Impressive start to 2020 on many fronts

I just realized we are into March and I have not written a blog since early this year. We all hit the ground running in 2020, and as always there is a lot going on! I will highlight a few of those things in today’s blog, starting with great news on the research front.

We have the results of the most recent Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR) Project Grant and Catalyst Grant competitions. A number of our researchers have been successful.

Principal investigators (PI) awarded Project Grants for our college in the fall 2019 competition are:

  • Sylvia van der Hurk for her grant Long-term immune activation by a mucosal RSV subunit vaccine: mechanism of action and application to vaccination of elderly
  • Rachel Engler-Stringer and her co-investigators, including Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine, for their grant Improving School Food: Universal Integrated Healthy Lunch Intervention Research

We also have CoM faculty leading or participating in Project Grants in other USask colleges:

  • Alexandra King, Cameco Chair in Indigenous Health, who is the successful principal investigator in a Project Grant held in the College of Nursing, which is also supported by Co-Investigators Maureen Anderson, Linda Chelico, and Erika Penz.
  • John Howland is a co-investigator in a Project Grant held in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition.

Many congratulations to the following individuals for their success in the Catalyst Grant competition:

  • Gary Groot and team for their grant Harm Reduction and Residential Supportive Care for High-risk Pregnant Women living with HIV: A Realist Evaluation
  • Brenna Bath, Dr. Stacey Lovo, and Dr. Veronica McKinney for their grant Patient experiences of health care access challenges for back pain care across the rural-urban continuum
  • Donna Goodridge and team for their grant Addressing Loneliness and Social Isolation: Building Bridges in Seniors’ Housing

This is a great way for our researchers to start off 2020! We are so proud of their work.

As I have previously noted we are in the process of reviewing our approach to admissions. At the same time, the AFMC has led the Future of Admissions in Canada Think Tank (FACTT) with whom I have had the privilege of working with in my role as Chair of the AFMC board’s Standing Committee on Education. There is great debate about tools like the MCAT and the MMI and great agreement on the need for diversity across all dimensions. However, even more fundamental discussions relate to how we find and admit individuals with an affinity for people and the internal drive to serve patients and communities.

Certainly, in undergraduate medical education, we are starting to think differently about admissions at Saskatchewan’s medical school. It’s important to note that changes in admissions processes would be applied with adequate time frames for applicant awareness of requirements, and any changes being considered currently would be in place at the earliest for the 2021/22 academic year.

In response to a recent external review, the college engaged a broad group of stakeholders from across the province to identify the core characteristics we want to see in our future medical students and the best methods to assess for these characteristics. The enthusiastic participants provided rich feedback and it was refreshing to see a lot of the same themes appearing over and over again:

  • promoting diversity
  • Indigenization
  • applicant strengths in both academics and emotional intelligence
  • evidence of a connection to Saskatchewan

In order to select students with this broader array of characteristics, stakeholders felt that we need to learn more about our applicants through a holistic lens and selection process. With all of this valuable feedback, Admissions Director Dr. Trustin Domes and his team will continue to engage with our partners and others in the college and will start the process of designing a progressive and innovative Admissions portfolio for our province’s medical school. Watch for a guest blog from Trustin as this work progresses.

Finally, in follow-up to my last blog, Dr. Marilyn Baetz, our vice-dean faculty engagement, and I have been to Regina, Prince Albert, and North Battleford where we met with learners, medical faculty and physician leaders. We received a warm welcome and appreciation of our interest in the work and activities taking place at all of these sites. There is widespread enthusiasm for the College of Medicine and distributed medical education (DME). We received feedback and suggestions for improvements, all of which were constructive.

The educational experience our learners are receiving in all of these communities is outstanding. There is clear need for further expansion of our Saskatchewan Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (currently in Meadow Lake and Estevan) and, in Regina, our RCPSC programs. At the same time, we need to ensure communities have the capacity and resources to take on new educational programs.

In settings where the clinical load seems overwhelming it is hard to imagine taking on educational responsibilities. Of course, this is the typical dilemma where the educational programs are often the ultimate long-term solution to the clinical overload. On the other hand, the experience across the country with those not directly involved in DME is that they are soon asking why a learner has not been assigned to them! Research shows that those involved in clinical teaching have greater career satisfaction and are more likely to stay in their community; as well, there is widespread belief these physicians are more likely to achieve the right balance of innovation in practice and adherence to practice guidelines.

We have further site visits coming up in the next few months: Marilyn and I will be in Moose Jaw on March 26 and Estevan on April 30. Stay tuned for more news on faculty engagement in our college, which is being informed by these conversations across the province.

So as you can see there is a great deal going on at the CoM, and I have only scratched the surface in this blog. As always, I welcome your feedback.