News: New graduate program in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences prepares students to solve wicked problems

After receiving University Senate approval earlier this year, the Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences (IMS) program was approved by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance on September 25, 2020.

The Council oversees the quality of all programs at Ontario’s public universities. Having received its approval, the graduate IMS program at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry is getting ready to open applications for the inaugural class.

The one-year, course-based program prepares students with a multi-faceted approach to medical sciences by integrating various fields of study including anatomy and cell biology, biochemistry, epidemiology and biostatistics, medical biophysics, microbiology and immunology, pathology and laboratory medicine, and physiology and pharmacology.

Nicole Campbell, PhD, is the Director of Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences at the School and says the program will prepare students to be innovative and creative problem solvers.

“Over the years, we have seen many complex problems in medical sciences, which we often identify as wicked problems. Wicked problems are defined as those that are unstructured, cross-cutting, and relentless and therefore, they require expertise of multiple disciplines working collaboratively to tackle the problem,” Campbell said.

Rather than taking traditional courses, the program is structured into learning blocks. The goal is to immerse learners in one subject area at a time and to integrate opportunities for multiple interdisciplinary laboratory rotations. The program is not specific to any one department, drawing from a diverse group of researchers and scientists across departments to provide mentorship and training.

After five years of leading the undergraduate IMS program, Campbell says she recognizes the value of embedding skill development into the new graduate curriculum to help prepare students for their professional lives.

“I think the most unique thing about this program is that not only are we focusing on academic development, but we are also fostering personal and professional development. The hope is that MSc IMS graduates will go into the workplace or other professional programs with confidence.”