COVID-19 Update #13 - April 7 - An update and message of thanks

Collage of images of Western campus buildings

Dear faculty, staff and learners,

This past week, blue lights lit up the sky on Western’s campus in recognition of the health care teams in the city and region who are providing care to the people in our communities. Those lights will come on daily at Alumni Hall and University College for as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, to acknowledge the tremendous commitment being made.

I can’t say thank you enough to all of you for your continued support of learners, your teams and community members.

In recent days, the School’s Senior Leadership Council (SLC) and teams across the School have been busy and were able to:

  • Finalize the online exam process for undergraduate students
  • Work with our national partners and provincial regulatory body to make decisions regarding the clinical aspects of clerkship
  • Establish two series of wellness chats for undergraduate medicine and dentistry students
    Provide access to temporary accommodation at Windermere Manor for our health care teams
  • Establish a reimbursement policy to support faculty, staff, and all learners and students who may have encountered unexpected out of pocket costs related to COVID-19
  • Advance the recruitment of the Associate Dean of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies
  • Announce the appointment of Dr. Terri Paul to the role of Interim Assistant Dean, Faculty Equity Wellbeing

You may be aware that last week the University launched a student relief fund. The fund is intended to provide critical resources to those students who find themselves with urgent expenses related to travel, access to technology, health and wellness and other unforeseen circumstances due to the ongoing pandemic.

The School received inquiries from donors about how they could support clinical teams, education and research at the School during this time. As a result, we have established the Schulich Medicine & Dentistry COVID-19 Response Fund to support the most urgent needs of students, residents, physicians and researchers during the pandemic. Whether it’s health and wellness support for those on the frontlines, vital financial assistance for students, or research to better understand and fight the pandemic, donations will be put to use immediately and have a profound impact.

The University also announced a new $1-million catalyst fund to support research efforts focused on resilience and recovery from disease outbreaks – both related to the current COVID-19 pandemic and those beyond.

Supported by Research Western, the Research Western Catalyst Grant: Surviving Pandemics will back as many as 20 interdisciplinary projects from any discipline that contribute to a broad range of evidence, tools, theories and guidelines to help understand how society is coping with COVID-19 and how we can face the pandemics of the future. I encourage all our research teams to consider how they could apply their strengths to this pandemic and put forth a project for consideration.

SLC continues to meet several times weekly to find solutions to the ongoing issues that COVID-19 is presenting.

In the coming days and weeks, I will be working with SLC and teams at the School to also:

  • Finalize year-end budgets
  • Make decisions on the summer research programs for medicine and dentistry students
  • Work through the implications of the field hospitals being established in London and Windsor for our clinical faculty and residents
  • Launch the Wellbeing Program to support clinical faculty
  • Continue faculty recruitment efforts for Schulich Dentistry
  • Ensure all our teams have what they need to continue their learning, research and clinical care to patients

With final exams upon us, I want to wish the best of luck to our BMSc and Neuroscience students. At the same time, I want to acknowledge the faculty who moved exams online and worked through innovative plans related to final projects with their classes. I also want to congratulate those Master’s and PhD trainees who successfully presented their thesis with the aid of technology and the great organization and support of faculty.

Teams across our School and University are continuing to do remarkable and innovative things to support one another, the health and safety of clinical teams and the community.

This past week,

  • Health Canada approved the use of medical face shields that are being produced at University Machine Services – an ancillary service based in Western Engineering. I’m so grateful to everyone involved at the Faculty of Engineering and the School who worked so quickly to produce the prototype of the shield and get it approved. The first batch of shields was delivered to the hospital about a week ago.
  • First-year medical student Max Stone shared his story with us about creating a web resource for emergency staff at a Toronto hospital to support their essential work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Thirty medical students in London were trained and began remote contact tracing for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, and another 50 medical students in Windsor expressed their interest in volunteering their time to do contact tracing and support the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

I also learned about many of the innovations our teams are implementing, including the Department of Physiology & Pharmacology which hosted a successful virtual poster day.

In the coming days, many of you will be celebrating Passover and Easter. Typically, you would be travelling and gathering to join family and friends to mark these festive occasions.

Our new normal will challenge all of us to adjust our plans and manage our own personal expectations around what these celebrations could be. Given the innovation that I have witnessed from the teams across the School, I know that there will be many unique celebrations taking place that allow you to be socially interactive while practising physical distancing. I wish you and your families all the best.

At the same time, I want to thank those members of our teams who will be working shifts in hospital continuing to provide care to our communities – stay safe and be well.

I want to remind you that our leadership team can be reached by phone (519.661.2111, ext. 89258), if you have any concerns or questions.

If you or any of your colleagues do need to reach out for additional support, I want to remind you of the resources available:

Learner Experience – for medicine and dentistry students and residents
Western Student Experience – for BMSc and graduate students
Workplace Health – for staff and non-clinical faculty
Faculty Affairs – please email or call 519.661.2111, ext. 88867 – for clinical faculty


Acting Dean, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Distinguished University Professor, Western University

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