New working group guiding diversity and inclusion at the CoM

Guest blog by Erin Prosser-Loose, on behalf of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group

Intentional action to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace leads to increased productivity, more creativity, new discoveries, and is the right thing to do. In the context of the College of Medicine, diversity refers to having a broad range of personal characteristics and life experiences represented across our faculty, leadership, students, and staff; this diversity is reflected through our policies, programs, and practices. But having a diverse group is not enough if people are not happy and thriving in the workplace. Inclusion takes it a step further, and ensures people feel safe, welcomed, valued, and free from harassment and discrimination.

The College of Medicine is showing its commitment to diversity and inclusion through the formation and ongoing contributions of the Diversity and Inclusion Working Group. While this group is focused on faculty and staff, we know that students are positively impacted when they have diverse mentors and role models among leadership, faculty, and staff. Diversity among the student population in the college is being addressed through a number of units, including Admissions and Student Services. These units provide services for Indigenous students, as well as initiatives around mentorship for Indigenous individuals, LGBTQ2 people, and opportunities for students to act as mentors for youth who come from underserved areas in partnership with Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Saskatoon.

The Diversity and Inclusion Working Group is currently planning initiatives around the four designated groups defined by the Employment Equity Act: Indigenous peoples, women, visible minorities, and persons with a disability. However, we also recognize that diversity extends beyond these four designated groups; one example being LGBTQ2 people. The working group is specifically planning strategies to make recruitment and outreach, retention and advancement, and representation on committees more inclusive, and we are also planning for education and training opportunities. Gathering data and evaluating the success of the initiatives will be a focus for the group.

Each and every person in the College of Medicine has a role to play in achieving true inclusion. Small things make a difference in contributing to a positive workplace and improved morale. Here are some small actions we can all take:

  • Look around in meetings and ask yourself, who is missing from this conversation? Is there anyone whom you could invite to improve the diversity of perspectives at the table?
  • On the other hand, recognize when certain people are being asked to sit on numerous committees and attend many meetings, and ask if and how you can help relieve their burden
  • Include your pronouns of choice in your email signature and/or online profile
  • Begin speaking engagements with a land acknowledgement
  • Schedule meetings within regular working hours, so that everyone with commitments outside of work has a chance to participate
  • Think about providing childcare at events, or welcoming children to join the audience
  • Ensure meetings and events are held in wheelchair accessible spaces, and have accessibility services to those who are hearing or vision impaired
  • Aim for flexibility in your workplace, as this is linked to the attraction and retention of diverse talent
  • Test and acknowledge your own unconscious biases: Implicit Association Test
  • Be an ally and speak up if you witness someone being mistreated or treated unfairly
  • Take advantage of training opportunities and community events to learn more about diversity and inclusion

It is okay to not always know the right thing to say or do, and to acknowledge that you are still learning. Making the effort is an essential contribution to a healthy, thriving, and inclusive culture within the College of Medicine, and to ultimately getting the best out of the talented people who work here.

Resources for more information:

The Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated.
The Platinum Rule: treat others as they wish to be treated.


It takes a TEAM to win an international award!

Well, the weather has turned and already the schedule is getting very crowded! Fall is here!

First of all, I would like to welcome the Class of 2022! One of my favorite moments of the year is the opportunity to welcome our first-year undergraduate medical students. The energy and excitement is always palpable. I also had a chance to welcome the returning second years. September is a good time to remind everyone that the students – medical, biomedical, population health, graduate and residents – are the real reason we are here and the most important members of our team.

For both groups I emphasized what a winning team we are here at the College of Medicine and reminded them of the successful accreditation results we had achieved this past year. I also highlighted the incredible improvement in our ranking on the national licensing exam results by the Class of 2018 (the first graduates of our new MD curriculum), which had followed the excellent CaRMS outcomes for Postgraduate Medical Education and the Class of 2018, not to mention our improved success in the last two rounds of CIHR grants where we matched the national success rates.

It has been a good year. A big highlight for me was the opportunity last week to be in Basel, Switzerland at the huge meeting of the Association of Medical Educators of Europe to accept on your behalf the ASPIRE Recognition of Excellence in Education Award in the category of Social Accountability. It was humbling to see our CoM recognized publicly at a meeting of 4,000 medical educators from more than 100 countries!

First, a little background. ASPIRE awards were created about six years ago to recognize excellence in education at medical, dental and veterinary schools. It was noted then that research had high profile awards for excellence, starting with the Nobel Prize of course. However, excellence at the institutional level in education often went unrecognized other than possibly dubious school “rankings.” A blue-ribbon board of medical educators were assembled and six categories of criteria-based, peer-reviewed awards were developed. Those categories are social accountability, student engagement, faculty development, distributed medical education, simulation and curriculum.

The World Health Organization has defined the social accountability of medical schools as “the obligation to direct their education, research and service activities towards addressing the priority health concerns of the community, region, and/or nation they have a mandate to serve. The priority health concerns are to be identified jointly by governments, health care organizations, health professionals and the public.

ASPIRE requires we not only do that but are able to document outcomes that demonstrate impact and success in those endeavors. If one goes back to our beginnings in the early ’50s, it is clear that social accountability was in our genes! However, in the last 10 years the advent of our Division of Social Accountability (DSA) and the commitment of many great staff, faculty and students achieving great things through a myriad of programs and initiatives provided us all the evidence we needed to demonstrate success. Examples include our student-run clinics (SWITCH in Saskatoon and SEARCH in Regina), our Making the Links – Certificate in Global Health, social pediatrics and the St. Mary’s Clinic here in Saskatoon, poverty simulation day in our Medicine and Society class, our highly successful Aboriginal Admissions Program, and most recently our Diversity and Social Accountability Admissions Program. This is just a sampling.  I highly recommend perusing the DSA’s annual report to see the many amazing things our team is making happen across Saskatchewan!

DSA was incredibly well led initially by Dr. Ryan Meili, who did much of the pioneering work of the division. Since Ryan’s departure to the world of politics, Dr. Eddie Rooke has been our DSA director. Unfortunately for us, Eddie is moving to Vancouver, but we appreciate his leadership, especially leading to our submission for this award. Dr. Anne Leis, department head of Community Health & Epidemiology, is now leading a search for our new director of social accountability.

There is so much great work that goes on behind the scenes in the CoM that I fear many do not know about, so I want to highlight here our staff in DSA: Carlyn Seguin, global health specialist; Erin Wolfson, community engagement specialist; Joanna Winichuk, administrative assistant;  and Erin Walling, social accountability strategist (covering for Lisa Yeo, on maternity leave).

Like so many things in medical schools, the limelight goes to students and faculty, but the place would grind to a halt without our staff. In the case of this award, Erin Walling spent three months completing our submission, composed of 27 pages, plus 54 appendices and four student letters of attestation. The following quote demonstrates what we all accomplish together but also the incredible job Erin and the team in the DSA did in representing our collective efforts.

“Your application to Aspire-to-Excellence clearly shows that your school is an excellent school which demonstrates long standing strong commitment to social accountability. The province of Saskatchewan is distributed over a wide area with diverse and vulnerable populations including First Nations communities. The need for improved health care and social medicine was at the core of the founding of the medical school. The partnerships with the community, local and provincial government were exceptional. The application evidences a number of innovative partnerships which illustrate a culture of stakeholder engagement that is commendable. In summary we noted: the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine’s social accountability is evident in all aspects of the application, from admission of students from Saskatchewan, to innovative rural focused medical education and vocational training programs, to research directed to improve the health of the people of Saskatchewan.”

So thanks to DSA and all of the staff, faculty and students who contribute to social accountability at the CoM!

As always I welcome your input and look forward to an excellent 2018-19 academic year.