Housing as a social determinant of health: a recipe for disaster is cooking in Saskatchewan

Guest blog by Dr. Manuela Valle-Castro, Director, Division of Social Accountability

On October 22, Saskatoon community-based organizations that deliver front-line services to people living in poverty―Quint Development, the Lighthouse, the Elizabeth Fry Society, Prairie Harm Reduction, OUT Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership, the Westside Community Clinic, and the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership, among others―met at Station 20 West in an emergency community meeting to discuss the impacts on their clients of recent changes in social assistance.

They described a situation in which nonprofits are forced to compete with each other for scarce funds to deal with “Band-Aid” programs to address complex social problems, like poverty and homelessness, that are rooted in colonial policy, such as the reserve system and residential schools. They denounced the lack of provincial social support as a situation of “systemic neglect” to the most vulnerable. Almost 85 per cent of homeless people are Indigenous[1]; many are residential school survivors; and many face severe health problems. For example, complications from diabetes lead to amputations, which in turn leaves people facing more barriers.

These clients are not supported to stabilize, throwing them into a cycle of housing crisis, eviction, and homelessness. The provincial government does not fund shelters for people if they are intoxicated, leaving those who are homeless and living with addictions to extreme suffering and sometimes death in the winter, as happened last year to the late Kimberly Squirrel.

The biggest casualties of this systemic neglect are the children of these families. Lacking adequate housing leads to family instability and results in too many Indigenous children disproportionately going into foster care (86 per cent of children in foster care are Indigenous in Saskatchewan). Family disruption is one of the main predictors of incarceration, poverty, overall poor health and short life expectancy.

The failure of our social systems to properly and proactively address these inequities is not just socially and politically unsustainable, but it also results in an extra burden for the health care system and law enforcement. It is economically unsustainable.

We are teaching our students that physicians have a role in advocating for the social determinants of health of a community. We teach them that housing and food security, along with the right to a clean environment are crucial for any individuals’ health. But physicians and their professional associations need to speak up and educate our provincial authorities on the impacts of clearly bad policy on the health of our communities, and on the unnecessary burden that housing insecurity and homelessness puts in our healthcare system.

According to the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada:

Physicians are accountable to society and recognize their duty to contribute to efforts to improve the health and well-being of their patients, their communities, and the broader populations they serve.* Improving health is not limited to mitigating illness or trauma, but also involves disease prevention, health promotion, and health protection. Improving health also includes promoting health equity, whereby individuals and populations reach their full health potential without being disadvantaged by, for example, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, social class, economic status, or level of education.

Social accountability means that medical schools also have a mandate to prioritize the health concerns of the communities where they are located, as well as to prepare students with a deep understanding of those health issues so they can effectively address them. Our college has taken on a moral and ethical responsibility to address the health disparities that affect Indigenous peoples and children when we put on our orange shirts and declared that “every child matters” on September 30. Let us live up to it.


[1] “2018 Point-In-Time Homelessness Count Saskatoon, Saskatchewan” https://static1.squarespace.com/static/58dd630f3a0411286bd918ad/t/5d11464216f1d70001dfc3da/1561413186855/PIT+Count+2018+Report-web.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3hyap3K0WbTXzfmoT8fZCkacX_7qrbDvc3dtrsdYvE3dU2Bv6HT7NIzPs

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Physicians have a clear advocacy role

Physicians are duty-bound to advocate for the health safety of the people of the communities they serve. It is in the Code of Ethics and Professionalism (Physicians and Society – clauses 37-44) of the Canadian Medical Association, and it is represented in three of the seven CanMEDS roles: health advocate, leader and professional.

It starts in medical school, where we teach advocacy to our students. So it is ingrained in all physicians from early in their training that as professionals they have an important role in advocating for the good health of not just their own patients, but the general public, as well. I believe that we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Our medical doctors are fulfilling their ethical obligation to the public through their advocacy and guidance on our pandemic response. And it seems reasonable that our doctors would be supported in this. For the most part, my experience has been that we doctors are supported in this advocacy role.

But as Saskatchewan struggles in this fourth wave of the pandemic, I am seeing more and more comments and conversations that suggest a lack of understanding of this professional duty of medical doctors. I think of the many physicians on the front lines of care, as well as public health experts and physician leaders, who, on top of all their other work, are doing media interviews—sometimes on a daily basis—to ensure that important information on the pandemic and how to stay safe reaches the public. Their efforts are heroic and deserve our support.

It’s a year since the Maclean’s magazine opinion piece by Canadian physician and writer Dr. Jillian Horton, about “staying in your lane” and the need for doctors to “flood the freeways,” was posted. She reminded us that non-objection is tantamount to silent agreement. As physicians, our role as health advocates compels us to voice our concerns, and I applaud our physicians, physician leaders and medical health officers for their advocacy and leadership through these incredibly hard recent days and weeks, and from the very beginning of this pandemic.

I also want to acknowledge the extensive advocacy and knowledge sharing efforts of our public health experts, epidemiologists and scientists. I extend my heartfelt thanks to all of you, as well as all healthcare workers on the front lines of care, including our medical faculty, students and residents, for all you have done and are doing.

The ‘a’ word

Guest blog by Dr. Athena McConnell, Director, Quality and Accreditation

The word “accreditation” can have an almost immediate effect on people who have had good or bad experiences with the process in higher education. I must admit, as a bit of an accreditation nerd, I love it—which is probably a good quality to have given my role! While accreditation standards and elements are the minimum requirements necessary for medical schools to graduate caring and competent physicians, we can use the same bar to continually improve in how we achieve that mission.

I have been working in accreditation in the College of Medicine since 2010, and the landscape has changed in the past 11 years. In an ideal world, we would have conducted our Interim Accreditation Review (IAR) in 2013, as it was exactly at the midpoint of our 8-year accreditation cycle. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of preparing for a limited site visit from the accreditors. The 2013 visit was just one of the many accreditation activities stemming from the 2009 full site visit.

We held our last full site visit in 2017 and the preparation was extensive, including a mock accreditation visit. The hard work paid of and after two follow-up status reports our medical school has one of the best accreditation ratings among medical schools in the country. Across all 96 elements on which we are reviewed, we are fully satisfactory on 94 of them with the accrediting body.

On October 4 and 5, the college completed its first IAR, since we are now again halfway between site visits. This IAR was completed through a lot of hard work by students, faculty, and staff in the college. The results of an IAR are not submitted to the accreditors. IARs are formative internal reviews intended to find areas the school will need to work on in advance of their next site visit; they allow schools to be proactive in making changes rather than reactive.

Overall, we have done very well in keeping our eye on the ball and keeping that ‘A’ word in mind, which is reflected in our IAR results. Do we still have some areas that require closer attention and maybe a little extra care? Yes. However, we have also identified some areas of strength that have not skipped a beat since the 2017 visit. This is very encouraging and means that regardless of past negative connotations of the ‘a’ word in the college, there has been a significant shift in culture that is showing in our results.

Everyone in the college should give themselves a pat on the back for all of their hard work. The Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) team in general have worked very hard to ensure that accreditation is front of mind for all staff, faculty, and leadership. Under Dr. Pat Blakley and now Dr. Meredith McKague in the associate dean UGME role, the UGME team has not missed a beat. Some specific groups have continued to excel over the past four years and deserve a special shout out:

  • The UGME Curriculum Committee and all its subcommittees. These groups have really incorporated accreditation into all their endeavours.
  • The Admissions team has been aware of the accreditation requirements and monitoring processes even during an admissions renewal process.

The next full site visit will occur in the spring of 2026. That means that documentation will start to be gathered in the fall of 2024. The IAR results will guide our work from now until then. Based on the level of engagement in the college, I have complete confidence that we will use the upcoming years to ensure a successful 2026 visit.

CoM launches equity and diversity review

I want to make everyone in our college aware of work we have begun with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC). Our college has invited the SHRC to review and analyze the current state of equity in our institution.

The work was prompted by concerns within our own college community and by broader societal issues like the inhumane treatment of the late Joyce Echaquan in Canada and George Floyd in the United States. This proactive and collaborative review will inform initiatives we will undertake in our college to address issues of systemic inequity. We have engaged SHRC to provide an objective, external point-of-view, and will benefit from their experience in this area from a Saskatchewan context, as well. We recognize this work should have started long ago and now hope to harness the momentum that currently exists in our environment.

We know inequity exists, but at this stage we are conducting research to ensure we have as complete an understanding as possible of the particular issues within our college and to ensure broad stakeholder input. A group, including the CoM’s EDI specialist, Dr. Erin Prosser-Loose, and director of the Division of Social Accountability, Dr. Manuela Valle-Castro, have met several times with members of the team at SHRC, who have been conducting some early research, and are now ready to move forward with stakeholder engagement.

The next step will be a series of interviews with a wide range of people across learner, staff and faculty groups at the CoM to get first-hand information on the direct experiences of members of our team with regard to equity within our college. This is a comprehensive review of our entire college, including but going well beyond things like diversity of the college’s leadership team.

Initiatives will be prioritized by both the external research and literature in this area, and what is learned by SHRC as they conduct the interviews. Once the SHRC has completed its review, the college will receive a report on its findings. This report will be shared with all staff, faculty and students of the CoM, and will be reviewed by college leadership as we work with the SHRC on next steps to prioritize initiatives.

Ultimately, we are intent on making the CoM a better, more equitable and diverse working and learning environment for all.


Checking in on our continuous improvement efforts

Next week, from October 4-5, our medical school marks a significant milestone—the interim accreditation review of our Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) program.

Reminders and deadlines are important in moving anything forward. So it is with accreditation—it provides those critical reminders and deadlines for work that makes us a better medical school. We’ve had such great success not only in our last full UGME accreditation review, but in our recent reviews for both Continuing Medical Education and the School of Rehabilitation Science. Postgraduate Medical Education has been doing great work in preparation of its upcoming review, as well.

Of course, the twenty-first century for our college has been a lot about overcoming challenges and making the needed improvements in our UGME program. That work did not end with the successful outcome of our 2017 full-site accreditation visit. In fact, it is every bit as critical as ever, with the wonderful difference that now we are positioned to a much greater degree to improve and respond proactively rather than reactively. And that’s a lot more fun than the alternative!

When we achieved an eight-year accreditation result, we marked a major turning point. But as accreditation goes, we really are just around the bend from those difficult days and must continue to reinforce our improvements and new ways of doing things to ensure we continue on the right track.

Some context: this review is required by the Committee on Accreditation of Medical Schools (CACMS), but CACMS does not participate in it or review outcomes at this point. More importantly, and as medical schools across the country can attest, this interim review is a very important checkpoint on our way to our next successful full accreditation review. It enables us to identify areas for growth with enough time to make needed changes.

In the past decade, our college (and medical schools across the country) have improved our approach to accreditation, adding structure and devoted resources to support this important work. We created the role of Director of Quality to lead undergraduate accreditation about seven years ago, and that position has been capably filled by Athena McConnell ever since. We have an accreditation specialist supporting the quality lead, and both, as you can imagine, have been working diligently behind the scenes in preparation for this interim review, as have so many others on our team both within and beyond our undergraduate program.

So this interim review, while mandatory, is truly proactive in nature. It will involve two days of meetings—similar though not as extensive as those conducted at our 2017 accreditation visit, and of course virtual rather than face-to-face—with an external reviewer who is here to help us objectively assess our program.

Of course, medical schools are complex organizations, and that means we always have areas that need extra attention. One of the most important aspects of this review will be gaining perspective on how the UGME program can demonstrate collaboration across campuses and sites in order to duplicate each other’s successes and ensure learners in the medical doctor program have a comparable education and experience no matter where they learn.

We are one CoM, and we have great opportunities to improve how we work together as a unified team for Saskatchewan. This is more important than ever as we prepare for all years of the MD program being based from both Saskatoon and Regina starting in August 2022.

Welcome back to campus and all our sites around Saskatchewan

A new academic year has arrived for our college and university, and compared to this time last year, our Saskatoon campus is bustling with more of the usual fall activity. Of course, this is still a different type of start to an academic year for us, as we continue to look after each other’s safety and manage the challenges of the pandemic.

Wherever you are located in our sunny province, I welcome you back and hope the year is getting off to a better, more normal start for you! For medical learners, the return for this academic year was a while ago—at the beginning of July for residents and about a month ago for medical doctor students. Graduate students and researchers are back in the lab and on campus. Some professors are back in the classroom while others continue to deliver lectures remotely, and medical students in Years 1 and 2 are on campus in Saskatoon and in Regina based at the Regina General Hospital. Some members of our staff and academic leadership continue to work remotely with plans to gradually return to campus we believe by January.

I do want to extend a special welcome to all new learners—our first-year medical students, first-year residents, and all new grad students. We are so happy to have you join (or continue) as part of the CoM team!

I don’t want to make light of the challenges we are all experiencing, in different locations and in different ways. I do want to send my encouragement and thanks to each of you, whether you are having to pass through protesters as you enter a medical facility, finding campus life while still under the pandemic requirements challenging, still managing remote work alongside home life, as well as the many other day-to-day changes we need to continue with to be safe and keep one another safe.

A quick reminder: ensure that you provide your vaccination status to USask as required for campus access. It’s a quick and easy online process in PAWS under the Vaccine Status menu item.

Finally, let’s all continue to support one another and be kind.



Division of Indigenous Health almost a reality

Guest blog by Dr. Veronica McKinney, Director of Northern Medical Services, and Val Arnault-Pelletier, Indigenous Coordinator

The creation of a Division of Indigenous Health in the College of Medicine is one step closer to being realized. There is much activity happening regarding Indigenous health within the College of Medicine and a need exists to coordinate efforts. The division will be a great resource in bringing together Indigenous research initiatives, students, community, and education. While other Indigenous initiatives are led through the college’s Division of Social Accountability and its Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Working Group, the new Division of Indigenous Health will be key as the strong Indigenous voice finding and leading the intersections and opportunities to work together to create a strong model that will serve the people of Saskatchewan well.

We’ve been actively engaged in the work of planning for this new division, with Veronica providing leadership as the chair of the Indigenous Health Committee. With Val’s input and coordination, we’ve had many meetings involving the Indigenous Health Committee, as well as retreats, surveys and individual consultations with stakeholders to ensure many voices come together in a comprehensive vision.

To pull everything together into a 2021 Position Paper for a Division of Indigenous Health, we’ve relied on Indigenous consultant Julie Wriston, who used her research and expert writing skills to put all the ideas into an easily understood, readable format.

The idea for the division was put forward at different retreats and planning sessions over time with the Indigenous Health Committee. It has taken a few years of intense consultation to get to this point. The position paper was adopted at a 2021 spring virtual retreat. The retreat also helped to formalize college senior leadership support and identify related resourcing needed to create the new division. A final meeting with Indigenous students will complete the vision, and this meeting will take place this fall.

The division plans to operate with oversight from a range of stakeholders, including students and residents in the College of Medicine, and knowledge keepers. The division will need to balance Indigenous and western worldviews, while ensuring national accreditation standards are met for the college. This is no easy task and it will still take some time and coordination to ensure the positions, roles and structures are in place to address needs effectively.

The first order of business recommended within the position paper is to create a robust position description and adequate support for a senior academic leader in the college to lead this work and the new division. The division will have two Indigenous Coordinators, who are already in place in Saskatoon and Regina, and there is a need for other roles to carry out the vision that’s been created for the new division. For example, it’s been identified that there is a need for a Community Engagement Coordinator, who will work specifically with urban and rural Indigenous communities to ensure their needs are being met in a holistic way.

Indigenous Knowledge Keepers have been a key part of the vision and they will continue to guide the way forward. We are fortunate in Saskatchewan to have many visionary Indigenous traditional First Nations and Métis ketayak and helpers who understand the need to blend western and traditional Indigenous worldviews in order to live and move forward in this world.

One of the valuable Indigenous Knowledge Keepers who has helped guide and shape the Indigenous worldview has been Bob Badger, USask Indigenous Cultural Coordinator. He has worked on Indigenous programming in medicine and provided valuable advice and performed and guided ceremony as initiatives have moved forward. We are also very fortunate to have Dr. Manuela Valle-Castro, director of the CoM Division of Social Accountability, who is an expert and teacher in anti-racism and anti-oppression. She works closely with the Indigenous portfolio and offers anti-racism training in a variety of contexts.

Key priorities of the Division of Indigenous Health, that are widely shared based on the consultations and discussions to date, will be:

  • Community Engagement/Relationship Building
  • Faculty/Staff Professional Development – Cultural Competence and Inclusion
  • Inclusive Recruitment & Retention – Faculty/Staff
  • Curriculum Development/Enhancement (all facets)
  • Increased Indigenous Student Recruitment
  • Enhanced Student Success – Sense of belonging
  • Increased Research Funding

These priorities are meant to span all programs, departments and units of the college, so will require significant work by a dedicated team. The new division, working with the many resources of our college and broader community, is like the strands in a braid of sweetgrass: woven together, we are stronger.

Confronting COVID misinformation

I would like to address the online video promoting false views on the devastating consequences of the pandemic and the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in which a College of Medicine Clinical Professor plays a leading role.

I first became aware of this video early yesterday afternoon but due to many obligations including attending last evening’s provincial Physician Town Hall I was unable to review the video until last evening. I must say the 90 minutes spent reviewing it in detail was some of the most distressing time I have spent in the last 18 months of this long and difficult pandemic.

I categorically state that I and the College of Medicine do not endorse the content of the video that questions the very existence and severity of this pandemic and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines, as well as the many conspiracy theories and assertions cast at many incredible people and valued institutions in our country and around the world.

On behalf of the College of Medicine I sincerely apologize to all those people who have suffered the ravages of this awful disease and those who continue to suffer. I apologize to the families of over 500 people in Saskatchewan who have died from COVID-19.

I am also thinking of all the front-line heath care workers including our medical students and residents, our medical faculty and our partners at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and regret the promulgation of these views by a person associated with the College of Medicine.

To our learners and to the public I want to reassure you that none of this content or the views expressed are part of our curriculum. In fact, the pandemic has taught us the importance of teaching ways in which physicians can effectively counter false information in delivering healthcare in a sensitive and patient centred manner.

I do acknowledge that individuals have the right to express their personal opinions on any topic within certain limitations set by our society and the law. In the context of a university, I want to emphasize the importance of academic freedom for university faculty and the absolute need for the protection of faculty to freely communicate in the areas of their scholarly work. This is particularly important where that scholarly work is supported by recognized credentials and expertise.

In that regard I also am thinking of the credibility of the many qualified and credentialled experts on COVID-19 we have in the College of Medicine and across our entire campus in the fields of Virology, Microbiology, Vaccinology, Epidemiology, Public Health, and Infectious Diseases. Know that the College of Medicine supports and depends on your expertise.

Another area of expertise for which Saskatchewan is increasingly recognized is physician leadership and nearly all of the great physician leaders at the SHA that have led us through this pandemic also have medical faculty appointments in the College of Medicine. I know how disheartening the promotion of false information about COVID-19 must be.

All of these scientists and physician leaders have worked long and hard alongside our learners, physicians and allied healthcare workers over the last 18 months to fight this pandemic by promoting the best evidence and best practices to care for our people and protect this great province. I thank all of you.

At this stage of the pandemic our highest priority must be the vaccination of the vast majority of our population. Yesterday was also the day I received my second dose of the vaccine at the drive-thru at Prairieland Park. I marveled at the dedication, caring, and efficiency of those front-line workers. Thank you. At the College of Medicine, it is incumbent on all of us to promote vaccination to our patients, colleagues, friends, neighbours and the public at large.

In that regard I would like to draw your attention to a few examples of people within our college who have been instrumental in this work with the important proviso to acknowledge there are many, many others doing equally valuable work.

I would like to point out the amazing work on public education by Drs. Cory Neudorf, Nazeem Muhajarine, Alex Wong, Joseph Blondeau and Hassan Masri in endless interviews, public presentations and social media posts. I also acknowledge the amazing work done by the team at Morning Star Lodge, led by Dr. Carrie Bourassa, that has been working since the very beginning of the pandemic to serve Indigenous communities to address misinformation. They and many others at the College of Medicine have consistently provided accurate, reliable, evidence-based information on the pandemic and the vaccines for the public.

In terms of evidence, I would like to recognize Drs. Gary Groot and Bruce Reeder, as well as the USask and SHA librarians, graduate students and many others who have constantly researched in real time the rapidly evolving evidence accumulated by experts around the world to guide our clinicians and decision makers. They are currently embarking on the research to guide the care of people with “long COVID” – a challenge that will be with us for years to come.

I would like to recognize the amazing work done by our Medical Health Officers at the SHA and Dr. Saqib Shahab, our Chief Medical Health Officer, in guiding policy and providing the incredible but challenging day to day work of Public Health in a pandemic. This is what they trained for and hoped never to have to do! These MHOs are members of our Department of Community Health and Epidemiology and teach in our medical doctor program and Public Health and Preventative Medicine residency program.

Our Division of Continuing Medical Education led by Dr Jim Barton has provided an incredibly important role in partnership with the SHA in supporting the Physician Town Halls which have been very popular and instructive, various events and seminars on COVID-19 and the upskilling of 105 physicians to ensure we have all of the physicians the SHA needs to staff emergency rooms, COVID wards and intensive care units.

Finally, while noting I am leaving out many other heroes, I want to emphasize the incredible asset we have in Saskatchewan at the University of Saskatchewan in VIDO, and the ground-breaking work there in vaccinology, including our own COVID-19 vaccine currently in testing.

These people and many others at the College of Medicine and the University of Saskatchewan are the experts in the fields of virology, microbiology, vaccinology, epidemiology, public health, infectious diseases and healthcare leadership. These are the people we will turn to for guidance and expertise as we continue to care for our people through this most challenging time.

Let’s all continue our efforts to promote vaccination in Saskatchewan so that we can all wear that sticker that says, “I STUCK IT TO COVID.”

Interim accreditation review another critical milestone for the CoM

An incredible amount of work has been underway on accreditation of our Undergraduate Medical Education program since our successful 2017 full-site visit and our official results from that visit, received in 2018. This is, of course, because accreditation requires an ongoing, continuous improvement approach that ideally informs and supports how we work every day.

For the UGME program, while our results from 2017 were strong and very encouraging, there remained substantial work and commitment from our team to build the program back from the significant accreditation challenges of the past. This work was by no means completed in 2017. At the same time, programs must always be advancing and improving in line with changes in health care and health care education. So there is no opportunity to “rest on our laurels” when it comes to accreditation and in becoming the excellent medical school which we aspire to be.

And that is as it should be, given the importance of a strong medical education program, and a strong Saskatchewan medical school!

With this blog, I want to highlight the UGME interim accreditation review, which marks the halfway point of our eight-year accreditation cycle as we prepare for our next full-site accreditation review in 2026. This interim review will inform our ongoing work, and the results will not be released to the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS). They will be provided to the leadership of the College of Medicine.

Many of you who support and are key stakeholders in the UGME program have been assisting our amazing UGME accreditation team of Dr. Athena McConnell, director quality and accreditation, and Pat Williamson, accreditation specialist. As many are aware, Athena is also interim provincial head of the Department of Pediatrics, supporting our college in another important capacity at this time. And in light of that, I do want to highlight the work and diligence Pat is managing in her role to support our important accreditation review and continuous quality improvement work.

Thank you to Pat, Athena, UGME leadership and staff, and numerous others throughout the college  who have been working on gathering the necessary documentation for the review for the past 18 months. Another big thank you to everyone else involved in supporting and informing this work, with a special mention to the faculty and students who participated in our Medical School Self Study Working Groups and worked diligently for over a year providing valuable feedback! The preliminary review and rating of the documentation by these working groups flagged several areas that are at risk, and many of the suggested improvements are already underway.

The interim accreditation review is taking place October 4-5, 2021, and will be overseen by an external reviewer and Athena, as well as a committee of internal reviewers, including faculty and students. The review team will be deciding on which key stakeholders they need to meet with this summer to ask important questions about how the program is functioning. This will likely include but is not limited to: college level leaders, UGME leaders, residents and students.

The review team will provide their results in October or November of this year, informing our work as we continue to improve our UGME program and prepare for our full site visit in the spring of 2026. As accreditation goes, and given the complexities and many support structures involved in UGME, that is not a long time away.

In other college accreditation news, the Division of Continuing Medical Education had a resoundingly successful accreditation report earlier this year and the School of Rehabilitation Science is awaiting its report from a very well-executed accreditation visit in March.

Our college is fully accredited across all our programs. Accreditation is a huge team commitment and effort, and beyond our commitment to meet those requirements, we aspire to a higher level of excellence to be the medical school our province deserves and the world needs.

Sunshine and safety at start of new fiscal year

We’ve made it through a long, tough and highly unusual winter. As the days grow warmer and the hours of sunshine expand here in Saskatchewan, I wanted to reach out to our full College of Medicine team, and beyond, to offer some words of support and encouragement as we continue to work our way through this pandemic. I hope you are finding ways to enjoy the sun and fresh air. While we are still battling COVID-19, we have made it through another battle of winter in Saskatchewan and are well on our way to summer.

I’ve talked a lot over the past year—through this blog and at all kinds of online meetings—about the great work and perseverance of our team through these challenging times. And I want to say it again: we would be nowhere as a college without the work, not to mention the spirit and heart, of our team of learners, staff and faculty. Although our work and learning have changed in many ways, we’ve made it this far, and we’ve done that through great teamwork and support of one another.

So kudos to our whole team!

Now, I hope you have either received a COVID-19 vaccination or are watching for your earliest opportunity to get one. And while focusing on that, please also stay focused on safety and continuing with all public health requirements to stop the spread of COVID-19.

As many know, we are well into planning for convocation on June 3. We will, of course, be celebrating our graduates virtually again this year – but are no less excited and happy for you on your great achievement! You are completing your degree after a year that can’t be compared to any before it and, while not as you might have planned it, your achievement is both impressive and unique. Congratulations to all our CoM graduates: the MD Class of 2021 and all those completing graduate studies programs.

With May 1, we began a new fiscal year, and our college and university will be operating with stable funding levels from the province. While budgets will be tight and we must find ways to be efficient as costs rise and resources stay level, given everything happening in the world and in Canada, this is positive and encouraging news for our college’s continued efforts as leaders in improving the health and well-being of the people of Saskatchewan and the world.

I have a number of topics planned for upcoming blogs before the summer. Among these is a recap of how our programs and learners faired through this past year’s CaRMS match, which is not completed until the second iteration of the match, coming up on May 20. I also plan to share some thoughts and reminders of work underway now that underpins the success of our Undergraduate Medical Education program, as we approach our UGME accreditation interim review this fall. The interim review marks the mid-point in our current eight-year accreditation review timeframe. It is already almost four years since our highly successful 2017 accreditation visit! We must keep that incredible momentum and success going through this next and all subsequent reviews.

We will share more information on all the great work that has been going on for quite some time to develop a Division of Indigenous Health, including a survey many of you participated in earlier this year to help inform that work. And the results of our CoM EDI survey, currently underway (make sure you complete the survey, with two links provided here to make it easy for you!) will be shared here in my blog once available.

On the research side of things, I hope to share some information with you outlining the important role of our CoM researchers in work done at the USask Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, or VIDO. We are so fortunate to have access to this incredible facility, and for our faculty to play such an important role there as medical researchers.

As always, there is a lot going on in our college, and as a team we have kept everything moving forward effectively despite the changes and hurdles we’ve had to overcome during this pandemic. Once again, I thank you for all your work.

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