Wishing all a safe and peaceful holiday

Winter has certainly set in here in Saskatchewan, with some very cold days and plenty of snow before we had even reached December. I hope as we approach the holiday season you are looking forward to the warmth and comfort of holiday traditions and time with loved ones, as well as some rest and peaceful moments to reflect on the accomplishments of 2022.

For our college, many of the challenges we have navigated in recent years related to the pandemic have eased or at least become more habitual. With current concerns regarding respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the flu and COVID-19 variants, we do need to continue to be careful about our health and exposures.

At the CoM, we have enjoyed a good fall term, and I think I can speak for most learners, teachers, researchers and academic leaders when I say we are appreciating a smoother day-to-day approach to teaching, learning and discovery, with more time on campus and, while still with challenges, overall improved circumstances in clinical learning.

Work in preparation of the fall 2023 Postgraduate Medical Education accreditation review will kick into even higher gear in the New Year. The efforts of 2022 to establish the new Office of the Vice-Dean Indigenous Health and Wellness, and Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness, will more fully take off. Those will be key areas of focus, but as always, they are just the tip of the iceberg when talking about all we deliver for Saskatchewan and beyond as a successful medical school! But for now, we can focus on some well-earned rest and relaxation over the upcoming holidays.

As usual, Jane and I will be doing some travelling to see family. Ahead of Christmas, we will be in Humboldt visiting Jane’s brother and his family and then in Kananaskis with our daughter and her family. We’ll be at home in Saskatoon for Christmas, and then off to the Maritimes for more family time. I am looking forward to plenty of time with my grandchildren!

I wish all at the CoM, as well as your loved ones, a safe holiday enjoyed in good health.

Department of Surgery well positioned for leadership transition

The inauguration of the new Surgical Skills Lab earlier this month and today’s farewell celebration for Dr. Ivar Mendez, hosted by the Department of Surgery, both serve to underline Ivar’s exceptional work for our college, our university, our health system and our province over the last 10 years.

His retirement as Provincial Head of Surgery is effective December 31, 2022, after two consecutive terms in this leadership position. During his time leading the department, and with the incredibly busy schedule that goes with that role, he still found time for important research successes and humanitarian work. Thus, it is no surprise that in the New Year he will turn his time and attention to virtual care global initiatives to support underserved populations nationally and internationally in low resourced countries. He will also continue much of his research at our college as professor emeritus.

On behalf of the CoM, I thank Ivar for his extraordinary leadership over the past decade to grow the Department of Surgery for Saskatchewan. The department has more than doubled in size in these years, greatly increasing surgical care in the province. The academic productivity of the department has also grown exponentially. Ivar has led work to shift to a more integrated academic and clinical surgery presence for the entire province, with the advent of the Saskatchewan Health Authority. His work has positioned the department to better respond to surgical backlogs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new Surgical Skills Lab shifts into operation in the New Year, and will showcase how surgery in Saskatchewan has grown in sophistication and excellence in the past decade. The quality and size of the team in the Department of Surgery today is in large measure due to Ivar’s outstanding strengths as a researcher, teacher and surgeon. The department is well positioned for its new leader to further solidify and improve excellent surgical care in our province.

As I touched on above, while leading a decade of growth in the department, Ivar also carried out significant innovative research in remote care and robotics. Additionally, his humanitarian work—for remote Saskatchewan and other communities, including for people in Bolivia where he was born—has been impressive. I have no doubt that we will be witnessing more great achievements in research and in his new areas of focus in the coming months and years!

We have been working closely with Ivar and the team in the department on transition plans, including a provincial department head search that is just wrapping up now. I anticipate we will announce a new head very shortly.

I know I can speak for all at the CoM in extending our great appreciation to Ivar for his many years of service to our college, university and patient care in our province, and for the research he will continue as professor emeritus, and in offering our best wishes to him on his exciting new endeavors.