Moving forward on anti-racism, equity and diversity

As you will recall, earlier this year the college and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) released a report based on research and interviews SHRC carried out over the past few years. The report is helping us understand our current reality, so that we might follow the best path possible in becoming a more equitable and diverse medical school going forward.

The report is helping to guide how we address issues of systemic inequity within the CoM. It was made available on March 30, both internally and publicly, to be transparent about the issues we face.

I hope that all members of the CoM will take some time to read the report! You will find it on our website: The Case for a Restorative Response to Perceptions of Systemic Inequity at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine: A Systemic Investigation Summary Report.

One of the first and most important commitments of our college is to not sit back now that we have the report and results of other recent work, including the establishment of the Office of the Vice-Dean Indigenous Health and approval to establish a new Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness, the college’s EDI survey, the ongoing work of our Division of Social Accountability (DSA), and other initiatives taking place in various departments and units throughout the CoM.

At the college level, we will work with the issues identified in the SHRC report that need to be addressed, what we have learned from the CoM EDI survey, from the college’s Indigenous Health Committee, from the DSA-led Anti-Racist Transformation in Medical Education (ART in Med Ed) initiative, and ongoing discussions with our CoM community to arrive at the theme areas where we will focus our efforts.

More information about these and other initiatives can be found on the college EDI web page.

Within those theme areas, once established, we plan to identify recommendations for the college to act on—but before we get to that point, I will be working with key leaders including Dr. Manuela Valle-Castro and Dr. Janet Tootoosis to hold a series of face-to-face meetings with departments and units in the college to help inform the recommendations and the work we move forward on.

We will continue to benefit from the partnership and advice of the SHRC, and in alignment with the USask’s work and guidance in university-wide EDI initiatives, as well as the involvement in key theme areas of partners like the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Because we know this work cannot rest, we will be looking to arrange these conversations within the CoM in the coming months, through the summer. We will work around schedules as we do this, but are committed to continuing to move forward on these critical improvements to be a better medical school for our province and beyond.

Watch for more information on these important discussions that will inform our work to be a better, more successful medical school. In this blog and in other college communications, we will continue to report back to our CoM community on next steps and progress.

New department a first in Canada

Guest blog by Dr. Janet Tootoosis, interim vice-dean Indigenous health

On behalf of our team in the Office of Vice-Dean Indigenous Health, I am so proud to share with you the approval by University Council and the Board of Governors, and confirmed by University Senate, establishing a Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness (DIHW) in the USask College of Medicine (CoM) on April 24, 2023.

Achieving university governance approval for the establishment of the department has occurred over the past six months, but the work of gathering input from over 80 stakeholders and preparing the proposal for the new department began in May 2022. We would not have achieved this excellent outcome without the help of the many contributors to the proposal, and those who supported it through every step of the process.

I do want to thank the following people for their critical role in this work: in the CoM, the Indigenous Health Committee, Director Crystal Maslin, knowledge keeper Harvey Thunderchild, and Val Arnault-Pelletier; from across USask, Vice-Provost Angela Jaime, Director Jacquie Thomarat, Associate Dean Vicki Squires, Deputy Provost Patti McDougall, and Provost Airini; as well as the members of the working group, our Office of Vice-Dean Indigenous Health team, physicians of the college, and Dean Preston Smith.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, so for all the supporters and contributors to the creation of the department, thank you!

I thank the members of Senate who listened to me speak about what the establishment of this first-of-its-kind department in Canada means for creating real health and wellness benefits to the Indigenous Peoples of Saskatchewan and beyond. I can tell you that receiving a standing ovation there and experiencing the emotion of many that were in the room left our team filled with gratitude—and the fuel we will need to continue leading this important journey, in collaboration with others, for the next 20-plus years.

The next year will be focused on planning and implementing the first phase of department setup. An important milestone of this phase will include a formal celebration and launch of the department this fall. Watch for more news of that event this summer.