Achieving success: one faculty and accreditation

Successful colleges and universities are composed of, and inspired and led by great students, faculty and staff. First and foremost, of course, are our learners. I recently met with the leaders of the Saskatchewan Medical Student Society and, as always, found myself impressed by the quality of our students and the dedication and passion of their leaders. On September 23, our annual student-led Global Health Conference will take place on the theme of The G Word: Gender and Global Health. The conference is dedicated to raising awareness about pressing global health issues and is one of many superb examples of leadership by students from all of the health sciences.

As we prepare for accreditation, I must reiterate my appreciation for our students’ participation in the Independent Student Analysis, and a host of accreditation-specific focus groups, college surveys, meetings and lunches, not to mention their support during the accreditation visit itself, coming up from October 29 to November 1.

The most striking change that’s taken place in our college in terms of both structure and engagement has been with our physicians, or medical faculty. As The Way Forward and previous accreditation challenges clearly documented, the faculty structure for physicians resulted in a town/gown divide that led to ambivalence or even disengagement by some physicians towards the CoM. A provincial health human resource plan done in 2014 documented that in Saskatchewan less than 50 full-time equivalents (FTEs) of physician time was devoted to academic work at the CoM. Similar-sized medicals schools had more than twice that physician engagement.

Of course, the primary driver for most physicians in Saskatchewan was the constant demand to provide clinical care in a growing province that had been historically challenged to recruit sufficient physicians. Improving national trends in physician manpower provide us an opportunity to engage more physicians in the academic mandate, supported by the fact that 75 per cent of learners want teaching and/or research as part of their career. To succeed, though, we also needed to change the structure and to invest!

This past June, the new Policy for Medical Faculty was approved by the university board of governors, and the associated Procedures for Medical Faculty were approved by the provost in July. No longer is there two appointment streams or titles for medical faculty. Furthermore, we worked with the Ministry of Health and the health regions to develop the Academic Clinical Funding Plan for some physicians and developed contractual arrangements for many who wanted to continue on a fee-for-service payment structure.

We welcome physicians from throughout Saskatchewan to be part of our team as medical faculty, recognizing there will be broadly diverse levels of interest and time commitment that will also vary considerably over each physician’s career. Our learners and our research will benefit, and very importantly, we know our patients will benefit! Teaching and research are directly correlated with quality of care. Physicians who teach report greater career satisfaction and are more likely to remain in their community.

And these changes for medical faculty are working! In our clinical departments we have more than 1,500 physicians throughout Saskatchewan affiliated with the College of Medicine. As noted above, prior to 2014 we had less than 5O FTEs of physician time at the CoM. Now that number is over 80 FTEs. In terms of number of individuals, in 2014 approximately 150 physicians had committed time (ranging for most from 5-30 per cent) to teaching, research and leadership at the CoM. Today, that number is approximately 250 individuals. At the time of the 2013 accreditation visit, we faced challenges at times finding faculty for lectures, tutorials and clinical placements. Today, we’re experiencing no such problems. In the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 1,000 faculty appointees were in contact with UGME students. We are witnessing more engagement in PGME, as well. Our physicians have really responded!

Standard Four (Faculty Preparation, Productivity, Participation and Policies) in UGME accreditation is all about faculty. Other standards also speak to the importance of faculty. It is true that without learners none of us would have jobs, but learners come to be taught by excellent faculty! We have talked a lot about the importance of seeing our faculty in the College of Medicine as One Faculty, in which the contributions of all are recognized and valued. The broad make-up of our faculty and the big changes described above that we have made regarding our medical faculty are important information for all of us in the CoM.

Broadly speaking, we are primarily biomedical scientists, population health scientists, educators, physicians and physiotherapists. Together, as our new mission highlights, we develop culturally competent, skilled clinicians and scientists, with the support of our staff. Across our biomedical science, clinical and Community Health and Epidemiology departments, we have 100 scientists. The education and research mandates of the college are absolutely dependent on these scientists. The number has remained stable since the faculty retirement incentive in 2013. Currently we are recruiting for two basic scientists to replace two retirements this past summer. In fact, since 2014 we have added a neuroscientist position for the Movement Disorders Program in the Department of Medicine, an academic programming appointment (APA, primarily teaching position) in Pharmacology, an APA in Pathology, a new scientist in the Department of Surgery, and we’ve converted two term appointments to tenure track positions. In our School of Physical Therapy, we have 37 faculty members.

Also, as we prepare for accreditation, I am again reminded how dependent we are on the superb staff that support our learners and faculty. The accreditation documentation (more than 1,000 pages) was submitted on July 21, a week ahead of schedule, and while it represented the culmination of 18 months of very hard work, it was done smoothly and efficiently. One of our great staff leaders, Marianne Bell, accreditation specialist, deserves enormous credit. Now, Sinead McGartland, director of planning and projects, leads our visit preparation. We have 100 per cent of our accreditation visit participants—more than 200 people—confirmed for the visit meetings and 86 per cent have had their first round of visit preparation.

An accreditation web page on our college site, including a video message from me summarizing all we have been doing over the last five years to prepare, plus much more information, is available for your perusal. Furthermore, all members of the CoM and our partner organizations are welcome to come to the dean’s office suite (5D40 Health Sciences Building on the U of S Saskatoon campus) and view our “wall walk,” where our progress since January and summaries of the accreditation standards are documented.

I am excited about our progress and every day I am increasingly impressed with our faculty and staff as people step up to the plate to serve the CoM and our learners. Please visit our accreditation page and see what, together, we have accomplished.

As always, I am open to feedback and questions. I am always happy to come to your department or unit. Thanks for your hard work!