A final message

With my last blog as dean, I want to share a few brief thoughts with this whole, amazing CoM team.

The first is about maintaining momentum. This, while onboarding a new dean in the near future through a great deal of change that cannot pause—change that includes the launch of the new physician assistant program and the potential launch of new programs in occupational therapy and speech language pathology, as well as continued program expansion plans in residency training programs, growth in the MD program, and in distributed medical education. Growth in research has been supported by successful recruitment of new scientists. This is a highly significant and exciting time for the college, and all of you are needed to keep all our important work progressing well. The trajectory the CoM is on is exhilarating!

The second is offering kudos to everyone for all that this great CoM team has accomplished over the past decade. Most recently, the PGME full accreditation visit—a huge coordination effort with multiple reviewers at multiple sites around the province—was completed and that is something to celebrate. There is, as always, improvements and more to do going forward, but it is great to be on the other side now of such a big lift: making that visit happen. I won’t list all our other achievements here, many of which have been acknowledged previously in this blog.

Third, just a really big thank you from me for your efforts, support, camaraderie and partnership. As I mentioned in my last blog, while I am truly excited to take on this challenge at the new UPEI medical school, Jane, Marie and I are also unquestionably sad to be leaving such wonderful friends and colleagues here in Saskatchewan.

However, I know you are in good hands with Marilyn Baetz stepping into the interim dean role next month, and I know she will play a big part in keeping the CoM momentum going, alongside a great team of dedicated professionals. I do want to encourage you to engage in the new dean search process underway now, and to support Marilyn and the new dean the same way you have supported me.

Finally, I wish you and your loved ones the very best this holiday season.

MEDICAL EDUCATION: Welcoming a Saskatchewan-Connected First-Year MD Class

Guest blog by Dr. Trustin Domes, Director of Admissions

Fall is a busy time for the admissions office. From career fairs to applicant presentations and file reviews, the new admissions cycle is upon us. Every admissions cycle is important because admissions is the lifeblood of the College of Medicine and our newly admitted students represent a significant proportion of the future physician workforce of Saskatchewan. Given this, we need to ensure that our incoming students are representative of the population we serve and also have a strong connection to Saskatchewan. Based on research shared earlier in a related blog, the “Saskatchewan connection” has been shown to translate into future Saskatchewan-based practice. As a socially-accountable medical school with a mandate to train the future physicians for the province, we have to take applicants’ “Saskatchewan connection” into account when we select our future medical students.

In August, we welcomed the 2027 Medical Doctor (MD) class, a talented group of individuals we are excited to have in the college. This class was the first to be admitted under the new admissions renewal process. Not only have we admitted a diverse and highly Saskatchewan-connected class, these students are academically prepared and have academic admissions statistics on par with prior cohorts. After reviewing the class demographics, it is clear that this class embodies the renewal goals of admitting a Saskatchewan-connected class that is reflective of the geo-cultural and social fabric of the province. Renewal sought to nurture change to ensure admissions processes address diversity and the social accountability needs of Saskatchewan. We are excited to see how these changes will impact the future physician workforce and healthcare delivery throughout Saskatchewan.

When looking closer at the class data, significant strides have been made to increase representation of previously underrepresented groups in our MD program. Students with rural roots have historically been disadvantaged despite the need for more rural-based physicians in the province. The literature and our local data clearly demonstrate that those with rural roots are more likely to practice in a more rural setting after completing their medical training. Admissions renewal has produced a 250% increase in incoming students with rural roots (29% in 2023 vs. 11% in 2022).

Additionally, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds have significant barriers entering medical school despite data demonstrating that physicians with that background are more likely to have attitudes focusing on social accountability and patient-centered care. Our incoming class has more than double the representation of students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds compared to the previous year (13% in 2023 vs. 6% in 2022). We are also proud to welcome 11 new Indigenous students to the College of Medicine this year, an increase from previous years as well (11% in 2023 vs. 8% in 2022). Again, data clearly shows that having more Indigenous physicians improves health outcomes of Indigenous patients and our local data shows that Indigenous students are more likely to stay in Saskatchewan and practice in rural locations here.

This year we also see a significant increase in the number of students coming into the MD program with a master’s degree (18% in 2023 vs. 13% in 2022). Additionally, the academic statistics (MCAT and GPA) are virtually identical between students at the Saskatoon and Regina campuses.

The Admissions Committee and Undergraduate Medical Education program are very pleased with the early results of admissions renewal. Welcoming a socially conscious and diverse class that is locally connected with stronger rural roots translates into more physicians for Saskatchewan, throughout Saskatchewan, to equitably meet the health needs of everyone who calls this province home. The admissions office is pleased to share admissions statistics for this year’s class, highlighting the strides that have been made towards our social accountability to the province of Saskatchewan.

MEDICAL EDUCATION: Language-generative AI can transform medical education

Guest blog by Dr. Cathy MacLean, director, Faculty Development, and Dr. Jeffrey Elder, 4th year emergency medicine resident, Clinician Educator Diploma Fellow

In the evolving landscape of medical education, the integration of technology has become increasingly crucial for educators and students alike. Language generative artificial intelligence (AI), such as ChatGPT, Google Bard and numerous others possess the capacity to generate human-like text and assist in various aspects of teaching and learning, presenting a compelling opportunity for educators in all fields. However, like any powerful tool, it comes with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. In this blog post, we will explore how language generative AI can transform medical education while also addressing the potential challenges and offering insights on how educators can effectively incorporate this innovative technology into their educational toolbox. These are issues raised through Faculty Development.

Language generative AI offers several compelling advantages to medical educators. Firstly, it can serve as a valuable resource for creating high-quality educational content, such as swiftly generating templates for lectures, quizzes, and frameworks for simulations, saving both time and effort. Additionally, it can be used as a resource to help generate frameworks for curriculum development which can then be modified and curated by content experts.

However, it is essential to be aware of the potential drawbacks of this new technology. One of the primary concerns is the risk of misinformation. While AI has come a long way in generating accurate content, errors can still occur, which could lead to the dissemination of incorrect medical information. Moreover, there are concerns about data security and privacy when utilizing AI-powered models, as many of these systems are trained on real world data from a multitude of sources with varying credibility. These new tools will require educators to adapt as we explore the changing educational landscape.

Below is an example of the strengths and time saving possibilities of language-generative AI. The content – just over 700 words in length – below took under a minute to generate.


Title: The Vital Role of Faculty Development in Medical Education and PGME Accreditation Preparation

At the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine, we take immense pride in our commitment to excellence in medical education and training. One of the cornerstones of this commitment is faculty development, which plays a pivotal role in ensuring the highest standards of education and accreditation readiness. In this blog, we explore the crucial role of faculty development in medical education, with a special focus on how it supports our preparation for Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) accreditation by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC).

Why Faculty Development Matters

Faculty development encompasses a wide range of activities and resources designed to enhance the skills, knowledge, and competencies of our educators. These activities are not only crucial for the growth and development of our faculty members but also directly impact the quality of medical education and training we provide to our students and residents.

Key Benefits of Faculty Development:

  1. Improved Teaching Skills: Faculty development programs help educators refine their teaching techniques, making them more effective in conveying complex medical concepts to students and residents.
  2. Enhanced Assessment Abilities: Educators learn how to develop and implement fair and rigorous assessments, ensuring that trainees receive valuable feedback on their progress.
  3. Adoption of Innovative Pedagogies: Staying current with the latest educational technologies and methodologies allows faculty members to create engaging and interactive learning experiences for their students.
  4. Promotion of Lifelong Learning: Faculty development encourages educators to model the behavior they wish to see in their learners – a commitment to lifelong learning and professional development.
  5. Alignment with Accreditation Standards: Faculty development programs help ensure that our educators are well-versed in the accreditation requirements set forth by the CFPC and RCPSC, enabling us to meet and exceed these standards.

Preparing for PGME Accreditation

Accreditation by the CFPC and RCPSC is a significant milestone for any medical program. It serves as a validation of the quality of education and training provided to our residents. Faculty development is instrumental in preparing for accreditation visits and ensuring that our programs are in compliance with the rigorous standards set by these accrediting bodies.

How Faculty Development Supports PGME Accreditation:

  1. Awareness of Accreditation Requirements: Faculty development programs provide faculty members with an in-depth understanding of the specific accreditation requirements, ensuring that everyone is aligned with the standards.
  2. Documentation and Record-Keeping: Educators learn how to maintain accurate records and documentation, a critical aspect of accreditation preparation. This ensures that evidence can be readily provided during accreditation visits.
  3. Continuous Quality Improvement: Faculty development fosters a culture of continuous improvement, encouraging educators to regularly assess and enhance their programs in line with accreditation standards.
  4. Mock Accreditation Visits: Faculty development may include simulated accreditation visits, allowing faculty and staff to practice for the real thing. This provides valuable insights into areas that require attention and improvement.

Resources at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine

We understand the importance of faculty development in medical education and accreditation preparation. That’s why we offer a range of resources and programs to support our faculty members. These resources include:

  • Workshops and Training: We organize workshops and training sessions on teaching methodologies, assessment techniques, and accreditation readiness.
  • Mentorship Programs: Our mentorship programs connect experienced faculty members with those new to teaching, providing guidance and support.
  • Access to Educational Technology: Faculty members have access to the latest educational technologies and tools to enhance their teaching.
  • Research Opportunities: We encourage faculty to engage in educational research, fostering innovation in medical education.

In conclusion, faculty development is an integral part of our commitment to delivering high-quality medical education and ensuring successful PGME accreditation by the CFPC and RCPSC. By investing in the growth and development of our educators, we are not only preparing our students and residents for successful careers but also demonstrating our dedication to excellence in medical education.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about our faculty development programs and resources, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Together, we continue to shape the future of medical education at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine.

As you can see, these tools have the potential to save time and generate valuable content. However, it’s important to note that the user must accurately and consistently curate the outputted responses to ensure that they remain up to date, adhere to referencing standards, and do not infringe on copyrighted material.


You may have seen the announcement today from the provost about the next major chapter in my life. I must say at the outset, this is truly a bittersweet moment and a decision that took some considerable thought and reflection on my own and with family and friends. Thanks to all those who listened and their wise counsel.

For those who have not heard, I will start on April 1, 2024 as the founding Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Prince Edward Island. I will also serve as the Chief Academic Officer at Health PEI. Many of you know that I am from the Maritimes and Dalhousie University, but not all would know I am actually from PEI, where I was born and spent the first 15 years of my life, as well as many summer vacations and family events over the years.

I must admit, the opportunity to build something new, grow medical education capacity (which I have been doing now for 25 years) and improve healthcare—and do it in my home province—is truly exciting and an opportunity I could not let slip by.

But it was hardly an easy decision. My wife, Jane, and I and our daughter, Marie (and our dog Murphy) were exceedingly warmly welcomed nearly 10 years ago in this College of Medicine (CoM), at USask, and in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan. All across campus I have had exceptional support and especially appreciate the wonderful colleagues around the USask deans’ table, the confidence in me, and the support provided by our university senior administration, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health. I add to that the Saskatchewan Medical Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research, and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.

While my final day, formally, as dean of the CoM is April 1 next year, I will be taking an administrative leave from January 1-March 31, 2024. But this will not be my last blog. I still have work to do, and I will have many more opportunities to thank all those who have been so good to us. But I must say here that the medical doctor students in our college have been wonderful, and each year have been so ably led by the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan. The residents and the Resident Doctors of Saskatchewan have been superb colleagues and collaborators. These comments are equally true for our physiotherapy students and graduate students.

At the CoM, we have built an exceptional team. We have an amazing administrative team across our college, second to none in the country. Our faculty is growing, winning awards, and increasing our success in research. And I am so proud of the leaders in the deanery and our provincial and department heads.

Many of you will know of the amazing work of Jane and Murphy as a Saint John Ambulance Therapy Dog Team, and they also have enormous gratitude for the way they were welcomed into Saskatchewan and allowed the opportunity to both thrive and create change. Some will know of the great work my daughter Marie has done in the Health Sciences Supply Centre.

As many know, I would have finished my second term as dean on June 30, 2024. The early departure is due to timelines at UPEI. They wanted a dean last July!

The truth is this guy must have itchy feet—at least when it comes to work. I have been at this 40 years! I spent 10 years on clinical care and hospital leadership, followed by 10 years of family medicine education and College of Family Physicians of Canada leadership, then 10 years at Dalhousie leading family medicine, growing distributed medical education and as senior associate dean, and now nearly 10 years as dean of medicine here at USask. Do you see a pattern here?! I am not ready to retire and feel I have one big thing left, and then UPEI came along searching for a founding dean.

As I said, I still have some time to work with you so there will be more time for me to convey my gratitude. But there are a few things I want to emphasize today.

First: this is an amazing medical school with amazing people. An example of that just this past week: our presence at the International Conference on Residency Education put on by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada—and the awards that came to USask were impressive. Second: the recent growth in programs and research and the province and university’s confidence in us for anticipated future growth are inspiring. Finally: the leaders and people needed to lead the CoM to an even greater future are here. Just as encouraging is the huge interest there is in being my successor. The provost and the search committee have some hard work to do—but I can tell you it is a good problem to have.

Many of you have known about this potential move for me because of the public nature of the process at UPEI. For some this may come as a surprise. As mentioned, though, my work is not done yet. I want you to know I love the USask College of Medicine. This past 10 years has been a gift, and the most interesting, inspiring, challenging, and rewarding work of my life.

As I have often said in closing my blog, my door is open and I am happy to chat—even from PEI.

Survey results help us deliver on our mission

About six months ago, I provided an update on our results in a 2022 employee engagement pulse survey. I am doing so again with this blog with our most recent results from the bigger 2023 USask employee engagement survey. These surveys provide valuable internal communication about what employees are experiencing that we might not otherwise learn collectively. It supports our ability to improve our work environment. We want to be a great place to work, and while achieving that is no easy thing, it is critical to delivering on our mission, and deserves our attention and focus.

So on to the results of the survey that was conducted earlier this year!

The 2023 employee engagement survey showed that College of Medicine employees’ overall engagement came in at 55% (down from 58% in the pulse survey in 2022), and that of employees across USask came in at 54% (also down from 58%). Beyond that figure, for the CoM, 24% identified as ‘almost engaged,’ 10% of CoM employees identified as ‘indifferent’ and 11% as ‘disengaged’—concerning numbers because we aim to have a workplace where all employees are engaged in what they do. So we know, as was the case six months ago, that we still need to do more to get all employees more fully involved in positive ways that inspire engagement.

Among the survey questions, one was open ended, allowing for more individual thoughts and responses and capturing important themes for our college. For instance, hybrid work options are appreciated, many positive comments about people leaders and recognition that they greatly influence the work environment, and that employees are committed to both their work and their departments. So while we have work to do to improve, we have many strengths and positives on which we can build.

The closed questions in the survey rolled up into the following engagement drivers, with these resulting scores:

College of Medicine Overall Engagement Drivers
(see larger image at EES 2023)

Areas for improvement were identified that include: concerns related to psychological safety in the workplace; lack of onboarding for new staff; lack of leadership training; communication challenges at the department level and at distributed sites, and; high workload issues.

Our college is committed to both leveraging our areas of strength related to employee engagement, and focusing on ways to improve in areas of concern, such as, for example, continuing to explore ways to make our workplace more psychologically safe and inclusive.

Comprehensive results will be shared at the unit level in early fall. Thank you to all who took the time to provide us with this valuable feedback. We continue to work on ways to improve the CoM for all employees.


Another busy, beautiful summer is upon us

I hope this blog finds you well and already enjoying the hot summer weather we’ve received early this year. Definitely we also must be reflecting on the challenges of wildfires right across our country that heat and wind have played a big part in. Let’s hope these circumstances only improve through the remaining months of summer in 2023.

With work pressures many in our college are feeling this summer, and other stresses we all manage in our lives and certainly are still working to resolve in healthcare, I do urge everyone to take some time for yourself with family and friends for some well-deserved downtime. Of course, with various time-sensitive areas of work underway now, I encourage and support flexibility in vacation planning and timeframes for our employees as they play their critical role in delivering on the CoM mission.

For myself, this summer will kick off with a trip to Calgary to enjoy the annual tradition with my daughter of running the Stampede half-marathon, and I’ll be playing my very first round of golf with my 7-year-old grandson! We then travel to New Brunswick to visit family and friends and spend lots of time with my two granddaughters, as well as my daughter and her husband, including four days at cottages on Prince Edward Island. Interspersed throughout the summer will be lots of golf, time in the garden and reading on the deck with two dogs at my feet.

I do want to take a few moments to reflect on another year at the college, and the strides we have made on many fronts.

We welcomed exceptionally talented new leaders to our college this past year. Most recently, Dr. Pat Brophy, a USask MD ’94 grad, joined us from New York in May as the new provincial department head of pediatrics. Dr. Mike Kelly became the new provincial department head of surgery this past February.

Dr. Janet Tootoosis joined our team as interim vice-dean Indigenous health. Over the past year she established a team forming the Office of the Vice-Dean Indigenous Health and that team, along with others, led amazing work resulting in the recent approval of a new Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness (DIHW) in our college.

We’ve continued to move forward on equity and diversity, and many of you participated in research conducted on our behalf by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to develop a report that has given us a much greater understanding of systemic inequity issues we face. As I recently outlined on this blog page, we are now using that report alongside other initiatives—like ART in Med Ed being led by the Division of Social Accountability, our college-led EDI survey results, and your input through further discussion—to develop theme areas and an implementation plan for change. More to come on this important work!

We are a growing medical school, and given the challenges and needs of our healthcare system and its patients, this is certainly necessary and will be an important component of the province’s health human resources planning now and into the future. Examples of how we are growing can be found in the biomedical sciences undergraduate programs, co-delivered by our college with the College of Arts and Science. It can be found in new areas of training within Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME), with more growth planned, and the expansion of our family medicine sites to include southeast Saskatchewan.

In the School of Rehabilitation Science, it can be seen in the seat expansion announced earlier this year to 55 learners from 40 in the Master of Physical Therapy program, and in work underway to determine how and when we can add occupational therapy and speech language pathology to the programs delivered by the school.

There is a great deal of exciting work ahead, including the full accreditation review for PGME in November, next steps as we establish the new DIHW at the CoM, moving forward with a more concrete EDI plan for our college that is aligned with the university’s, to name only a few.

But for now, I hope you have some wonderful plans for enjoying the summer ahead!

MEDICAL EDUCATION: Postgraduate program shares recent successes and news

Guest blog by Dr. Anurag Saxena, associate dean, Postgraduate Medical Education

This is an exciting time for Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) at our college. It is fast moving, and turbulent, and focused on the outcomes. A significant success was that all first-year residency positions in all Saskatchewan programs for 2023 were filled after the second iteration of the Canadian Residency Matching Service (CaRMS) match. Within that broad achievement, I want to emphasize the amazing and inspiring accomplishment by our Department of Family Medicine program.

CaRMS 2023 – Kudos to Family Medicine! The big news: all family medicine spots were filled in the first iteration of the match. This is highly commendable, since most programs across the country had vacancies—in in some programs, even after the second iteration. This is a huge accomplishment and kudos to Dr. Sheila Smith, Dr. Kathy Lawrence and all the site directors for their work in enhancing family medicine education, highly effective marketing of family medicine, and principled changes to the match process.

Below, I will share updates in various areas of focus in PGME. Our ongoing work is both inward and outward looking—and a significant portion straddles this boundary.

Strategic Plan: The PGME strategic plan was finalized earlier. Currently work is nearing completion of identifying goals, targets and metrics. Thank you to Kaitlin Pike on our college staff for leading this work.

New residency and fellowship programs: We are engaged in developing  new residency and fellowship programs. We will be submitting an application in the near future for dermatology, for a targeted start date of July 2024. A fellowship program in clinical chemistry will launch shortly. Discussions and work to develop new programs in anatomic pathology (renamed diagnostic and molecular pathology just recently); hematology; plastic surgery; ear, nose and throat; urology; vascular surgery, neonatology, interventional radiology and critical care medicine are at various stages. Programs in sleep medicine and point-of-care ultrasound are possibilities in the future.

Changes to Competency-Based Medical Education (CBME): We will continue our work in adopting and adapting changes, specifically to Competence by Design, as articulated in the new document from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. This “shift” allows for more flexibility and adjustments in various structural and process components. Family medicine continues to make incremental improvements in its implementation of CBME.

Accreditation 2023: The site-survey visit to review our residency programs and the PGME office is scheduled for Nov. 26 to Dec. 1 this year. We go into this accreditation visit with a pre-survey status of “A-RR” (accredited program with follow-up by regular review) for all our programs, except one with the status “A-APOR” (accredited program with follow-up by an action plan outcome report).

Preparing for this visit has opened up many opportunities to develop and nurture new interpersonal professional and organizational relationships. The commitment to high quality postgraduate medical education is obvious and heartening. The support from senior leadership has been exemplary. Through collaborations with programs and academic and administrative leaders and in partnership with Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) leaders, the work being done under the auspices of the Academic Program Enhancement Committee, the Accreditation Oversight Committee and deliberations at the PGME committee is moving as planned.

Together, we are make meaningful and sustained changes to not only address the areas for improvement but also build on our strengths and differentiators. The surveyors’ recommendations will be announced on Dec. 1 and the final accreditation review results will be made at a national accreditation meeting in early to mid-2024.

Collaborative work with SHA: There is an ongoing formalization of structures and processes between the College of Medicine and the SHA to identify and address the issues that impact postgraduate medical education, and monitor outcomes. This has been instrumental in resolving many infrastructure issues. The leadership support and involvement from our college and SHA have been effective and inspiring. I sincerely thank Dr. Brandy Winquist, Adrienne Hagen and Steve Chard from the SHA and Crystal Maslin from our college in steering this ongoing generative work.

Integration of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in the workforce: The PGME office has been carrying out commissioned work for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Immigration and Career Training related to IMGs in our province. The work is nearing completion and the report and recommendations will be coming out this summer.

Internationalization: We are moving forward simultaneously on three fronts in this area. The first is expansion of residency training opportunities for externally funded residents. Currently we have agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. We are exploring agreements with other countries. The second area is opportunities for international physicians to acquire focused competencies in specific areas and upon completion return to their countries. Currently we are exploring specific opportunities for physicians in Haiti and Mozambique. The work focused on Haiti has been led by Dr. Huw Rees and the discussions on trainees from Mozambique are ongoing with Dr. Nazeem Muhajarine. The third area is exploring international collaborations for learner and faculty mobility and research. This internationalization work is aligned with our university’s strategic vision to be The University the World Needs.

My sincere thanks to all involved in enhancing the quality of USask postgraduate medical education for your dedication and leadership.

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.

MEDICAL EDUCATION: Innovative admissions improvements support health human resources

Guest blog by Dr. Trustin Domes, Director of Admissions

Our healthcare system is facing a human resource crisis, and this is not unique to Saskatchewan. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in our healthcare system and the additional pressures due to rapid change and significant increased demand in the post-pandemic environment continue to challenge the system. Now, more than ever, we need transformative change in order to support and bolster our front-line health human resources so we can continue to expect the high-quality care that we all depend on.

A tremendous amount of data supports strategically aligning admissions processes to achieve future human health resource outcomes. Admissions is the lifeblood of the College of Medicine and the future physician workforce of Saskatchewan. The current health human resource crisis has highlighted the importance of critically evaluating our admissions policies and outputs to ensure that the medical school is producing future physicians that will serve Saskatchewan. A data-informed and targeted approach is required to ensure that we are producing a growing and diverse physician workforce that reflects the populations that we serve. This mindful approach will ultimately lead to improved access and healthcare outcomes for everyone in the province, especially those in Indigenous and rural communities.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, our college began approaching medical school admissions differently, with a stronger social accountability lens applied. The principles of equity, diversity and inclusivity have been weaved into our processes and are fundamental to the work that we do in admissions. An extensive admissions renewal process began in 2019, where substantial stakeholder engagement helped to shape our current admissions policies.

Additionally, data linking admissions variables to the practice location of more than 1,000 graduates played a significant role in shaping policies, with increased emphasis on our applicants’ connections to Saskatchewan and rural communities. The Saskatchewan connectedness index was created to increase the likelihood that we are admitting applicants who will practice in Saskatchewan in the future.

For our Indigenous applicants, we have created an Indigenous Admissions Circle process where Indigenous faculty members and learners review applicants through an Indigenous and holistic lens. The number of medical school seats devoted to the Indigenous Admissions Circle has been increased from 10 to 20 to more closely resemble the proportion of the Indigenous population and high need for more Indigenous care providers in Saskatchewan.

To address inequities in medical school admission for applicants facing socioeconomic challenges and other barriers that negatively impact admission, the Diversity and Social Accountability Admissions Program (DSAAP) was changed from an opt-in to an opt-out program. The goal is to make medical school accessible to a broader and more diverse group of applicants. To complement this, the College of Medicine is one of only two medical schools outside of Ontario to participate in the Price of a Dream program. This program provides applicant fee waivers for applicants with financial barriers.

These various changes in admissions address many of the concerns brought forward in the recent Saskatchewan Human Rights report and support further changes that address inequities in our college.

As we continue to evolve our admissions strategy, applicant recruitment has become even more important as we look to admit a diverse group of individuals from varied backgrounds. The college has recently hired Davis Frerichs to lead our recruitment efforts. Davis has been instrumental in updating our admissions website and creating new promotional materials, including 360-degree virtual tours and embedded videos that highlight our learning facilities at both the Saskatoon and Regina campuses.

The recently introduced panel interview and conversation circle process also provide the college an opportunity to showcase our people and program to applicants by including optional value-added experiences. These tremendously successful admissions events took place recently, on March 25 and 26, and I’m proud to say were the only hybrid in-person/virtual medical school interviews occurring in Canada this year.

Additionally, we have some tremendous grass-roots recruitment initiatives already occurring that target high school students. I would like to acknowledge the leadership and work of Dr. Henry Bi (anesthesia), Dr. Carla Holinaty (family medicine) and members of the Medical Education Student Group for stepping up and promoting the college, as well as medicine as a career to our youth. We look forward to collaborating with these leaders and the Saskatchewan Medical Association to further develop broader recruitment efforts, especially for youth in rural, remote and Indigenous communities.

As I reflect on nearly four years as director of admissions, I’m very grateful for the incredible work and engagement from members of the admissions team and all of our volunteers. Without your commitment, the college would not be able to lead this important work. I’m proud of how far we have come with admissions renewal and I believe the future looks bright as we continue to evaluate and enhance our processes.

Let’s all be USask Med proud!