Shaping Biomedical Sciences

A vibrant, innovative undergraduate Biomedical Sciences Program is critical for our College of Medicine.

Such a program must have the breadth and depth for graduating students to be well prepared to enter any health science professional program, pursue health/life science research endeavors, or enter the workforce.

We train much of the biomedical workforce outside the professions and our undergraduate programs feed our graduate programs. I believe, as do many of our peer universities, an innovative Biomedical Sciences Program can do all of that.

We have long-debated the importance of developing medical scientists versus creating the practitioners with the perfect bedside manner. Obviously we will always need to both.

In creating a new undergraduate biomedical sciences program within the CoM, we must also establish the best academic governance structure. This will benefit not only a new biomedical sciences program, but also the many other academic activities currently managed by our existing five Basic Science departments.

With these two initiatives, I hope we can also review and revamp research intensiveness in the Basic Science departments, critically evaluate their service teaching mandates across campus, as well as current service operations within the departments by pursuing solutions for improvement in all these academic mandates.

I have asked Jim Thornhill, Special Assistant to our College and to the Vice President Research Office (OVPR), to lead this initiative on my behalf.

Many of you will be familiar with Jim as he has served the college and university in a number of roles. He was a faculty member and physiology department head, and the Associate Dean Research before his secondment to the OVPR over the past five years.

I have asked Jim to work openly and transparently with me, the CoM staff, the two Biomedical Standing Committees (Programs and Governance) to review, and eventually decide upon the undergraduate biomedical program and governance structure.

Importantly, I want the committees to reach their ultimate plan with the input of university officials, faculty, current and past students from the existing programs, but also learn from other universities having similar life/biomedical science programs in Canada.

I have asked all concerned if it is possible to have the new Biomedical Sciences Program(s) have its first class enrolled for September, 2017 and managed within its new governance structure. What programs and structures will do the most to enhance our research enterprise in the new world of research clusters and inter-disciplinary health research?

Obviously much work is ahead!!

Our goals in this work are two-fold: focus on student success, and grow our research intensiveness.

With respect to research intensiveness, over the next five years I believe we should aim for: 25% increase in the number of peer reviewed grants; 25% increase in the number of peer reviewed papers; 10% increase in the number of external research networks formed; 10% increase in the number of patents issued; and 25-50% increase in the number of biomedical undergraduate students conducting research projects.

Speaking of students, in the coming five years, I believe we can achieve a 25-50% increase in undergraduate enrollment; 10-25% increase in acceptance of these students to medicine or other health professional colleges; and a 25% increase in the number of students applying to graduate programs.

To date, I am pleased to report student surveys of current and past graduates of existing Basic Science undergraduate programs will be conducted through the Register’s Office in September. As well, a site tour to three Canadian universities with similar biomedical Sciences programs was arranged for three representatives from our standing committees for mid-September. This data will be gathered and analyzed by Christmas so an initial draft of the new Biomedical Program can begin in the New Year.

Extensive consultation of the draft proposal will occur in the college and across campus in spring 2016 and summer of next year, with a revised draft sent to Academic Programs and Priority and Planning Committees of University Council in October, 2016.

Importantly, I meet with the Biomedical Governance Committee in September to begin discussions of possible governance structures for the effective management of the Biomedical Sciences Program of the future.

Of course, all of this work must happen within the larger university context. As we plan for our own future, we must remain sensitive to the bigger picture.

The U of S is moving to an activity-based funding model. All of our medical programs, and even our graduate programs, have a fixed capacity. As we works towards our new model, we must consider how we will grow our basic sciences faculty. Our own undergraduate programs will enable a way to grow our budget in the future university budget model.

Please extend your support and ideas to Jim and the committees as they continue this important work.




4 thoughts on “Shaping Biomedical Sciences

  1. This is great. One of the requirement for our medical school admission is undergraduate degree. With 2+2 curriculum, the time to teach basic sciences has decreased tremendously. It would be nice for our students to be better prepared for medical school. I think it would be nice to have a premedical undergraduate degree program, where students can learn all the sciences including Anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology, and biochemistry in first three years and fourth year can be a focused year in one field. This course will also be a good foundation for students who would like to take graduate studies in biomedical sciences.

  2. I agree with the sentiments expressed by my colleague Dr Rajni Chibbar. As we condense our medical school cirruculum to a 2+2 is an opportune time to develop an undergraduate degree in the biiomedical and allied sciences that can prepare the exiting graduate to be prepared for either post graduate studies or for medical school. If this is the the targeted outcome; exposure to the bridging science of pathology would also be a good investment in the long run. If there is any traction in this direction both me and my colleague Dr Chibbar are more than willing to be engaged in developing an introductory course in pathology for the same.
    Thankyou for taking the time to read this comment.

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