I’ve come to recognize over the last five months that accreditation is a bit of a touchy subject here.  It doesn’t need to be.  Accreditation is about continuous quality improvement and assurance, and as a self-regulated profession, medicine has a responsibility in this regard.  In fact, we have a collective responsibility.  Now that Canadian medical schools have our own set of accreditation standards for undergraduate medical education, we have an opportunity to be even more responsive to our unique Canadian needs. As I’ve said previously, accreditation is a team sport.  Part of what I  want to do is to help everyone in the college understand how their role contributes to our accreditation success.

We have a number of accreditation surveys in the coming months.  Continuing Medical Education, the School of Physical Therapy and both our undergraduate and postgraduate medical education programs are all preparing for visits in 2015.  We don’t need to fear accreditation.  Instead, we should view our interactions with accrediting bodies as learning opportunities that ultimately benefit our college and the students, residents and practicing professionals we serve.

It’s no secret that our undergraduate medical education program was placed on accreditation with probation last fall.  I don’t want to predict how our performance will be judged by the survey team, but I do want to set realistic expectations.  I know from experience that we could be seen as demonstrating great progress in a number of areas and still remain on probation, with another limited survey in the future.  I’ve seen this scenario play out at other institutions, and it is a possibility for our college.

One strategy we are using to help strengthen our position, is to create a faculty position focused on quality.  Specifically with respect to our UGME program, I am pleased to be working with Dr. Athena McConnell, our new assistant dean, quality.  Athena has already demonstrated her deep understanding of the UGME accreditation process and she will be responsible for preparing and coordinating  our limited site survey for next May. She and I will be working together very closely, along with Dr. Sheila Harding and many others across all sites and disciplines.

To help give you a flavor of Athena’s role, I’ve asked her to guest author a short introductory piece.  Here’s what she had to say:

Accreditation is like the Black Plague these days – people try to avoid it, and shudder when they hear it. It’s unfortunate; the College of Medicine has a post-graduate accreditation visit this fall, a limited visit for the undergraduate program in the spring, a continuing medical education visit next year and a full undergraduate review in 2017.

Accreditation is not something we should fear. Accreditation is a standards-based, peer review process of continuous quality assurance and improvement of the structure, function and performance of an organization. For our medical school, accreditation is about continuously working to identify barriers or processes that hinder us from delivering the best product – competent and caring physicians. This is why the newly established assistant dean role is labeled “Quality”, not “Accreditation”.

In order for the accreditation process to work, we – faculty, students, residents, staff – all need to understand the critical roles we have to play. Accreditation is truly a team sport. 

As Dr. Harding points out, it’s difficult for a team to have a winning season if the players don’t know the plays and practice together. My daughters sing in choir. They understand that all members need to practice at home, but also need to sing as a group in order for the melody and harmony to come together.

The same applies for accreditation.  Success requires each of us to understand, in very concrete ways, how we contribute.  For example:

•             ED-30 calls for submission of grades no later than 42 days after the end of the rotation/course. In order for this to be accomplished, preceptors need to return evaluations in a timely manner and administrative personnel are required to collate the information prior to the deadline. 

Each of us in the college community is vital – everyone from the coach to the water boy has a role to play in our team’s success.

Further to what Athena has shared on ED-30, my intention is to share with you over the coming months some further thoughts on each standard.  What the standard is, what it means in our specific context and what we need to do to demonstrate compliance. We have much work to do, and I am counting on your support.