Everyone can make a difference

Aside

I, like many, am still reeling over the outcome of the trial for the killing of Colten Boushie, which has dominated our news since Friday. I hope all our Indigenous students, residents, faculty, staff and patients know that your college supports you.

For me, the first shock was the use of peremptory challenge to eliminate anyone of Indigenous appearance from jury duty. As my wife had once served on a jury, I was familiar with this aspect of our criminal justice system, but it never occurred to me it could be used in such an openly racist manner here in Canada.

As I am in medicine and not law, I will make no further comment on the legal system. But this situation raises two questions for me.

First, what are we all doing this week, this month, and beyond to support Indigenous colleagues, learners, friends and patients? There is little doubt in my mind, if I was from any minority group that experienced this, my world would have changed on Friday night. It is incumbent on the non-Indigenous among us to reach out to our Indigenous community members and reaffirm our commitment to reconciliation and Indigenous health and well-being.

Second, as a part of the education, science and healthcare communities, what can we do to make things better, in response? As citizens we can take political action, and in our professional and learner roles, we can search for our own opportunities to make a positive change to the racism that still exists in our university and healthcare systems. As educators, we have a particular duty and opportunity, expressed by Senator Murray Sinclair, who identifies education as the key to reconciliation.

Our own actions can positively change the collective future of this province. We need to do this for our Indigenous colleagues and students and all members of our college. We need to acknowledge the hurt and anger and work toward a better society, one that is just and honourable. We need to create safe, respectful spaces to dialogue about racism. And we must respect, support and listen to Indigenous people as they make their voices heard.

Everyone can make a difference.

 

2018 priorities and challenges

One of the things I love about university life is that we have not one but two annual opportunities to reflect on our work, evaluate our priorities, and reignite our passion for what we do—every new academic year and every new year. So, first, let me wish all of our learners, faculty, staff and partners a happy, prosperous and productive 2018. My year got off to a great start with one of my favorite events of the academic year: speaking to the Med 2 class on leadership as part of a panel discussion on the CanMED roles.

As I reflect on the upcoming year, I remind myself and all of you that we have already talked at length about our collective priorities and we proudly presented that high level strategic plan to our peers during our recent accreditation review. In the coming weeks and months, you will hear more as we add detailed goals, objectives, actions and metrics to our five-year strategic plan, as well as on how it aligns with the university’s strategic planning process currently underway.

To start, I want to ensure you know my thoughts for 2018. First, let’s recall our mutually agreed vision and mission statements, which underpin all we do, followed by my reflections on our priorities for this year.

Vision: We are leaders in improving the health and well-being of the people of Saskatchewan and the world.

Mission: As a socially accountable organization, we improve health through innovative and interdisciplinary research and education, leadership, community engagement, and the development of culturally competent, skilled clinicians and scientists. Collaborative and mutually beneficial partnerships with Indigenous peoples and communities are central to our mission.

Priorities:

Strengthen Research Capacity – 2017 ended with some good news for research. Dr. Stuart Skinner in Regina received a $2 million CIHR team grant, with total project funding of $4.65 million, for on-reserve diagnosis and treatment of HIV, HCV and sexually-transmitted disorders with a goal of building a First Nations led initiative that meets community needs and integrates Western and Indigenous approaches. The team is composed of almost 50 researchers, clinicians, policy makers and knowledge users with about half being Indigenous community members. At the 2017 Santé Awards Evening, hosted by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF), MS research was a top focus, with Dr. Michael Levin, U of S Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research, speaking about his work, and an MS patient shared her very moving story and her hopes for the future. Also at the Santé Awards, Dr. Cory Neudorf, Community Health and Epidemiology, received the SHRF Impact Award for his research on the effects of socio-economic status on health, and its dissemination to decision-makers, health boards, and regional committees.

In the biomedical and population health sciences, we have enjoyed great success in securing research funding, including through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), with $2.3 million and nearly $1.5 million awarded, respectively. Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine is co-leading a team awarded $16.5 million from the national Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to increase maternal and newborn survival in Mozambique. These are only a few examples of the great work and achievements of our population health and biomedical scientists in 2017!

We need to continue building on these and other successes, however, and with some major progress made on things like the new MD curriculum and accreditation, I know I must put more of my attention to research. In that regard, I must emphasize what a big year it will be for our biomedical science departments. Under great leadership from Drs. Jo-Anne Dillon and Scott Napper and the hard work of many people great progress has been made on both the merger to two departments and the new biomedical sciences program. You will be hearing much more shortly.

Indigenous Health – Again, 2017 ended with the arrival of our Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health, Dr. Alexandra King and our new faculty member, Dr. Malcolm King, in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology. There is much more to do in responding to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Specifically, I think of work on the best structure and resources within the CoM to fulfill our commitment to this priority, engagement with our Indigenous communities and lots of work on Indigenous curriculum and research, and recruitment of Indigenous students, faculty and staff.

Integration and Alignment with the Health System – The Saskatchewan Health Authority was launched on December 4 and the CoM has been an integral partner. My own role on the SHA board will consume some of my time and I am sure will be exciting and rewarding. The authority has committed to both physician leadership and the academic mandate, and our provincial heads (formerly unified department heads) will be critically important as the authority works toward its provincial goals of Better Health, Better Care, Better Value and Better Teams.

Faculty Engagement – Much progress has been made with our move to One Faculty. One of the very positive comments by our accreditation visiting team was about our “engaged and enthusiastic faculty.” Credit goes to many, and Dr. Keith Ogle has provided us great leadership as vice-dean faculty engagement. Unfortunately for us, his new home in Golden, BC, and retirement beckon, so key for us this year will be the recruitment of a new vice-dean faculty engagement. Talk to me!

Social Accountability and Community Engagement – We continue to do great work in this area, and as social accountability has long been a strength at the CoM, this year we will be submitting an application for an ASPIRE award. The ASPIRE program recognizes international excellence in education in a medical, dental or veterinary school.

Education – A big promise to our learners throughout accreditation is that it was not a one-time event. We are committed to continuously improving the quality of our education programs and the student experience. Key topics on my mind this year are student wellness, Competency-Based Medical Education in PGME, growth in our use of medical simulation for education, and faculty development.

Distributed Medical Education – Exciting work is already well underway for the establishment of longitudinal integrated clerkship opportunities in our UGME program. With one provincial health authority in the SHA, we have an opportunity to standardize resources and support for DME throughout the province.

Enablers: We identified three key categories of enablers: people; partnerships and relationships; and organizational capacity. Related specifically to this priority, in 2018 I will be focusing on three components:

  • Strategic Plan – As noted above our plan needs much more detail if it is to effectively guide us over the next five years, and we must also define how it aligns with the plan, led by our provost, that the university is developing.
  • Diversity – Accreditation highlighted for us that while we have had some success in this area, there is lots of work to do to enhance diversity among our leadership, faculty and staff. I look forward this year to the activities of our Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.
  • Financial Stability – I must admit that while the highlight of the holidays for me was family, there is little doubt that second place went to seeing oil top $60 per barrel. I had no idea as dean I would be following the price of oil, potash and uranium, as well as the crop report. So be it!

As there may still be confusion about the current financial situation at the CoM, I want to ensure all understand three key messages. First, there is no new windfall of resources available to the CoM—the $20 million in funding returned to the CoM budget in September was excellent news, but there was no additional funding beyond that. Second, while we have made considerable investment over the last three-and-a-half years (and thus our cost base has risen), our expenditures have been exactly what we have told our funders both in our annual budgeting process and the five-year budget projections we have presented to government three times now: in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Finally, while we are all too aware of the fiscal challenges faced by our university and our government, I must emphasize the incredible support we have had from our university leaders and colleagues in government in our work to secure the necessary resources to continue our transformation and be the best medical school we can be.

So, it’s important that you know there will again be a challenging budget process and some tough choices to be made this year. I am told that is what Saskatchewan people have done forever, but I also focus a little bit on the rising price of oil!

On a personal level, 2018 for me will be about family (I got to put together a train set for my grandson Max at Christmas), books (I highly recommend Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk), photography (but no new lens purchase this year) and, of course, running (I signed up for the Boston Marathon again and I have a new training program!).

Again, happy New Year to all—and it would be wonderful in 2018 if more of you took me up on my offer to hear your feedback.

Have a wonderful holiday

As we start to wind down for the holiday season, I want to wish everyone at the CoM and our partners in education and healthcare all the very best!

It has been a great year for our college. We came together as a team to deliver a solid, well-organized accreditation visit at the end of October. The documentation and visit planning required to achieve this took up significant time and energy, and was of course a very big focus of our year. While we await the outcome of the visit, we can take satisfaction in achieving this major hurdle together, as we head into what I hope for each of you will be a peaceful and relaxing time as 2017 draws to a close.

Beyond accreditation, we completed our high-level five-year strategic plan. We’ve made important strides in the biomedical departments restructuring work, and the amalgamation of the current five departments to two departments was approved recently by our faculty council. In 2017, we hired the Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health and the Saskatchewan Chair in Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Research, and in these roles respectively, Drs. Alexandra King and Michael Levin have begun their important work for our province and the world. We continued to support our researchers with our internal funding programs and celebrated their successes garnering external grants. We saw our One Faculty model achieve success with significant, measurable increases in medical faculty engagement in the mission of the college. The Saskatchewan Health Authority launched earlier this month, and our college played and will continue to play an important role in supporting and participating in this transformation. This just touches on some of the highlights of 2017.

Most importantly, thank you for your work for our college over the past year! I look forward to working with you in 2018, as we continue together to improve the health and well-being of the people of Saskatchewan and the world.

For now, however, let us rest, rejuvenate and enjoy this special time of year.

Thank You Team!!!

Accreditation 2017 has come and gone!

As everyone surely knows we had a seven member undergraduate medical education (UGME) accreditation team here from Sunday evening to Wednesday afternoon. They reviewed our UGME program on behalf of the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS). Our reviewers were collegial, collaborative, gracious and diligent and we thank them sincerely in helping us with our ongoing commitment to continuous quality improvement of our UGME program, and service to our students. Outcomes must wait until early next summer when we will receive a report from CACMS and LCME (our American partner).

But the important thing is that we had an enormous successful visit delivered by an incredible team. I can’t emphasize enough the pride I have in our students, faculty and staff for the superbly professional way they organized and delivered the visit. I saw enthusiasm, pride, exceptional teamwork and mutual support. I saw incredible diligence in preparation. I saw incredible commitment to our students. Everyone spoke the language of continuous quality improvement. And did I mention teamwork? Teamwork across campuses, across organizational units, amongst students, faculty, staff, and CoM leaders. The teamwork was a joy to watch and a very positive indicator for our future as we are becoming a “high-performing team”.

Furthermore, the accreditors commented on the enthusiasm and commitment of our faculty and students, and the exceptional organization of the visit.

I hesitate to single people out because everyone that participated did a wonderful job but must mention a few for their exceptional work and leadership: Darla Schiebelbein, our event coordinator, led all of the planning and delivery of meeting logistics and her work was flawless (right down to finding a Coffee Crisp for one fussy member of the CoM team). Marianne Bell stepped up in December as the incredible team player she is and did an exceptional job as our accreditation specialist – incredibly organized and totally unflappable, she did a great job. Sinead McGartland, our director of projects and planning, took on the critical role of visit preparation and all of the participants know what an excellent job was done (although some thought they were over-prepared  ). Dr. Athena McConnell with her subtle humour, incredible work ethic and attention to detail was an inspiring leader to the entire accreditation team. And finally the entire UGME team, including staff, Assistant Deans, Admissions, Students Affairs, faculty curricular leads, and committee members were all very ably led by our Associate Dean UGME, Dr Pat Blakley. Pat and her team have done wonderful work in delivering a new innovative curriculum and supporting our students.

As I said there are so many others – health system leaders were exceptional in their support, residents shone through as the enthusiastic teachers they are, IT services were flawless, Dean’s Office staff pitched in when needed, the custodian on the first floor went above and beyond the call of duty to present the accreditors’ space perfectly, etc. It all could not have been done better.

We showed we have a great UGME program and support our students, which is what accreditation is all about. But for the future what really is significant to me is how we came together as a College and a team to get the job done.

I go off to AAMC of faculty development and meetings in Boston for a few days with great pride in all of you and our UGME program and students.

On behalf of the CoM and the U of S congratulations and thanks to all of you. You are awesome!!

Thanks, team—we’re ready!

An incredible amount of work has gone into our preparation for the accreditation visit that begins this Sunday, October 29. Thank you to all!

To our 215 people participating in accreditation visit meetings and tours, thank you for all you’ve done to date to prepare, and thank you in advance for your contributions during the visit. We simply could not do this without your commitment, support and involvement. Your role is critical and deeply appreciated.

To our accreditation team—all of you “on the ground” in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert in this humongous effort—you are amazing! Talk about dedication; our college could not have asked for more. I’m thinking of all those who led and supported content gathering for our documentation, I’m thinking of the working and leadership teams focused on a quality visit, I’m thinking of students, faculty, staff and key stakeholders who worked on our subcommittees prior to the mock visit last February. On behalf of your college and all of the people you’ve supported for a successful accreditation outcome, I offer each of you a heartfelt and resounding thank you.

Extensive work has gone into improvements to our undergraduate medical education curriculum and student support and services, updating and organizing policies and procedures, gathering and presenting data, and much more. And in the midst of it all, we developed some fabulous processes in our preparation that will support our ongoing work on continuous improvement.

Leaders spend much of their time calling on people and relying on them answering. Your college called on you, and you answered. Together, we have shown the strength and commitment of our team. As your dean, I couldn’t be more proud.

This has truly been a team effort, and we have come together as only great teams do. We are ready.

 

Make mistakes in rehearsal!

You need to make mistakes in rehearsal because that’s how you find out what works and what doesn’t.  – Clarke Peters, actor, singer, writer and director

This week at the CoM, many of our faculty, residents, staff and stakeholders are participating in a series of rehearsal meetings to further our readiness for meetings with the accreditation visitors, who will be here October 29 to November 1. Our documentation is complete, we have completed our preparation meetings, and now the next leg of this journey is this week’s rehearsal meetings.  As we rally for this important push, I want to sincerely thank all of you who have participated in document writing or review official documents, review of the preparation materials, and your commitment of time, effort and support to showcase how proud we are of our college.  

We have used these rehearsals to test our knowledge, our IT systems, and to polish our group interview skills. This experience has also solidified that we are in this together; our faculty are sharing stories of individual experiences, which is actually sharing best practices among our peers! 

I hope you have, or will if your meeting is yet to come, taken good advantage of this opportunity. I appreciate your commitment to getting this right. Our accreditation experts and your colleagues at your meeting(s) are a great resource! So this week is the time for making mistakes, asking questions and getting more comfortable with your role as a participant in our fast-approaching accreditation visit.

If, after your rehearsal, you have walked away with some remaining questions or uncertainties, our accreditation team is here to help. This applies to our students, as well. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at med.quality@usask.ca

And, as always, I welcome your feedback.

 

Achieving success: one faculty and accreditation

Successful colleges and universities are composed of, and inspired and led by great students, faculty and staff. First and foremost, of course, are our learners. I recently met with the leaders of the Saskatchewan Medical Student Society and, as always, found myself impressed by the quality of our students and the dedication and passion of their leaders. On September 23, our annual student-led Global Health Conference will take place on the theme of The G Word: Gender and Global Health. The conference is dedicated to raising awareness about pressing global health issues and is one of many superb examples of leadership by students from all of the health sciences.

As we prepare for accreditation, I must reiterate my appreciation for our students’ participation in the Independent Student Analysis, and a host of accreditation-specific focus groups, college surveys, meetings and lunches, not to mention their support during the accreditation visit itself, coming up from October 29 to November 1.

The most striking change that’s taken place in our college in terms of both structure and engagement has been with our physicians, or medical faculty. As The Way Forward and previous accreditation challenges clearly documented, the faculty structure for physicians resulted in a town/gown divide that led to ambivalence or even disengagement by some physicians towards the CoM. A provincial health human resource plan done in 2014 documented that in Saskatchewan less than 50 full-time equivalents (FTEs) of physician time was devoted to academic work at the CoM. Similar-sized medicals schools had more than twice that physician engagement.

Of course, the primary driver for most physicians in Saskatchewan was the constant demand to provide clinical care in a growing province that had been historically challenged to recruit sufficient physicians. Improving national trends in physician manpower provide us an opportunity to engage more physicians in the academic mandate, supported by the fact that 75 per cent of learners want teaching and/or research as part of their career. To succeed, though, we also needed to change the structure and to invest!

This past June, the new Policy for Medical Faculty was approved by the university board of governors, and the associated Procedures for Medical Faculty were approved by the provost in July. No longer is there two appointment streams or titles for medical faculty. Furthermore, we worked with the Ministry of Health and the health regions to develop the Academic Clinical Funding Plan for some physicians and developed contractual arrangements for many who wanted to continue on a fee-for-service payment structure.

We welcome physicians from throughout Saskatchewan to be part of our team as medical faculty, recognizing there will be broadly diverse levels of interest and time commitment that will also vary considerably over each physician’s career. Our learners and our research will benefit, and very importantly, we know our patients will benefit! Teaching and research are directly correlated with quality of care. Physicians who teach report greater career satisfaction and are more likely to remain in their community.

And these changes for medical faculty are working! In our clinical departments we have more than 1,500 physicians throughout Saskatchewan affiliated with the College of Medicine. As noted above, prior to 2014 we had less than 5O FTEs of physician time at the CoM. Now that number is over 80 FTEs. In terms of number of individuals, in 2014 approximately 150 physicians had committed time (ranging for most from 5-30 per cent) to teaching, research and leadership at the CoM. Today, that number is approximately 250 individuals. At the time of the 2013 accreditation visit, we faced challenges at times finding faculty for lectures, tutorials and clinical placements. Today, we’re experiencing no such problems. In the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 1,000 faculty appointees were in contact with UGME students. We are witnessing more engagement in PGME, as well. Our physicians have really responded!

Standard Four (Faculty Preparation, Productivity, Participation and Policies) in UGME accreditation is all about faculty. Other standards also speak to the importance of faculty. It is true that without learners none of us would have jobs, but learners come to be taught by excellent faculty! We have talked a lot about the importance of seeing our faculty in the College of Medicine as One Faculty, in which the contributions of all are recognized and valued. The broad make-up of our faculty and the big changes described above that we have made regarding our medical faculty are important information for all of us in the CoM.

Broadly speaking, we are primarily biomedical scientists, population health scientists, educators, physicians and physiotherapists. Together, as our new mission highlights, we develop culturally competent, skilled clinicians and scientists, with the support of our staff. Across our biomedical science, clinical and Community Health and Epidemiology departments, we have 100 scientists. The education and research mandates of the college are absolutely dependent on these scientists. The number has remained stable since the faculty retirement incentive in 2013. Currently we are recruiting for two basic scientists to replace two retirements this past summer. In fact, since 2014 we have added a neuroscientist position for the Movement Disorders Program in the Department of Medicine, an academic programming appointment (APA, primarily teaching position) in Pharmacology, an APA in Pathology, a new scientist in the Department of Surgery, and we’ve converted two term appointments to tenure track positions. In our School of Physical Therapy, we have 37 faculty members.

Also, as we prepare for accreditation, I am again reminded how dependent we are on the superb staff that support our learners and faculty. The accreditation documentation (more than 1,000 pages) was submitted on July 21, a week ahead of schedule, and while it represented the culmination of 18 months of very hard work, it was done smoothly and efficiently. One of our great staff leaders, Marianne Bell, accreditation specialist, deserves enormous credit. Now, Sinead McGartland, director of planning and projects, leads our visit preparation. We have 100 per cent of our accreditation visit participants—more than 200 people—confirmed for the visit meetings and 86 per cent have had their first round of visit preparation.

An accreditation web page on our college site, including a video message from me summarizing all we have been doing over the last five years to prepare, plus much more information, is available for your perusal. Furthermore, all members of the CoM and our partner organizations are welcome to come to the dean’s office suite (5D40 Health Sciences Building on the U of S Saskatoon campus) and view our “wall walk,” where our progress since January and summaries of the accreditation standards are documented.

I am excited about our progress and every day I am increasingly impressed with our faculty and staff as people step up to the plate to serve the CoM and our learners. Please visit our accreditation page and see what, together, we have accomplished.

As always, I am open to feedback and questions. I am always happy to come to your department or unit. Thanks for your hard work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Update

The beautiful Saskatchewan summer is now at its best and I simply want to take a moment to thank you all for the hard work and remarkable accomplishments of the academic year we just concluded. Everyone deserves a good rest.

This past academic year we have moved some of the really big rocks. We have seen our research programs show growth and success as demonstrated in the recent celebrations for Tri-Council grants, renewal of the Heart and Stroke Chair (Dr. Mike Kelly) and the arrival of our MS Chair (Dr. Michael Levin).

Year three of our new curriculum was completed, and we successfully navigated the overlap year.

Thanks especially to all the clinical teachers, UGME and departmental staff that helped make that happen. PGME has had some programs receive positive accreditation news, and most importantly is well into planning for Competency by Design with our first program, Anesthesia starting this year. New leadership in CME and Faculty Development are already making big changes, and I am particularly pleased about our contributions to a major CPD event coming this fall with regards to the opioid crisis.

We have been intensively involved in planning for a transition to a single provincial health authority, and I am pleased to say that the importance of our teaching and research mission is being heard, and the new physician leadership model will integrate academic and clinical mandates. We expect the announcement on a new CEO shortly. In terms of our second campus in Regina, we now have a new MOU that outlines our mutual aspirations for the growth of that campus.

A huge accomplishment this year has been a new strategic plan for the College of Medicine, and I continue to get positive feedback both about the plan and the process by which we all came together to produce that plan.

One of the major parts of The Way Forward (essentially our strategic plan for 2014-17) was the establishment of our One Faculty model, and specifically our new model for appointment of physicians to faculty at the U of S. The Board approved this policy at its June meeting, and the Provost has now approved the corresponding procedures for physician faculty appointment. The bottom line is that this is already working as we see steadily increasing engagement by physicians in the College of Medicine. Thanks again to all who contribute, and kudos to Dr. Keith Ogle, our Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement, who led this effort on our One Faculty policy.

One of the “biggest rocks” moved this year was the successful completion of the documentation for our full accreditation visit this fall. The DCI (Data Collection Instrument) with the Independent Student Analysis, the Medical School Self Study and appendixes exceed 1000 pages and all were submitted on target, ahead of the due date on June 21. Many, many people including students, faculty and staff have been contributing to this enormous effort but great kudos and thanks go to Dr. Athena McConnell, Assistant Dean, Quality, and Marianne Bell, our Accreditation Specialist for a job well done!

When we all return in August the work now shifts to visit preparation. The visit to both campuses will involve over 200 people, 30+ meetings, and lots of complex logistics. Sinead McGartland is the project lead for visit preparation and we have a very comprehensive plan for all of those who participate directly, as well as the whole CoM community. As I have said many times accreditation is a team sport. Remember an accreditation visit team member can ask anyone in the corridor a question. We will ensure all the information you could possibly need to support the CoM at the time of the visit is available to you, however we will also need your engagement. I am sure there is no need to remind anyone about how important successful accreditation is to the COM, U of S and Saskatchewan.

So I hope you all have a great summer and a chance to enjoy family friends and some rest.

One summer challenge for me is balancing the desire to go back to the Maritimes to see family and friends (as well as enjoying an ocean side retreat, lobster feasts and time at the fishing camp) while thinking – why would anyone leave Saskatchewan in the summer! Nonetheless I head out tomorrow morning for two weeks in the Maritimes.

As always I am happy to hear from you, but maybe in this case later in August.

Video explores rural healthcare in Canada

Earlier this year, I shared with you my experience attending a national summit on rural healthcare in Ottawa. We had the opportunity at that time to see an excellent video about the opportunities and challenges of rural healthcare in Canada. I’m sure you will appreciate, as I do, the great Saskatchewan presence in the video! It’s available online, and my purpose with this short blog is to share it with you.

Please take a moment to watch this excellent video, Rural health in Canada—it’s just 11 minutes long, in both English and French. For further reference, I share with you my blog, Improving rural healthcare, from this past February.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

 

Great Week for Research

Last week was a wonderful week for research at the CoM, with two major celebrations in our D-Wing atrium.

Kudos to Dr. Marek Radomski and our research office for organizing a celebration on Monday for all of the recipients of Tri-Council (Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) awards.

But the real kudos go to our successful researchers, listed below. It was truly inspiring listening to each describe his or her research with such enthusiasm. And the diversity was quite remarkable—from biomedical discovery work at the bench to community-engaged research in northern Indigenous communities.

CIHR Project Grant
Dr. John Howland
Dr. Jim Xiang
CIHR Catalyst Grant
Dr. David Cooper
Dr. Vivian Ramsden
CIHR Planning and Dissemination Grant
Dr. Sylvia Abonyi
Dr. Caroline Tait
CIHR Training Grant: Indigenous Mentorship Network Program, Saskatchewan
Dr. Caroline Tait
NSERC Discovery Grant
Dr. Dean Chapman
Dr. Troy Harkness
Dr. Oleg Dmitriev
Dr. Erique Lukong
Dr. Scott Napper
Dr. Scot Stone
Dr. Peter Howard
Dr. Kerri Kobryn
Dr. Maruti Uppalapati

Great science is required for all Tri-Council awards. However, CIHR grants are exceptionally competitive, and seem to be more so every year. The two CIHR grants by Dr. John Howland and Dr. Jim Xiang were in a national competition that saw only 16.5 per cent of applications succeed. In addition, Dr. Deborah Anderson and Dr. Franco Vizeacoumar did well with their CIHR applications and the CoM was able to provide them with bridge funding this year. Our CIHR success is great evidence of progress in research at the CoM.

One thing I noted was the number of researchers who highlighted that their CoMGRAD grant or their Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF) grant was instrumental in getting preliminary data or making other progress that led to their national award. It has been part of my elevator speech with our partners and funders that great people (researchers, grad students, post-doctoral fellows), great facilities and local funding are all essential to achieve success in Tri-Council competitions and with other national granting agencies.

On Tuesday, the CoM hosted our partners, SHRF and Heart & Stroke (Canada and Saskatchewan), as we announced and celebrated the renewal of Dr. Mike Kelly’s Saskatchewan Research Chair in Clinical Stroke Research for another five years. Particularly inspiring was the description provided by recovered stroke victim Don Bickerdike and his wife of the great care they received from the entire stroke team in our Saskatoon Health Region.

Mike—with an MD, neurosurgical training and a PhD—is a true bench-to-bedside researcher, who is from our college and university, and is changing care in Saskatchewan. In fact, his stroke research relies heavily on the synchrotron, taking advantage of key local resources. The CoM is very pleased to provide $100,000 per year over five years towards a total award of $1.5 million. Given the impact of the first five years of this chair, it was clear our partners at Heart & Stroke and SHRF were equally enthusiastic about Dr. Kelly and the great work he and his team are doing in stroke research and care.

Congratulations to our successful researchers. I know their success will be an inspiration to all, and we can look forward together to next year and seeing even more applications and more success!

As always I look forward to your feedback.