presences of a long-standing, highly successful medical school that resulted in the dramatic difference in the number of doctors in both provinces. This explains my passion to establish Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick in the five years before I came to Saskatchewan. It also explains my belief that a vibrant college of medicine distributed throughout the province is key to having sufficient physicians and a high quality healthcare system for the people of Saskatchewan.

However, the world of physician employment is changing rapidly. Medical students’ seats in Canada nearly doubled between 1995 and 2008 and residency positions increased correspondingly. As a result, nationally we are now seeing physicians in some specialties and sub-specialties having difficulty finding employment. The reasons for this are multiple and complex. Certainly manpower planning for healthcare has been a challenge with a long history of boom and bust cycles in nursing and more recently in medicine.

Various agencies and jurisdictions have taken action in recent years in an attempt to resolve this issue. Some provinces, such as Nova Scotia, have implemented a structured physician resource plan that manages both the recruitment of replacement and new physicians, as well as the mix of residency positions across the specialties.

FMEC PG (Future of Medical Education in Canada – Postgraduate) has as its first recommendation: “Ensure the right mix, distribution and number of physicians to meet societal needs.” The Physician Resource Planning Task Force has been established by the deputy ministers of health in collaboration with the deans of medicine. That group has a mandate as follows:

  • A pan-Canadian physician resource planning tool to better understand the complexities of physician supply;
  • A process for addressing physician imbalances across identified specialties; and
  • Accurate information to support decision-making by those considering and currently pursuing medical education, both in Canada and abroad.

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons has shown leadership in this regard having produced a study in 2013 entitled “What is really behind Canada’s Unemployed Specialists” and at that time they reported that 16 per cent of new specialists and sub-specialist positions couldn’t find work and 31 per cent were pursuing additional training to become more employable.

In 2014, the Royal College organized a national summit on physician employment. I attended a follow up meeting in the first week of November. While overall the numbers showed a possible slight improvement, there continues to be a substantial number of new physicians that are having challenges finding employment. What is also of further note is that the number of specialties involved seems to be growing quite considerably. Whereas the original data seemed to focus on three or four specialties there are now more than 12 that are reported to have graduates experiencing difficulty finding employment.

This year’s meeting was very educational and a great opportunity to learn the diverse views on this challenging problem. Some were very frustrated at the lack of hospital resources, which was the real limit, rather than patient needs. Some resident groups feel their specialty is training too many. There is generational conflict as some young specialists feel senior colleagues are taking advantage of this situation. In one study, 35 per cent of residents don’t know enough about employment prospects and 25 per cent are not confident about finding a job. Surprisingly, there were some at this year’s meeting that challenged the idea that all physicians should be gainfully employed. This was not the consensus of the meeting and was certainly not my opinion.

SaskDocs organized a recent panel discussion before medical students and residents that consisted of myself, Dustin Duncan, Minister of Health; Greg Ottenbreit, Minister Responsible for Rural and Remote Health; Dan Florizone, CEO Saskatoon Health Region; Dr. Mark Brown, President Saskatchewan Medical Association and Dr. Dennis Kendel, CEO SaskDocs. The panel listened to the concerns of the students and residents, and chief among those was the plans for the province on its physician manpower plan.

I do know that CaRMS and the issue of physician employment are among the greatest concerns facing our students and our residents. I think that one of the key things we can do as a medical school is ensure we have excellent career counselling as our students progress through medical school and residency. I also believe that as a province we need do our best to inform our students of the predicted future manpower needs in Saskatchewan so they can make informed choices.

I think this challenge of physician employment across the country has many aspects. One beneficial to Saskatchewan is that over the next 10 years we have a superb opportunity to recruit excellent doctors and, in particular, excellent academic physicians who would make major contributions to the College of Medicine. In addition, we have already seen an improvement in the retention of U of S medicine graduates in Saskatchewan. I think we need to do our best to see these national challenges around physician employment as an opportunity for us here in Saskatchewan.

I sit on the Board of CaRMS and am very interested on feedback that can assist CaRMS in helping us “ensure the right mix, distribution and number of physicians to meet societal needs.”  As always, I look forward to discussion and debate on these and other issues impacting our college and my door is always open.

CoM Update – November 2015

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A lot has gone on this fall at the College of Medicine. Most exciting is of course the news that we have come off probation with the Committee on the Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) and its American equivalent, the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), and have had our accreditation extended until the spring of 2018. Thanks to all. This now gives our Vice-Dean Education Dr. Kent Stobart and his team in UGME two years to prepare for a successful accreditation in the fall of 2017, a process on which we are committed to keeping you updated.

I am currently away at meetings of the American Association of Medical Colleges in Baltimore. Last week I attended the Treasury Board meeting with our new president, Peter Stoicheff and the vice-presidents to present on the U of S and the renewal at the CoM, attended the board meeting of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada and attended a RCPSC Summit on Physician Employment in Ottawa.

Another significant change in the college was the progress on the faculty transition to a “one-faculty” model. As many know, our MD faculty association members were offered an incentive package to transition to a new model of faculty engagement. The outcome is that 114/130 members expressed interest in the transition as of the deadline of October 31.

I know for many this was a complex and personally challenging decision. I spoke to at least 100 of the faculty association members to better understand their concerns. I also tried to call everyone individually and offer my apologies to the few I did not get to before the deadline. This transition is one that is a priority to me, and will continue to be a decision I’m open to feedback on as we move forward.

While this direction was established before I joined the CoM, the plan makes sense to me as I have repeatedly emphasized the biggest challenge faced by the CoM is the amount of MD time devoted to academic and scholarly pursuits compared to our medical school peers. We are moving to a model of physician engagement that is used at all Canadian medical schools and our goal is to retain all faculty members who are committed to an academic career and engage more fully MDs already in the province and newcomers to Saskatchewan.

While we tried to address many concerns, such as holding research grants, supervising grad students etc., the concern about the system’s (CoM, HRs, Gov’t) capacity to develop sufficient ACFPs and contracts prior to the end of March was heard loud and clear. To address this concern, we put together a CoM team to work with Tammy Goebel (SHR) and Ministry of Health officials. Sherry Peters, an HR professional from U of S experienced in change management, and Erin Roach, an experienced physician services administrator from RQHR, have been seconded to this team and will assist with these arrangements. They are supported by Dr. Gill White, who has been involved in the ACFP development from the start. The team is backed up by Brad Steeves and our financial team in the Dean’s Office. They are already hard at work.

In terms of the CoM team, this has been a busy fall. I am certainly thankful for the energy and dedication Brad Steeves has devoted to acting COO, while the search for a full-time replacement is proceeding quickly. We have a new director of finance, Shaz Azam. I have an acceptance for our vice-dean of research who will be announced shortly. We have completed the pathology unified head search and we are meeting final candidates in obstetrics/gynecology and medicine and have had first visits from superb candidates for the chair in MS Research. Finally, I am committed to transforming the college’s record in fund raising and in that regard I am absolutely delighted to have recruited Gail Shivak, a very experienced and highly regarded fundraiser, as our director of advancement.

Another major event this fall was an intensive financial planning exercise to provide the university and the government with a five-year projection for the CoM budget. This culminated in a two-week, all-hands-on-deck exercise that converted the plans in The Way Forward and the needs I have articulated for more MD faculty, biomedical sciences reform, distributed medical education and growing research into a comprehensive financial projection. This will be an essential piece of work as we continue on our journey to be one of the best medical schools in Canada.

Intense work continues in preparation for the PGME accreditation in December and I look forward to that opportunity to interact with our peers. There is lots to talk about in PGME with the movements towards competency-based education, social accountability in PGME and the recent concerns about the right mix of programs and positions across the country—a topic I will investigate further in the upcoming blog about the recent Summit on Physician Employment.

Finally, yesterday was an important time to reflect on the contributions made by our members of the Armed Forces—past and present. My uncle of the same name was a casualty of the Second World War. I remember many a cold day standing at Remembrance Day ceremonies as a Boy Scout and Air Cadet. I took an afternoon last week in Ottawa to visit the Aviation Museum and was reminded again of the huge contribution by the Prairies in the aviation training programs for allied air forces during the Second World War. This example took particular advantage of the Prairie landscape and weather, and is only one of many efforts and sacrifices by Canadians. I am always struck by the names of U of S casualties engraved on the stairwell wall outside the President’s Office in the Peter MacKinnon Building. If you have not seen it, I suggest you search it out someday.

As always please engage in discussion. This blog is a great place for discourse on important topics affecting the CoM. And my door is always open!

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