The College of Medicine – A Winning Team

As I am sure everyone knows by now, we have achieved accreditation of our Undergraduate Medical Education program. This is indeed great news and a key turning point in the history of the CoM!

Congratulations to all in the college and my profound thanks to all of our students, staff, faculty, leaders and partners who have worked so hard to see this great day. It has been truly a team effort and I am inspired by the collaboration, collegiality and camaraderie demonstrated as we pulled so hard together over the last two years.

In fact, this work has taken place over the last five years, as the CoM faced its challenges head-on and embraced the changes mapped out in The Way Forward. This attitude and determination is what inspired me to come to the University of Saskatchewan and today I could not be prouder of what you have all accomplished. This is a great team and a winning team.

I hesitate to pick out any individuals, as so many people have gone above and beyond to see this success. However, I must emphasize the great work by our students and their leaders in producing the Independent Student Analysis and their role in meeting with our accreditation team.

I must single out Dr. Athena McConnell, our Assistant Dean Quality, who led the process with incredible hard work, diligence and attention to detail—all done with equanimity (sometimes when the rest of us were panicking) and an incredible sense of humour. Our UGME team was led by Dr. Pat Blakley, who did incredible work engaging with our students, and all were ably supported by Dr. Kent Stobart, our Vice-Dean Education, who brought as much accreditation experience to our team as can be found at any medical school in the country.

Accreditation is about the quality of medical education and the student experience, and obviously the faculty are critical, but none of this would have happened without our administrative team. By the time we were done, we had provided CACMS with over 3,500 pages of documentation and at the visit 215 people met with the accreditation team, and all had preparation and rehearsal meetings ahead of that. In fact, the only complaint I heard was someone said they were over-prepared! Marianne Bell took on the challenging role of Accreditation Specialist 10 months before the visit and did an incredible job. Sinead McGartland, Director of Projects and Planning, led the visit preparation and showed us all what can be accomplished with the superb application of expert project management!

There are so many others whose role was critical. Unfortunately, you would never read all of this blog if I recognized everyone. Two other groups deserve special mention. The ultimate teacher in medical education is the patient and we could never run our education programs without those patients and the healthcare system that cares for them. The Saskatchewan Health Authority and its predecessors and their leaders have been tremendously helpful and supportive.

Finally, the University of Saskatchewan and its leaders have had our back every day. When medical school deans gather, a common complaint is the university doesn’t understand the medical school! I must say I know of no medical school that has had greater engagement or support from its university and its senior administration than us. Thanks to our many U of S colleagues who supported us.

The report from CACMS is very great news, and is very positive. Like virtually all medical schools that have a successful accreditation, there are some elements that will require follow-up. The great news is that CACMS has asked for written reports and does not require a follow-up visit! After eight visits from 2002 to 2017, we could actually go eight years without a visit! This is a huge vote of confidence in our college and our team.

However, if you read the good news story on the front page (above the fold!) of the Star Phoenix today, you would have read that I said we must be committed to continuous quality improvement and we must understand that the moment we stop changing we will stop being a winning team!

And we have lots more to do! Our Postgraduate Medical Education division has had great success and has great leaders and now faces the huge challenge of implementing competency-based medical education. The same success and great leadership is true of our Continuing Medical Education division, but we are aware that as the “system” looks for more ongoing professional development for doctors, we must respond.

The strategic plan we have created together clearly demonstrates we have important priorities that go beyond our medical education programs. Certainly Indigenous health and social accountability (some good news on that front later this summer) remain very important for our college.

We are well along with the important work of restructuring our Division of Biomedical Sciences and we are in the early stages of the very important work to develop an undergraduate biomedical sciences degree program delivered within the CoM. The importance of strong undergraduate and graduate programs in the Division of Biomedical Sciences within the College of Medicine cannot be overstated.

Research success is what will ultimately drive our reputation and will do the most to improve the health of the people of Saskatchewan and the world. Research success will provide the return on investment needed by our university and our province, and ultimately the future financial stability of our college. Research success will enhance recruitment of the brightest and best students and faculty. And research success will be the ultimate reward for our clinical researchers and our biomedical and population health scientists.

While writing this blog, lines from Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! came to mind. Another Dr. Suess quote also seems apt: “Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

I’ve said before that we are on our way. With this result, while we have much to do, we know that as a team working together under extraordinary pressures of workload, deadlines and expectations, we delivered.



Thoughts on faculty engagement

Guest blog by Keith Ogle, outgoing Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement

I’ve been honoured to serve as Vice-Dean Faculty Engagement for the College of Medicine since June 1, 2016. Prior to that time, for a period of about eight months, I did some organizational work for the college in the same administrative area. Now, effective June 1, 2018, I have retired from my administrative role and am heading out to explore very different landscapes.

You might think that by this time, I’d have a fairly good idea about the ins-and-outs of faculty engagement. You would be wrong! It has proven to be a fairly complex subject and for me, at least, several minor mysteries remain. Why are some faculty completely engaged? Why have others withdrawn? Why do some choose to never become more than minimally engaged? What do engaged faculty have in common? How are they different from each other? How do we measure engagement? How should we acknowledge and reward engagement? And in fact, what is engagement?

I have the impression that my most highly engaged colleagues would also struggle with these questions. For the most part, they probably don’t give it much thought. It’s not like they are following some carefully defined career plan, or that they’ve always dreamed of being medical teachers, researchers or administrators. I might be wrong about the researchers – maybe being engaged is, in fact, about following their dreams. But for most physicians, being engaged as a member of faculty is all wrapped up with both their personalities and their engagement in clinical work. An observation: actively engaged, high-performing medical faculty tend to be actively engaged, high-performing clinicians. They are recognized in both the academic and clinical worlds as consistent and valuable contributors.

Another observation: the timeline for engagement, on average, tends to be bimodal. There are obvious exceptions, but newly appointed faculty who are also embarking on new clinical careers, tend to get more involved initially than they might later on. Perhaps it is due in part to not knowing exactly what they’re getting into, but I suspect it also has something to do with energy and optimism. Later on, during the mid-career stages, academic engagement tends to drop off, probably for a number of reasons. Life gets busy with kids, mortgages, landscaping, debts to pay off, and multiple other real-life complications. Then, in late-career, there’s more time again. Memories of perceived mid-career injustices are held in balance with a sense of gratitude for one’s own education and a different understanding of one’s personal role in achieving the greater good.

A third observation: actively engaged faculty show up as being in the game for more than themselves. They tend to be outward-focused but intrinsically rewarded—they find joy in simply being involved, and they don’t over-think it. This seems most obvious, to me, with good clinical teachers, but I see it right across the academic spectrum. Again, there are obvious exceptions. We have all seen examples of self-serving engagement where recognition is the goal and self-sacrifice the persona.

My replacement will be tackling many of these questions and will be looking to faculty for the best answers. That individual will have continued support from an outstanding set of forward-looking leaders, and ongoing support from an expanding cohort of passionate and engaged faculty. As the college’s role in the community, the university and the health care system continues to evolve, our faculty will undoubtedly show us what true engagement means, and why it contributes to satisfaction and meaning in our professional lives.