It’s all about kindness

I hope all are keeping as warm as can be during these beautiful but cold Saskatchewan winter days. My response when weather comes up (and it seems we talk about it a lot here in Saskatchewan) is remember—we have the best summers in Canada! Sometimes I add that the best thing about when I lived in Halifax was that you could be guaranteed summer would start by August 1!

A number of events and comments in the last few weeks have reminded me of the importance of mental health, and the work that needs to be done to support the mental health of ourselves and our families, friends, learners, staff and faculty.

First, we saw “Blue Monday” come and go, a popular urban myth without objective evidence. Of course, Seasonal Affective Disorder is a real mental health problem, and if the concept of Blue Monday encourages us to think about those around us that may be suffering, it may not be all bad. On the other hand, many myths about mental health are much more harmful.

This leads me to the next reminder— Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 31 saw 145,442,699 digital interactions and $7,272,134.95 raised. I will declare no conflict of interest and I will say the initiative to encourage discourse is great, but we must strive more to move to action on mental health.

Bell’s initiative has four pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, research and workplace health. Of course, all are relevant to a medical college. All of this reminds me of the very first public event I attended after arriving at the CoM in June 2014. I was at a banquet at the Bessborough. It was a lovely evening to be at an outside event but due to a thunderstorm quickly rolling in, the event was moved inside. Clara Hughes (Olympic medalist in both speed skating and cycling) spoke on mental health. I particularly recall her comments on the stigma associated with mental illness. Stigma is the number one reason why many people do not seek help.

The mind-body divide is well entrenched in western ways of knowing and contributes greatly to the stigma many of us attach to mental illness. There are more holistic ways we can think about health and mental wellness, and we can learn so much from Indigenous colleagues and learners in this regard. For example, “The medicine wheel represents the alignment and continuous interaction of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual realities.” (Source of quote/more information) In terms of the medicine wheel teachings, I acknowledge there are many teachings and many interpretations associated with the medicine wheel.

Concerning stigma, Bell Let’s Talk outlines five things that we all can do to end stigma: language matters; educate yourself, be kind, listen and ask, and talk about it.

And that leads me to the last event I participated in this week on mental health, which hopefully ties together some of the thoughts in this blog. I was fortunate to attend a banquet on Thursday night with Scott Livingstone and colleagues from the Saskatchewan Health Authority at Whitecap Dakota First Nation. The Saskatoon Tribal Council organized the event in support of the Walking Together Youth Gathering, an initiative on supporting Indigenous youth.

The keynote speaker was Jordin Tootoo,  the first player of Inuk descent and first player from Nunavut (Rankin Inlet) to play in the NHL (four teams from 2003 to 17). He is also celebrated for his contributions to Canada’s silver medal team in the 2003 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Jordin provided a powerful and inspirational talk about his journey from his childhood to present with a frank description of the trauma he endured and the challenges he suffered from mental health and addiction to alcohol. His talk was painful, tender and yet hopeful. And at the end he told some great hockey stories for all the Canadians in the room.

I will leave you with the following quote from Jordin that resonated powerfully with me:

“We all fight a fight nobody knows about – It’s all about kindness.”

So be warm out there, take care of each other, and as always, I am always open to your input and feedback.

 

 

The CaRMS journey has begun for 2019

It is that time of year again: our fourth-year medical students have embarked on their Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) interview journey. For many, it literally is a journey. Some students started last Monday at Memorial University in Newfoundland and are working their way west, interviewing as they go. Many students have scheduled in excess of 10 interviews!

Last week and this week are designated for interviews across Canada. I think deans, UGME leaders, parents and partners of these students from programs across the country are collectively holding our breath, hoping travels will be safe and interviews successful. It is an arduous process and for our students a source of great personal stress.

Recently, Dr. Kent Stobart (Vice-Dean Education) and I had our regular meeting with the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan. What a great group of student leaders we have here at the CoM! Thank you for the great work you do on behalf of your peers and our college.

Early in 2019, Dr. Stobart and I also hosted breakfasts with our medical students in both Saskatoon and Regina; I asked each fourth-year student about his or her plans for residency education and if each felt well prepared for career selection and the CaRMS process. I must say I was gratified to hear they all felt well prepared by our Career Advising program. This is a multi-faceted program focused on preparing students to pick the best specialty for themselves. It starts at the beginning of first-year medical education and extends right through to mock interviews (these were going on until the weekend before last, here!) for students finishing the MD program who are heading into their CaRMS interviews. Another interesting observation from these breakfast conversations came from some students who commented that while doing electives away, they felt their medical education compared well to that at other schools. While subjective self-comparison and small numbers may not be good science on its own, hearing this felt good anyway!

Our Career Advising program offers great resources through our Career Advising Guide and website.  I would like to acknowledge the great work done by UGME leadership and staff, and the many on our faculty who advise, mentor, provide feedback and do mock interviews for our students, as they prepare for CaRMS. In particular, I thank Stephanie Marshall, our Career Advising & Mentoring coordinator, for her great work in providing this important program to our students.

Of course, this is also a really busy time for our PGME office, especially our residency programs, as they do the interviews and embark on file review and selection of new first-year residents for their programs. I chaired the resident selection committee at Dalhousie family medicine for several years, so I know all too well how much is involved. Thanks and kudos to all the staff and faculty who do this essential work.

Career advising and resident selection are among the really important things we do for our students, our residency programs and our province. It is essential for the public we serve that our healthcare system has the right mix of family doctors, specialists and sub-specialists. I know I am joined by many in extending good wishes that our students pursuing residency positions find themselves in a field of medicine that gives them great career satisfaction. Ultimately, the people of Saskatchewan are the beneficiaries of this important work.

As always, I welcome your comments.

Happy 2019: books and other things

I would like to welcome all our learners, staff and faculty back after what I hope for everyone was a rejuvenating break. I wish all a very happy New Year.

For myself, it was a wonderful break with lots of time with family and friends—with special emphasis on my three-year-old grandson! It was all great fun but I particularly enjoyed the moment on Boxing Day when he took a stocking-shaped ornament off the tree and asked his mother to hang it up on the mantle in hopes of a repeat. Smart guy!

2018 was a good year for the CoM and you have heard me repeatedly highlight our accreditation success, student success on the MCC exams with our new curriculum, and our ASPIRE Award for Social Accountability. A particular highlight coming this spring will be a trip to Montreal for the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame dinner, where Dr. Jim Dosman, founder of the Canadian Center for Health and Safety in Agriculture, will be one of six inductees! This is a huge honour for Jim and testimony to the history of excellence at the CoM. I have been at several of these dinners and Jim is both highly deserving as an inductee and remarkable in how active he continues to be in his scholarly work. Congratulations, Jim!

One of my favorite parts of this past season is (through suggestion or downright begging) that I see a substantial addition to my pile of books. So at the risk of appearing “Obama-esque,” I will share some of the highlights. My haul included Tasting Italy: A Culinary Journey (a cookbook and travelogue from National Geographic), Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin (American presidential scholar; it seemed apropos for both the times and this job), Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid Against Nazi Germany by Ted Barris (I like WW2 history) and two books by Tanya Talaga, a prize-winning Canadian Indigenous author and longtime journalist with the Toronto Star. Her second book is All Our Relations: Finding the Path Forward, which is from her CBC Massey Lectures. Over the holidays I read her first book, Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City and found it heart-breaking and infuriating, yet I saw it pointing to the title of the second book which I will start this weekend! As one critic said, “She offers painful lessons while courting hope.”

I absolutely can recommend Leadership in Turbulent Times because Doris Kearns Goodwin is one of my favorite biographers (she also wrote Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln). More importantly, I highly recommend Seven Fallen Feathers. Another critic (Ottawa Review of Books) said, “Once started, this book is difficult to put down. At just over 300 pages, Seven Fallen Feathers moves from one compelling story to the next, and seamlessly weaves in facts and history. The writing is crisp and thoughtful. Seven Fallen Feathers… fosters understanding, and is a book that can benefit everyone.”

So, the first goal of this blog is to welcome everyone back and wish you a great 2019. A secondary goal of sharing my reading list is that you may pass on your reviews of recent great reads. (That pile of books of mine always also includes some historical fiction and a Swedish crime novel or two!) Sometimes a book is just permission to check out, which we all need from time to time.

As always, I look forward to your feedback (or book suggestions!).

 

Enjoy a wonderful holiday season

As we wrap up our work for another academic term and calendar year here at the CoM, I want to wish you, your families and loved ones a joyful and safe holiday season filled with peace and contentment.

I certainly think we can look back on 2018 very positively for our college. Two particular highlights for me were the great news we got on UGME accreditation in June and the 2018 international ASPIRE award in social accountability we were honoured with in August. These are just the tip of the iceberg, as our whole team contributed to progress across multiple fronts. I’ll highlight a few areas here.

Our PGME office continued the rollout of Competence by Design across its programs, with CBD workshops for faculty and staff at the college’s Regina campus in June and CBD launches in Emergency Medicine and Surgical Foundations in July. We saw our MD Class of 2018, the first cohort to graduate from our new curriculum, score substantially higher on the national exam assessing their competence for entry into postgraduate medical education. We had a highly successful implementation of the new Diversity and Social Accountability Admissions Program, which reserves six of the 100 seats in our undergraduate medical education program for students from socio-economically challenged backgrounds.

Our biomedical science departments moved officially from five to two departments in July. We continue to improve our approach and results in research funding—this is ongoing work as a key focus of our strategic plan. We welcomed the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health (IIPH)—one of 13 institutes of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)—under the leadership of the institute’s scientific director, Carrie Bourassa, to our college in October.

Looking ahead, we have our more detailed strategic plan in hand to guide our work, with nine strategic directions identified. We will pay particular attention to improvements across research, Indigenous health, student wellness, and faculty and staff engagement.

But for now, please accept my thanks and my wishes for a wonderful holiday season: to all in the CoM for your outstanding work in 2018, and to our alumni, partners and friends for your support and engagement in our mission.

Updated strategic plan will guide our work

As you will recall, we launched a high level strategic plan document in early 2017, documenting our new vision, mission and priority areas. In more recent months, priority area leaders and their teams have been working to fill in the details of the plan, defining more specific objectives and targets to guide our work to 2022. As the university has developed its 2018-2025 plan, we have also worked to ensure alignment of our plan with the broader university’s commitments, goals and aspirations.

We now have that more comprehensive plan document to share with you. Our previous priority areas are now expressed as strategic directions in this larger plan. I want to quickly outline four key areas of focus for our success with this plan that are top of mind for me, and that we all should be thinking about in our work across all our strategic directions:

  • Indigenous health is critically important for our college, our healthcare system and university, and our whole province, and we must all work to ensure equity in education and care.
  • While we are doing some great work in research, we know from the results and metrics of other medical schools in Canada that we must do better, moving our college to its rightful place as a research powerhouse for our university and province.
  • We must do further work to support our learners and their wellness.
  • We have important work to do to improve the workplace satisfaction and engagement of our faculty and staff.

Our new, more fully fleshed out 2017-2022 College of Medicine Strategic Plan document is available on our newly updated strategic plan webpage. The page includes a strategic plan message from me that I hope you will take a few minutes to read. Our plan will evolve, of course, as our world and indeed as we evolve, so we must view it as a living document that will need refinement along the way to 2022. We will use this plan to guide our work and to measure our progress, maintaining focus and consistency to the extent possible, while responding with resilience to changes internally and in the world around us.

Please take some time to visit this webpage and read the plan document provided there. As always, I welcome your feedback.

New working group guiding diversity and inclusion at the CoM

Guest blog by Erin Prosser-Loose, on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group

Intentional action to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace leads to increased productivity, more creativity, new discoveries, and is the right thing to do. In the context of the College of Medicine, diversity refers to having a broad range of personal characteristics and life experiences represented across our faculty, leadership, students, and staff; this diversity is reflected through our policies, programs, and practices. But having a diverse group is not enough if people are not happy and thriving in the workplace. Inclusion takes it a step further, and ensures people feel safe, welcomed, valued, and free from harassment and discrimination.

The College of Medicine is showing its commitment to diversity and inclusion through the formation and ongoing contributions of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. While this group is focused on faculty and staff, we know that students are positively impacted when they have diverse mentors and role models among leadership, faculty, and staff. Diversity among the student population in the college is being addressed through a number of units, including Admissions and Student Services. These units provide services for Indigenous students, as well as initiatives around mentorship for Indigenous individuals, LGBTQ2 people, and opportunities for students to act as mentors for youth who come from underserved areas in partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Saskatoon.

The Diversity and Inclusion Working Group is currently planning initiatives around the four designated groups defined by the Employment Equity Act: Indigenous peoples, women, visible minorities, and persons with a disability. However, we also recognize that diversity extends beyond these four designated groups; one example being LGBTQ2 people. The working group is specifically planning strategies to make recruitment and outreach, retention and advancement, and representation on committees more inclusive, and we are also planning for education and training opportunities. Gathering data and evaluating the success of the initiatives will be a focus for the group.

Each and every person in the College of Medicine has a role to play in achieving true inclusion. Small things make a difference in contributing to a positive workplace and improved morale. Here are some small actions we can all take:

  • Look around in meetings and ask yourself, who is missing from this conversation? Is there anyone whom you could invite to improve the diversity of perspectives at the table?
  • On the other hand, recognize when certain people are being asked to sit on numerous committees and attend many meetings, and ask if and how you can help relieve their burden
  • Include your pronouns of choice in your email signature and/or online profile
  • Begin speaking engagements with a land acknowledgement
  • Schedule meetings within regular working hours, so that everyone with commitments outside of work has a chance to participate
  • Think about providing childcare at events, or welcoming children to join the audience
  • Ensure meetings and events are held in wheelchair accessible spaces, and have accessibility services to those who are hearing or vision impaired
  • Aim for flexibility in your workplace, as this is linked to the attraction and retention of diverse talent
  • Test and acknowledge your own unconscious biases: Implicit Association Test
  • Be an ally and speak up if you witness someone being mistreated or treated unfairly
  • Take advantage of training opportunities and community events to learn more about diversity and inclusion

It is okay to not always know the right thing to say or do, and to acknowledge that you are still learning. Making the effort is an essential contribution to a healthy, thriving, and inclusive culture within the College of Medicine, and to ultimately getting the best out of the talented people who work here.

Resources for more information:

The Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated.
The Platinum Rule: treat others as they wish to be treated.

 

It takes a TEAM to win an international award!

Well, the weather has turned and already the schedule is getting very crowded! Fall is here!

First of all, I would like to welcome the Class of 2022! One of my favorite moments of the year is the opportunity to welcome our first-year undergraduate medical students. The energy and excitement is always palpable. I also had a chance to welcome the returning second years. September is a good time to remind everyone that the students – medical, biomedical, population health, graduate and residents – are the real reason we are here and the most important members of our team.

For both groups I emphasized what a winning team we are here at the College of Medicine and reminded them of the successful accreditation results we had achieved this past year. I also highlighted the incredible improvement in our ranking on the national licensing exam results by the Class of 2018 (the first graduates of our new MD curriculum), which had followed the excellent CaRMS outcomes for Postgraduate Medical Education and the Class of 2018, not to mention our improved success in the last two rounds of CIHR grants where we matched the national success rates.

It has been a good year. A big highlight for me was the opportunity last week to be in Basel, Switzerland at the huge meeting of the Association of Medical Educators of Europe to accept on your behalf the ASPIRE Recognition of Excellence in Education Award in the category of Social Accountability. It was humbling to see our CoM recognized publicly at a meeting of 4,000 medical educators from more than 100 countries!

First, a little background. ASPIRE awards were created about six years ago to recognize excellence in education at medical, dental and veterinary schools. It was noted then that research had high profile awards for excellence, starting with the Nobel Prize of course. However, excellence at the institutional level in education often went unrecognized other than possibly dubious school “rankings.” A blue-ribbon board of medical educators were assembled and six categories of criteria-based, peer-reviewed awards were developed. Those categories are social accountability, student engagement, faculty development, distributed medical education, simulation and curriculum.

The World Health Organization has defined the social accountability of medical schools as “the obligation to direct their education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, region, and/or nation they have a mandate to serve. The priority health concerns are to be identified jointly by governments, health care organizations, health professionals and the public.

ASPIRE requires we not only do that but are able to document outcomes that demonstrate impact and success in those endeavors. If one goes back to our beginnings in the early ’50s, it is clear that social accountability was in our genes! However, in the last 10 years the advent of our Division of Social Accountability (DSA) and the commitment of many great staff, faculty and students achieving great things through a myriad of programs and initiatives provided us all the evidence we needed to demonstrate success. Examples include our student-run clinics (SWITCH in Saskatoon and SEARCH in Regina), our Making the Links – Certificate in Global Health, social pediatrics and the St. Mary’s Clinic here in Saskatoon, poverty simulation day in our Medicine and Society class, our highly successful Aboriginal Admissions Program, and most recently our Diversity and Social Accountability Admissions Program. This is just a sampling.  I highly recommend perusing the DSA’s annual report to see the many amazing things our team is making happen across Saskatchewan!

DSA was incredibly well led initially by Dr. Ryan Meili, who did much of the pioneering work of the division. Since Ryan’s departure to the world of politics, Dr. Eddie Rooke has been our DSA director. Unfortunately for us, Eddie is moving to Vancouver, but we appreciate his leadership, especially leading to our submission for this award. Dr. Anne Leis, department head of Community Health & Epidemiology, is now leading a search for our new director of social accountability.

There is so much great work that goes on behind the scenes in the CoM that I fear many do not know about, so I want to highlight here our staff in DSA: Carlyn Seguin, global health specialist; Erin Wolfson, community engagement specialist; Joanna Winichuk, administrative assistant;  and Erin Walling, social accountability strategist (covering for Lisa Yeo, on maternity leave).

Like so many things in medical schools, the limelight goes to students and faculty, but the place would grind to a halt without our staff. In the case of this award, Erin Walling spent three months completing our submission, composed of 27 pages, plus 54 appendices and four student letters of attestation. The following quote demonstrates what we all accomplish together but also the incredible job Erin and the team in the DSA did in representing our collective efforts.

“Your application to Aspire-to-Excellence clearly shows that your school is an excellent school which demonstrates long standing strong commitment to social accountability. The province of Saskatchewan is distributed over a wide area with diverse and vulnerable populations including First Nations communities. The need for improved health care and social medicine was at the core of the founding of the medical school. The partnerships with the community, local and provincial government were exceptional. The application evidences a number of innovative partnerships which illustrate a culture of stakeholder engagement that is commendable. In summary we noted: the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine’s social accountability is evident in all aspects of the application, from admission of students from Saskatchewan, to innovative rural focused medical education and vocational training programs, to research directed to improve the health of the people of Saskatchewan.”

So thanks to DSA and all of the staff, faculty and students who contribute to social accountability at the CoM!

As always I welcome your input and look forward to an excellent 2018-19 academic year.

Have a great summer!

There are many great things about my job as Dean of Medicine here at the U of S, and it starts with the great students, staff, faculty and partners I work with every day. However, this time of year I really welcome the usual summer slow-down for a chance to reflect, recharge and enjoy the amazing Saskatchewan summer!

I wish all of you a great summer and hope you find time for family, friends and sunshine! First, though, I want to take this opportunity to send you off with some additional positive news to enhance your summer vacation.

First and foremost, of course is our successful undergraduate accreditation. My last blog highlighted this wonderful accomplishment, achieved through the contributions of so many people. We are planning an event in September where we can come together and celebrate in a more formal fashion. Stay tuned for details.

As I noted in my blog, we do have some follow-up reports to provide the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools. An obvious one are the results of the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) exams—this past May our Class of 2018 was the first cohort from the new curriculum to take the exam.

We have preliminary results and they are exciting! Several years ago, it was not unusual for the U of S to be among the national leaders, but in more recent years this has not been the case, and this exam data played a large role in instigating and shaping our curricular reform.

The great news is that our Class of 2018 exceeded the national mean on the MCC exam! As well, the national exam failure rate was more than double that of our grads. Congratulations to the Class of 2018 and congratulations to all of those who led and implemented the new curriculum, the staff who managed it and all of the faculty who taught our students. This is real evidence that all of our collective efforts are benefitting our learners and ultimately the people of Saskatchewan.

There is additional good news. Seven of our PGME programs have undergone internal or external reviews in the last few months. Some of these were in follow-up to the full PGME accreditation of 2016. Much work and effort by faculty, staff, residents and the PGME office resulted in great improvements to these programs and very successful results were achieved by all. As well, three PGME programs are live with Competence by Design: anesthesiology, emergency medicine and surgical foundations.

Just a few days ago, on July 1, our biomedical sciences restructuring came into effect with our Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology with interim head Dr. Thom Fisher, and our Department of Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology with interim head Dr. Bill Roesler.

Finally, we have had ongoing success in research! Last week the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation announced the Establishment Grants and four of our researchers were successful. Congratulations to Dr. Gary Groot, Dr. Michael Levin, Dr. Scott Widenmaier and Dr. Yanbo Zhang. Just scroll through our recent CoM website news stories to see more on this and other recent research successes.

So again, I wish you all a great summer and thank everyone for all you do for the CoM. You deserve a break! Enjoy it!

And I will have another great news story to share at the end of August, when we all return for another promising academic year.

The College of Medicine – A Winning Team

As I am sure everyone knows by now, we have achieved accreditation of our Undergraduate Medical Education program. This is indeed great news and a key turning point in the history of the CoM!

Congratulations to all in the college and my profound thanks to all of our students, staff, faculty, leaders and partners who have worked so hard to see this great day. It has been truly a team effort and I am inspired by the collaboration, collegiality and camaraderie demonstrated as we pulled so hard together over the last two years.

In fact, this work has taken place over the last five years, as the CoM faced its challenges head-on and embraced the changes mapped out in The Way Forward. This attitude and determination is what inspired me to come to the University of Saskatchewan and today I could not be prouder of what you have all accomplished. This is a great team and a winning team.

I hesitate to pick out any individuals, as so many people have gone above and beyond to see this success. However, I must emphasize the great work by our students and their leaders in producing the Independent Student Analysis and their role in meeting with our accreditation team.

I must single out Dr. Athena McConnell, our Assistant Dean Quality, who led the process with incredible hard work, diligence and attention to detail—all done with equanimity (sometimes when the rest of us were panicking) and an incredible sense of humour. Our UGME team was led by Dr. Pat Blakley, who did incredible work engaging with our students, and all were ably supported by Dr. Kent Stobart, our Vice-Dean Education, who brought as much accreditation experience to our team as can be found at any medical school in the country.

Accreditation is about the quality of medical education and the student experience, and obviously the faculty are critical, but none of this would have happened without our administrative team. By the time we were done, we had provided CACMS with over 3,500 pages of documentation and at the visit 215 people met with the accreditation team, and all had preparation and rehearsal meetings ahead of that. In fact, the only complaint I heard was someone said they were over-prepared! Marianne Bell took on the challenging role of Accreditation Specialist 10 months before the visit and did an incredible job. Sinead McGartland, Director of Projects and Planning, led the visit preparation and showed us all what can be accomplished with the superb application of expert project management!

There are so many others whose role was critical. Unfortunately, you would never read all of this blog if I recognized everyone. Two other groups deserve special mention. The ultimate teacher in medical education is the patient and we could never run our education programs without those patients and the healthcare system that cares for them. The Saskatchewan Health Authority and its predecessors and their leaders have been tremendously helpful and supportive.

Finally, the University of Saskatchewan and its leaders have had our back every day. When medical school deans gather, a common complaint is the university doesn’t understand the medical school! I must say I know of no medical school that has had greater engagement or support from its university and its senior administration than us. Thanks to our many U of S colleagues who supported us.

The report from CACMS is very great news, and is very positive. Like virtually all medical schools that have a successful accreditation, there are some elements that will require follow-up. The great news is that CACMS has asked for written reports and does not require a follow-up visit! After eight visits from 2002 to 2017, we could actually go eight years without a visit! This is a huge vote of confidence in our college and our team.

However, if you read the good news story on the front page (above the fold!) of the Star Phoenix today, you would have read that I said we must be committed to continuous quality improvement and we must understand that the moment we stop changing we will stop being a winning team!

And we have lots more to do! Our Postgraduate Medical Education division has had great success and has great leaders and now faces the huge challenge of implementing competency-based medical education. The same success and great leadership is true of our Continuing Medical Education division, but we are aware that as the “system” looks for more ongoing professional development for doctors, we must respond.

The strategic plan we have created together clearly demonstrates we have important priorities that go beyond our medical education programs. Certainly Indigenous health and social accountability (some good news on that front later this summer) remain very important for our college.

We are well along with the important work of restructuring our Division of Biomedical Sciences and we are in the early stages of the very important work to develop an undergraduate biomedical sciences degree program delivered within the CoM. The importance of strong undergraduate and graduate programs in the Division of Biomedical Sciences within the College of Medicine cannot be overstated.

Research success is what will ultimately drive our reputation and will do the most to improve the health of the people of Saskatchewan and the world. Research success will provide the return on investment needed by our university and our province, and ultimately the future financial stability of our college. Research success will enhance recruitment of the brightest and best students and faculty. And research success will be the ultimate reward for our clinical researchers and our biomedical and population health scientists.

While writing this blog, lines from Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! came to mind. Another Dr. Suess quote also seems apt: “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

I’ve said before that we are on our way. With this result, while we have much to do, we know that as a team working together under extraordinary pressures of workload, deadlines and expectations, we delivered.

 

 

Thoughts on faculty engagement

Guest blog by Keith Ogle, outgoing Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement

I’ve been honoured to serve as Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement for the College of Medicine since June 1, 2016. Prior to that time, for a period of about eight months, I did some organizational work for the college in the same administrative area. Now, effective June 1, 2018, I have retired from my administrative role and am heading out to explore very different landscapes.

You might think that by this time, I’d have a fairly good idea about the ins-and-outs of faculty engagement. You would be wrong! It has proven to be a fairly complex subject and for me, at least, several minor mysteries remain. Why are some faculty completely engaged? Why have others withdrawn? Why do some choose to never become more than minimally engaged? What do engaged faculty have in common? How are they different from each other? How do we measure engagement? How should we acknowledge and reward engagement? And in fact, what is engagement?

I have the impression that my most highly engaged colleagues would also struggle with these questions. For the most part, they probably don’t give it much thought. It’s not like they are following some carefully defined career plan, or that they’ve always dreamed of being medical teachers, researchers or administrators. I might be wrong about the researchers – maybe being engaged is, in fact, about following their dreams. But for most physicians, being engaged as a member of faculty is all wrapped up with both their personalities and their engagement in clinical work. An observation: actively engaged, high-performing medical faculty tend to be actively engaged, high-performing clinicians. They are recognized in both the academic and clinical worlds as consistent and valuable contributors.

Another observation: the timeline for engagement, on average, tends to be bimodal. There are obvious exceptions, but newly appointed faculty who are also embarking on new clinical careers, tend to get more involved initially than they might later on. Perhaps it is due in part to not knowing exactly what they’re getting into, but I suspect it also has something to do with energy and optimism. Later on, during the mid-career stages, academic engagement tends to drop off, probably for a number of reasons. Life gets busy with kids, mortgages, landscaping, debts to pay off, and multiple other real-life complications. Then, in late-career, there’s more time again. Memories of perceived mid-career injustices are held in balance with a sense of gratitude for one’s own education and a different understanding of one’s personal role in achieving the greater good.

A third observation: actively engaged faculty show up as being in the game for more than themselves. They tend to be outward-focused but intrinsically rewarded—they find joy in simply being involved, and they don’t over-think it. This seems most obvious, to me, with good clinical teachers, but I see it right across the academic spectrum. Again, there are obvious exceptions. We have all seen examples of self-serving engagement where recognition is the goal and self-sacrifice the persona.

My replacement will be tackling many of these questions and will be looking to faculty for the best answers. That individual will have continued support from an outstanding set of forward-looking leaders, and ongoing support from an expanding cohort of passionate and engaged faculty. As the college’s role in the community, the university and the health care system continues to evolve, our faculty will undoubtedly show us what true engagement means, and why it contributes to satisfaction and meaning in our professional lives.