Time to Catch-up!

This blog is an opportunity for me to “catch up” with faculty, staff, and students after an incredibly busy spring. Speaking of spring, I must say I have had an incredible introduction to the “harsh prairie winters” and my family and friends in the Maritimes may still have snow in the woods!! Of course I know I may regret tempting the weather, but I figure enjoy it when I can!

In April and May, I have been away on a number of CoM activities.  Here’s a quick recap:

  • I chaired the full accreditation visit at Western University (formerly UWO).  This was a lot of work, but an incredible learning opportunity, especially for our full visit in 2017.
  • I hosted alumni events in Calgary, Victoria, and Vancouver. They were well-received as alumni seem pleased with the direction at the CoM, and some seem inclined to increase their support. Many thanks to all of those who turned out and to our excellent event organizer and advancement team.  I encourage all alumni to consider coming to Highlights 2015.
  • I attended the AFMC Board meetings, and the Canadian Conference on Medical Education. More on that below…
  • I also managed an unexpected diversion to the Maritimes for a family emergency. I would like to express great gratitude for the concern and well wishes expressed to Jane, Marie and me by so many of you. My mother is recovering nicely. I regret if it has been difficult to meet with me lately or if I cancelled a meeting or missed your event.

The CCME was very instructive, as usual, with lots of great faculty development. Of great concern is the shrinking number of PGME spots across the country, and the increasingly competitive CaRMS environment. I have assumed the position of the AFMC Dean representative on the Board of CaRMS, and hope to contribute constructively to these challenges.  A concern to the deans is some of the inconsistency in the approaches and policies of our PGME programs across the country particularly with regards to selection. I look forward to your input on that important topic.

Another topic discussed at CCME was UGME admissions.  Some of our peers are coming up with innovative ways to recruit students from historically under-represented groups, including those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, LGBTQ community, inner city and rural communities, etc.  Here’s the latest news from U of M:


While I think we have made some progress with our Aboriginal and rural students, I think we still have room to go to ensure our student body reflects the whole Saskatchewan population. Again, I look forward to your advice.

The abrupt trip to the Maritimes was even more abruptly ended by a rush back here to participate in the UGME accreditation visit. I mention this to give kudos to our event team and the IT teams here and at Dalhousie.  They created a superb back-up plan for me to participate fully in the accreditation visit by high-end VC equipment (acquired here just in time for the visit) from The Moncton Hospital!! “Ain’t technology great!”

I am very pleased to say our UGME accreditation visit went well, and kudos to all, but especially to Dr. Athena McConnell (our Assistant Dean, Quality), and Kevin Siebert (our Accreditation Specialist). Our briefing book was completed and edited to perfection well in time, the mock visits carried out smoothly with full preparation and participation by faculty members, and the logistics of the visit handled flawlessly.  The results will be heard in the fall, but the exit interview expressed progress or resolution of many of the 13 standards in question. It needs to be noted, however, that our primary focus for preparation is in fact the full visit coming in 2017.

Speaking of 2017, I hate to be a pain going on about this, but we also need to remind ourselves that our performance in the upcoming year and the responses from our graduating students on the Canadian Graduate Questionnaire in June 2016 will be the primary data for the full accreditation visit of 2017. I believe we have made great progress on many fronts with regards to accreditation, and soon this issue will be permanently behind us. We just aren’t there yet!

Finally, I write this blog on the plane back from Ottawa and on my way to Regina to meet with government, RQHR, and our faculty.

I hope you enjoyed a spectacular Saskatchewan weekend.  I went out Saturday on my motorbike to Watrous to meet with some of our rural faculty at SnoDocs.


Using a Project Management Approach to further DME in SK

I would like to introduce Sinead McGartland as our guest blogger this week. Sinead is our Senior Project Leader and she comes to us after three years of experience as the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Academic Health Sciences Network. Many in the province tell me attracting Sinead to this position is quite a coup for our college. We are on a big change agenda on many fronts, and we need a strategy for implementing that change. I have seen great success with the adoption of an organization-wide approach to project management. Sinead brings all of the skills and experience to accomplish this work, a deep knowledge of the heath education and healthcare systems of Saskatchewan, and a great network throughout the province.

I’ve asked her to outline how a Project Management approach will benefit the work of the college.  Here’s what she has to tell us:

Have you ever worked on a project and you had no idea why you were doing it; you weren’t sure how your piece fit into the bigger picture; there were last minute changes or surprises?  Maybe you had to just get something done, but new tasks kept getting added, and your project seemed to never end.   Frustrating!

Using an active project management approach takes away the frustration.  It means we take the time to design and plan a project so we can properly execute and achieve the desired results.  Following the methodology helps us know in advance: what we want to achieve (the desired outcome); who needs to be involved; how to manage the schedule, budget, communications, risk and quality metrics; success measures; evaluation and learning.

For the College of Medicine, Distributed Medical Education (DME) is a prime example of an unplanned project.  This is not a criticism, and in fact, the college has seen many DME successes – despite not having an overall planned design.  To meet the needs of our increasing undergraduate and postgraduate student body, the college dove right into distributing programming across the province.

We are now taking a step back in order to develop a truly strategic plan for DME, including the design of a DME structure required to move the college forward.  As a result of this approach, the College of Medicine will:

1. Learn from the experts:

  • Establish a Task Group to recommend a governance model that identifies who has the authority, what the DME models and growth plan will be, and the operational business plan.  This Task Group  will have representatives from the college, the current DME sites, the Ministries of Health and Advanced Education, and Regional Health Authorities
  • Research what other Canadian medical schools have done with DME

2. Learn from reality:

  • Complete focus groups with the existing DME sites to learn what is going well, what needs more support/ improvement

3. Understand the provincial implications:

  • Host a provincial forum on June 22 and 23 to work with provincial partners to understand the implications of the DME governance plan, and to work through the components that need to be included in the business plan

4. Articulate the College of Medicine approach to DME:

  • Produce a document that articulates the college’s vision and plan for DME
  • Identify the operational considerations and activities needed to mobilize and implement the DME plan

Distributed Medical Education for Saskatchewan is a provincial plan.  Engagement, participation, commitment, and action are the mantra to move us forward.  I am excited to work with college members and partners across the Saskatchewan as we build on the foundation you’ve created.

For the College of Medicine, implementing a project management methodology will allow our approach to be consistent – regardless of the type and scope of project.  My long term goal is to see all college projects have a charter, a stakeholder management plan, and a lead who is the ‘motor’ to keep the project on task and on target.  Project leads will also complete the project evaluation and report on the outcomes, ensuring both transparency and accountability.

I am always interested in hearing the perspectives of the College partners to understand how any of the projects that we proceed with impact and affect them.  Please contact me for more information on the projects that I am supporting.  I am very pleased to have joined the college and look forward to the opportunity to meet and work with you.