We’re on our way

After nine months into my deanship here at the CoM, I wanted to take a step back with our team to see how we are doing and where we are going. Personally, I feel tremendous support, energy and enthusiasm for our programs and our direction; but a desire to accomplish much more change even faster. I wanted to validate these impressions and ensure our leadership team was on board for the next phase.

Last fall, I had arranged for two very experienced deans – Dr. Brian Postl from the University of Manitoba and Dr. Catharine Whiteside, who just finished as dean at the University of Toronto – to visit and review our college.

Between them, they have nearly 20 years of decanal experience, and have been through reviews and accreditation visits at most medical schools in Canada. I asked them to review our strategic plan, The Way Forward, and our operations – the business of running the medical school – as well as our research enterprise.  This had nothing to do with accreditation per se and nothing to do with curriculum or our education programs.

Drs. Postl and Whiteside spent two days with us on February 2nd and 3rd. They were provided all kinds of advance reading and had many interviews with the deanery, department heads, administrative leadership, health region leadership, government partners and senior university leadership. I’m told their questions and insights were very perceptive and helpful.

In essence their advice was:

  • you are on the right track
  • your overall plan is consistent with the way Canadian medical schools are organizing themselves
  • you need many more clinical faculty with dedicated time
  • you need to distribute budget and accountability to education units and departments
  • you need to implement your strategic plan for research (Toward 2020)

Bottom line, we have a great college, substantial resources and great opportunity.

Using their advice and The Way Forward as background, we convened a Senior Leadership Retreat on Feb 26 & 27. On Thursday evening, we had dinner with Mr. Dan Florizone, CEO of SHR, as keynote speaker. He spoke very strongly of his commitment to the academic mission of SHR, a strong partnership with the CoM, and our education and research mandates. Also of note, It was a great start.

On Friday morning, we focused on our strategic plan and our operations and a great turnout of over 40 people including deanery, department heads, administrative leaders, and representation from our campuses in Regina and Prince Albert. It was encouraging to see representation from across the province and I am hoping to grow this level of involvement at future events.  I also want to be sure we do more to encourage involvement from community physicians and build engagement with them by actively seeking their perspectives.  I provided some remarks on academic leadership and we got down to work.

We had focused discussions on the One Faculty Model, Medical Leadership and Processes, Medical Education Resources and Methodologies, and RHA/MoH Relationships. There was great support for moving to the One Faculty Model, improving and extending the academic leadership throughout the province, a distributed model of budget and accountability and above all a message of let’s get on with it!

In the afternoon we were joined by seven  of our leading researchers. Dr. Gordon McKay, Interim Vice-Dean, Research, led off followed by short vignettes by each of the researchers about their programs. We then had a presentation about progress and plans for research at U of S by Dr. Karen Chad and after the break, continued with small group work on ideas for advancing our research mission.

The event demonstrated that we are doing a lot in research and certainly more than we receive credit for. On the other hand, there were lots of ideas for change and investments brought forward that will need to be done if we are to succeed in our goal of becoming the best small medical school in Canada in the next 5 years.

Overall the event was a tremendous success.

I have participated in a lot of these events and I have never seen this level of enthusiasm, energy and engagement. Don’t get me wrong – there was discussion and debate and not everyone agreed with everything. As I have said, as we move forward we must be both relentless and flexible. But for me the most exciting thing I saw was a team united around a direction and enthusiasm to get on with it.

If you want more details talk to your colleagues that were there or stop me in the halls to discuss. Remember my door is always open.

I also need to say this was the best organized retreat I was ever at. It will become an annual event. In that regard I must congratulate and give great praise to my entire administrative team but in particular Sinead McGartland, our Senior Project Leader who planned both the deans’ visit and the retreat,  Darla Wyatt, our Events Coordinator, and our Facilitator, Laura Saporio. And thanks in particular to Mr. Dan Florizone from SHR, Dr. Dave McCutcheon and Carole Klassen from RQHR, and all of the great participants.

Of course we do all this while continuing to diligently prepare for our May 10-12 accreditation visit. I say this to remind everyone we need your active participation and efforts as we prepare.  Athena McConnell, Kevin Siebert and others are working hard to prepare the documentation. In particular, I want to congratulate the Department of Medicine on the scoreboard they have up tracking compliance with knowledge of objectives, timely feedback and completion of assessments.

We’re on our way – let’s get on with it!

What is an Academic Health Sciences Centre/Network?

We are! And the exciting research done by our own Dr. Mike Kelly and its recent publication in The New England Journal of Medicine is proof.

The College of Medicine – together with the Saskatoon Health Region, the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and each Regional Health Authority in the province – create an Academic Health Sciences Network.

A very dated concept is the idea of medical school and a small group of core faculty members partnered with a single “teaching” or “University” hospital.

A national task force of universities and health care organizations has described this evolution:

Evolution to Academic Health Sciences Networks (AHSNs): With the emergence of new health care organizations with broad regional responsibilities for health as well as health care combined with emerging trends in academic medicine such as distributed medical education, eLearning, and collaborative inter-professional models of care across a broader range of organizations and institutions, the National Task Force embraced the new model of the Academic Health Sciences Network (AHSN), for which it developed the following definition: “a set of formal partnerships created by health sciences universities, academic healthcare organizations and other provider organizations with the goal of improving patient and population health outcomes through mechanisms and structures that develop, implement and advance integrated health services delivery, professional education, and research and innovation. At the core of this network is the AHSC, working closely with other academic healthcare organizations who focus, in whole or in part, on the care-teaching-research mandate.”

What do they do?

AHSCs deliver three related missions: (1) providing Canadians with timely access to advanced patient care services; (2) training the next generation of health care professionals; and (3) conducting leading-edge research and making it available to clinicians, administrators, policy makers and the public. It is the integration of patient care, education and research that uniquely defines the AHSC mission and differentiates it from other organizations in the health system that focus predominantly or exclusively on the provision of health and health care services. Each mission serves to reinforce the other two, with the objective of providing Canadians with access to world-class patient care, well-trained health care professionals, and state-of-the-art research

Dr. Mike Kelly, MD, PhD, is from Saskatchewan and a CoM graduate from 1999 who also did his Neurosurgery residency here in Saskatoon.  Very importantly, the RUH Foundation contributed to Dr. Kelly’s extra and specialized neurosurgical resident and fellowship training.  At Cleveland Clinic and Stanford University, Dr. Kelly learned endovascular surgical techniques for repairing CNS clots and aneurysms.  Upon return to Saskatoon in 2008 to the Division of Neurosurgery,  Dr. Kelly finished his PhD in 2010 from thesis work entitled “Using synchrotron imaging techniques to solve problems in neurosurgery” that he had started earlier during his residency program.

In 2012 he began work as the Saskatchewan Clinical Stroke Research Chair at the College of Medicine, with a research program supported by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.  The Saskatchewan Clinical Stroke Research Chair allowed for the implementation of dedicated stroke research infrastructure that previously did not exist.

The research that resulted in publication in the NEJM proved that endovascular treatment for the acute management of stroke is now the gold standard. This was an international study and Saskatoon was one of 11 Canadian centers that participated.  Saskatchewan’s participation in this exciting research would never have happened if the research infrastructure had not already been in place. We were very honoured to have been included as one of the first study sites in Calgary’s ground-breaking study.

This is in itself a remarkable accomplishment for any early career academic, and by all accounts, Dr. Kelly is a remarkable clinician, teacher, researcher and leader.  But Dr. Kelly does more than that – he shows us all what we can accomplish at our Academic Health Sciences Centres here in Saskatchewan.  Because of Dr. Kelly’s specialized expertise, ischemic stroke patients are already receiving endovascular treatment.

I have heard some say we are not an Academic Health Sciences Centre/Network, and that given our clinical burden, we cannot do it all  – and so we should leave the research to others. I say they are wrong.  Dr. Kelly is but one example of many health leadership accomplishments in Saskatchewan.  Those by Dr. Sylvia Fedoruk also come to mind.

For me, the two highlights of this story besides Dr. Kelly’s contribution, are key aspects of an Academic Health Sciences Centre/Network.

First the whole community was part of the process that led up to Dr. Kelly being in a position to do this research.  The University, SHR, RUH Foundation, Heart and Stroke Foundation of Saskatchewan, SHRF, among others.  The second point is that we saw knowledge creation here in Saskatchewan that led directly to application and benefit to the people of Saskatchewan.

This is how it is supposed to work and why we all benefit in growing our Academic Health Sciences Centers and Network.