Meetings with MD faculty

As promised, I have been meeting with faculty members since the announcement of the transition incentive package. Overall, these have been great conversations, and faculty members have had lots of questions – in most cases about details of the package.

However, one underlying theme running through these conversations is the impression the university wants people to leave their academic roles. Nothing could be further from the truth!

My most important message to everyone with an interest in the CoM is we want to retain everyone who is committed to a career in academic medicine. Our ultimate goal is many, many more academic clinicians.

As noted in my last blog, the vision is a One Faculty model; with More Faculty; built on engagement and compensation strategies that ensure Fairness and Accountability.

I would like to remind us of the entire context.

In 2013, the CoM agreed to The Way Forward. The decision to no longer hire MD’s to tenure track positions was made in June, 2013. In the larger context, virtually all of our Canadian peers had gone in this direction decades ago.

We are already well on our way to a One Faculty model. Virtually every faculty appointee who I talk with supports this philosophy.

75% of our graduates and residents want a career that includes teaching and research. This is a sign of success – our graduates have enquiring minds and know the value of scholarly pursuits. Furthermore, the demands of patient care are so great that our academic work needs to be spread across the broader medical community. The days when a small select group of doctors can run the medical school are long gone.

So we are already well on our way to a One Faculty model. Six physicians have signed on to an ACFP since the spring, with approximately twenty more in development. Since my arrival, we have signed multiple contracts with community MD faculty appointees: five to take on leadership roles, and nearly twenty for teaching roles in the UGME and PGME curricula.

If we simply allowed attrition to be our only strategy for transition to the One Faculty model, the process would take much too long. I could see in several years we may still have approximately 100 faculty members and maybe 100 or so people signed up to the ACFP.

Of course one challenge in our profession is the diversity of compensation, but I could see great inequity developing, as some faculty members in some disciplines could be at a great financial disadvantage as compared to the ACFP.

This incentive package is an opportunity for all members to take a look at their own circumstances, consider their own academic and clinical career goals, and choose what is best for them.

I have talked to some who are making great academic contributions. They can continue to do so, under an ACFP, or under a contract with the CoM. For most in this situation, going to an ACFP should not change their actual daily work life.

I have talked to others who – while enjoying bedside teaching of students and residents – do not have an active research program, and have little interest in more educational roles. Those individuals may find the transition incentive and either FFS or a health region position to be more attractive. These physicians too are needed here at the CoM as clinical teachers.

So as you look at your options, remember the CoM and the U of S wants to retain and even grow your academic contributions. Take your time, discuss with peers and professional advisors, and rest assured the College of Medicine and I value your academic contributions.

As always, my door is open.


One Faculty

As I write this blog I sit looking out on beautiful and sunny Lake Waskesu while taking a break from the discussions at the Dean’s Retreat. I am confident the University is on an upward trajectory as we head into a new academic year and welcome a new class of future MD’s and graduate students.  Having sat on the Presidential search committee I am excited about the leadership of our incoming President, Peter Stoicheff, and within the CoM I am equally excited about the leadership of our new Vice-Dean Education, Kent Stoubart, and our soon to be chosen new Vice-Dean of Research.

I returned Sunday night after a great 3-week vacation in the Maritimes and on the last Saturday celebrated with family and friends a wonderful and joyous wedding where my youngest daughter married her childhood sweetheart. Thanks to all of the warm wishes and congratulations from so many of you. I have to say despite loving my previous 56 years as a Maritimer, after experiencing rain on about 15 of the 22 days I was there made me realize how much I loved returning home to Saskatchewan and sunshine!! (The sun did shine for the outdoor wedding.)

This is an important moment at the CoM as seen in today’s announcement on the offer being made to our MD faculty who are part of the University Of Saskatchewan Faculty Association.  This is an important step in the process of restructuring the College of Medicine as planned in The Way Forward.  And it is an important step toward our goal of being the best “small medical school” in Canada and eventually one of the best overall, while serving the people of Saskatchewan better than any other school serves its constituency.

For me this step is part of a plan that brings us towards the goal of one united MD faculty, more MD’s actively engaged with and supporting the CoM and finally ensuring both fairness to MD faculty and accountability for the resources we are provided by our university, health regions, government, citizens and each other. My advice to the team that negotiated this package was that the transition must be optional, fair, transparent, and attractive and I believe this package achieves those goals.

One Faculty. Over the past 15 months I have come to know many of our MD faculty and have come to value and respect their contributions to the CoM. What I see is a love and passion for the CoM, our learners and research. And this love and passion is equally found between both the MD members of USFA and those who are designated community faculty appointees. Increasingly the academic contributions and the quality and quantity of scholarly work are also found on both sides of this historic divide. While this divide is both historical and structural it is no longer about academic commitment and it is imperative that we make room now for our MD faculty to become united under one umbrella of engagement with and contribution to the CoM.

More Faculty. I have repeatedly, and in multiple venues, presented the data that show our medical school compared with all of our peers, is running on substantially less time from MD faculty. This is multi-factorial and in part due to the overall shortage of MD’s in Saskatchewan, but it is also largely structural. Our successful peers have in place structures and compensation schemes that allow the majority of the MD’s in the academic health science centers (SHR and RQHR) to be actively engaged in their medical school on an equitable basis and they are ahead of us in engaging MD’s in smaller and rural settings. Using CIHI definitions we have around 70 – 80 FTE’s of MD time at the CoM while our peers are around 150 FTE’s.  My goal in restructuring the CoM is to have many more MD’s actively engaged with the CoM and passionate about teaching and research.

Fairness and Accountability. The University decided two years before my arrival to stop recruiting MD’s to tenure track positions.  I saw immediately the need to complete the implementation of the Academic Clinical Funding Plan and was supported tremendously in that goal by SHR, RQHR and the Ministry of Health. As this package was developed I also saw that for many of our faculty, their current compensation would not be competitive with the ACFP.  We have already signed up 9 doctors to the ACFP who have the benefits of working with clearly defined academic and clinical deliverables and very competitive compensation. My goal has been that faculty members have an attractive incentive to transition to the ACFP where they can continue to do the academic work they love.

I recognize that while our current resources are excellent, we will eventually require more resources if we are to meet our goal of being one of the best medical schools in Canada and the one that serves its province better than any other. To be deserving of that investment we must demonstrate to our funders and our public that we hold each other accountable for the delivery of our entire academic and clinical commitment.

While I believe the ACFP will eventually be the choice of many (and for sure the majority of young faculty) I would reiterate we would continue to engage with others on the basis of contracts and stipends. But, regardless of compensation scheme we are will now be all part of another step toward becoming one faculty with a shared commitment to our learners, our research, our patients and our College of Medicine.

I encourage all who are offered this package to take your time, discuss with your peers, get professional advice as needed and discuss with your leaders. Please feel free to call or visit me to discuss. My door is always open. No matter what your choices are my goal is to retain all of the current MD USFA members as active contributors to the CoM and I sincerely believe that for the majority this transition to a new model of faculty engagement will in the end see us all in a better place.