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!

Medical authors I have been reading

In several blogs over the years, I have talked about what I am reading and in return many of you have been generous in sharing books you have found inspiring and entertaining. I always get more reading done this time of year because in warmer weather it is hard to golf or run and read! I realized that four of my most recent books were all by medical authors, and all very relevant to our times, our profession and our role as medical educators. I suppose it is a bit of a busman’s holiday, but so be it. I highly recommend all these books.

Many of you will already have read Dr. Jillian Horton’s book: We Are All Perfectly Fine: A Memoir of Love, Medicine and Healing. Horton is an internist on faculty at the Max Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba and recipient of the 2020 Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada Gold Humanism Award.

No less than Alan Alda states, “Her writing is brilliant. And the story of her burnout as a medical doctor is just heartbreaking enough to keep you longing for the resolution you know is coming.”

Two themes are common to all these four books (you’ll find the other three titles below). The first are the challenges of the culture of medicine that include the competitive and hierarchical nature of the profession, as well as the sexism and racism experienced by its members—and how all of this harms both us and our patients. The second theme is hope! It comes through in all four books and in the case of Horton’s book, in the form of authenticity and humor.

I was in Nashville, Tennessee for the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) annual meeting, Learn, Serve, Lead, in November and while there picked up Every Deep-Drawn Breath: A Critical Care Doctor on Healing, Recovery, and Transforming Medicine in the ICU by Dr. Wes Ely. He’s a pulmonologist and critical care physician in Nashville, holds an endowed chair in medicine, and is a physician-scientist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

I found this an inspiring story of a physician who used passion for the people he cared for every day, research and evidence, perseverance and a remarkable ability to challenge orthodoxy to ultimately change ICU care around the world. While he and his story were new to me, I quickly learned he is legendary among ICU doctors, and I highly recommend his story.

The third book is Black Man in a White Coat, by Dr. Damon Tweedy. Tweedy is graduate of Duke University and a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center. The first chapter starts with how early in his first year of medicine he was asked by a professor who noticed him between lectures, “Are you here to fix the lights?”

I read this book as part of the CoM Division of Social Accountability’s Journal Club; it was their choice for Black History Month. I learned about the dual challenges of being black in a largely white profession and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black people. I learned even more in the book club discussion, and highly recommend the book club to everyone at the CoM.

Oprah said about this book, “In this fascinating, heartbreaking memoir, Tweedy documents his experiences as an African American doctor in a medical system that can be ‘just as sick as its patients.’”

The last book is Long Walk Out of the Woods: A Physician’s Story of Addiction, Depression, Hope, and Recovery, by Dr. Adam B. Hill, a pediatric palliative care physician (I’ve always thought this must be the toughest job in medicine). He works at Indiana University’s Riley Hospital for Children.

Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, says of the book, “Exposing the stigmatizing and illogical aspects of the culture of medicine when it comes to caring for our own, this book has the power to transform an already shifting culture and should be required reading for all the professionals in the medical field.”

I like the “already shifting culture” in this last quote because it points to the second theme I identified: hope. Despite the weighty nature of all these books and the challenges in medicine that they expose, I finished every book with a sense of hope and more ideas of ways in which I can contribute to change for our profession and our patients. All four authors clearly love their profession and are passionate about patient care.

As I said, I recommend all four books and look forward to your thoughts on these as well as your suggestions for others. As always, my door is open and I am always happy to talk with faculty, staff and learners about our College of Medicine (or running, golf, the Raptors, Blue Jays, or even the Leafs)!

MEDICAL EDUCATION: Curriculum renewal and more in the MD program

Guest blog by Dr. Meredith McKague, associate dean, Undergraduate Medical Education

The team in Undergraduate Medical Education (UGME) and Student Services in the CoM is doing a lot of amazing work. Often, this work is taking place behind the scenes, as is true of so much that happens at our medical school. With this blog, I’d like to highlight an important area of work, curriculum renewal, and where we are at with various aspects of it.

For pre-clerkship (Years 1 and 2 of the program), curriculum renewal is in full swing. These incredibly important, foundational first two years of our program have been revamped to further integrate biomedical sciences into the Foundations in Clinical Medicine blocks focused on each of the major body systems, and to increase opportunities for students to develop clinical reasoning and evidence-based medicine skills through case-based learning.  We have run the first term of the Year 1 renewed curriculum successfully and will introduce a renewed Year 2 in 2023-24.

Our clerkship (Years 3 and 4 of the program) team and curriculum committee are busy planning for renewal of the clerkship curriculum, with a curriculum retreat that just took place just over a week ago that was focused on that topic.

In other areas, the UGME strategic plan was completed last summer. It identifies five priority areas:

  • Embed structural and systemic supports to achieve equity
  • Indigenous health
  • Support wellness for students, staff and faculty
  • Teaching and learning excellence
  • Community engagement and distributed medical education

Working groups focused on those five strategic priorities meet regularly to track progress in each priority.

In teaching and learning, as we have moved out of the pandemic, the program has developed a hybrid model for delivery of curriculum that builds on innovations developed in our pandemic response. Faculty deliver the curriculum in a variety of ways: in-person sessions, pre-recorded presentations, and remotely delivered presentations. We are working to support further active learning approaches in all sessions to optimize learning. In addition, our Academic Support team, made up of faculty, a staff specialist and members of the Office of Student Affairs, are continuing to develop new strategies to better support learners in achieving academic success.

Students’ performance on the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Exam Part 1 (MCCQE-1) 2022 exam reflects the hard work of students and faculty. Our students taking the MCCQE-1 for the first time had a pass rate of 96%, higher than the Canadian Medical Graduate (CMG) pass rate of 93%, achieving a mean score of 260 compared to the national CMG mean of 258.

One of our exceptional teachers in the UGME program is Dr. Kelsey Brose, an assistant professor in the Division of Oncology. He just received the College of Medicine Excellence in Teaching Award. The annual award recognizes exceptional teaching practices and significant contributions to the teaching mission of the college. Congratulations, Kelsey!

The college recently announced more good news related to accreditation of our UGME program. Following the most recent January 2023 report, we have now earned the satisfaction of the accrediting body across all 96 elements they review, up from 93 in a 2020 update. No more reports to the accrediting body are required now until our next full site visit in 2026. This is great news, enabling us to focus fully on ensuring we are well placed for all elements for the 2026 visit—work that is well underway already.

The Student Services Career Advising and Mentorship team in UGME have been actively supporting students with elective planning—especially important with the resumption of visiting electives for our students in the Class of 2024. This team is also supporting students with the CaRMS residency application process, another highly significant aspect of medical school. And the team has provided increased support for students in all areas of training. Additional elective planning meetings, residency application review meetings, and residency application mock interviews were some of the expanded supports provided to students this year.

We are making great progress in UGME, and of course there is always a lot more to do. I thank all of the staff, faculty and students in our program for your excellent work and exceptional commitment.


Expanding the School of Rehabilitation Science

Guest blog by Dr. Teresa Paslawski, associate dean, School of Rehabilitation Science

The commitment to an additional 550 student seats across 18 healthcare training programs made by the Saskatchewan government on January 31 is a significant investment in the future of healthcare for the province. The announcement included funding for an additional 15 seats in the Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) program in the School of Rehabilitation Science (SRS) in the USask College of Medicine, taking the cohort from 40 to 55 students beginning with this fall’s incoming class.

Congratulations and thanks are owed to many people who were involved in this major step in the growth of rehabilitation training in our province—most notably the director of the MPT program, Dr. Cathy Arnold. Her leadership, attention to detail, and enthusiasm for this undertaking were instrumental in its success. Congratulations and thanks are also owed to the members of the school, college and central administration of the university for supporting the development and planning to allow this to happen. The timeline to welcome a 40 per cent increase in new students in the fall means there is much to be done before the start of the new academic year, but the positive impact on our province is well-worth the effort. We will work with our stakeholders to ensure that we maintain the same high MPT educational program standards.

The announcement also referenced expanding opportunities for Saskatchewan students in out-of-province programs, including speech language pathology (SLP) and occupational therapy (OT). SLP and OT services continue to be among the highest health and human resource needs in Saskatchewan, not just in healthcare, but also in education, justice and other areas. These long-standing workforce deficits in our province need to be addressed for the health and well-being of Saskatchewan.

Providing training opportunities for Saskatchewan students out of province is a welcome step in addressing these gaps in service. But there are many compelling reasons to develop our own training programs here in our province for these disciplines, including the enhanced value to all disciplines that occurs with training together to strengthen collaborative practice for more effective care. Data from the Canadian Institute of Health Information also tells us that students are most likely to seek employment where they have done their training. Ultimately, we will need Saskatchewan-based training for SLP and OT students to more effectively increase recruitment and retention of these clinicians in our province.

I am excited to be able to share with you that the University of Saskatchewan is actively working with the provincial government to refine proposals for Saskatchewan-based SLP and OT programs to expand rehabilitation programming here.

I want to thank the Government of Saskatchewan for responding to the needs of the province and initiating these steps that will help strengthen and stabilize Saskatchewan’s healthcare workforce. I look forward to working with the government and university on these exciting endeavours to address critical healthcare shortages in our province and to strengthen the important investments already made by the government in rehabilitation.

CoM Faculty Council approves new Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness

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

On January 25, CoM Faculty Council approved the proposal to establish a new Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness (DIHW). The proposal received strong support, endorsing the direction proposed to best support Indigenous health and wellness and validating the efforts of so many people involved in the consultation for and development of the proposal. Most importantly, it demonstrates a high level of support for improving Indigenous health and wellness with increased structures and resources in our college.

Our faculty have said they agree that we need to be a bigger, more effective part of real change for Indigenous people.

As noted in the Faculty Council decision request, “The creation of the Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness directly supports the vision and mission articulated in the College of Medicine’s Strategic Plan 2017-2022 and Renewal 2025. The proposed Indigenous-led department has an exceptionally high degree of linkages to institutional plans and strategies including: the University Plan 2025; ohpahotân I oohpaahotaan – The Indigenous Strategy; the USask Strategic Research Plan and the USask Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Plan.”

With this strongly supported mandate from our college to move forward with the proposal, our planned next steps and timeline for full approval of the proposal are for it to go to the Academic Priorities Committee in February, the Planning and Priorities Committee at the start of March, then to University Council as a notice of motion in March. We hope to have it before the Board of Governors followed by requests for decision at each of University Council and University Senate in April. As these approval stages progress, we will provide updates to the college through the weekly CoM E-News, this blog, and other channels.

I am grateful for the many messages of support during this process and since I started in the vice-dean role last June, and the congratulations and expressions of happiness received following the CoM Faculty Council vote last week. It means a great deal to have our colleagues look at what we hope to achieve and provide such overwhelming support!

As outlined in the proposal, “through the academic, scholarly, and administrative work of the department, along with a foundational and enduring commitment to authentic community engagement, the goals of this Indigenous-led department will be to meaningfully address:

  • existing health inequities
  • the scarcity of strength-based Indigenous health research
  • knowledge translation in community; and
  • systemic racism in the health system and health education system.”

The DIHW proposal is available on our CoM Faculty Council website.

Now we focus on these next approval stages and getting to a place where we are moving forward on infrastructure and resources to deliver on our commitment to Indigenous people in Saskatchewan and to our stated vision and mission and social accountability mandate as Saskatchewan’s only medical school.