Six questions with the Dean

Recently, we took a walk with the Dean across campus as he made his way to a day of meetings, and we had a chance to catch up on the latest news from his office including achievements for the School, major initiatives underway, and his new breakfast series. We even had a chance to find out what was on his reading list this year.

Throughout your first and now into your second term as Dean, there have been a number of major initiatives that have been established to support our strategic plan goals and meet our vision. What are the three highest priorities for the coming year?

There is a great deal going on in the School right now, and while some is moving along, such as our Dentistry strategic planning, other priorities are just beginning such as Competency Based Medical Education (CBME). We’ve been able to complete some new facilities and we are in the process of a recruiting process for a number of our Chairs and Chair/Chiefs. And with all that we’ve been able to complete some major facility work including the labs on the third floor of the Medical Sciences Building and the new Dental Simulation Laboratory. This is definitely a busy time for our School. 

I think this coming year will test us as a School. I believe we have the best medical school in this country – no questions asked. And I know that even though we have a number of major projects underway, we will continue to be successful.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year?

As I mentioned, there are a large number of projects underway at our School – faculty, staff and students will be engaged in a wide variety of interesting and pivotal conversations and projects moving forward.

We will be part of a national conversation on indigenous students and begin to really look at our work in recruitment and the provision of material in our curriculum related to indigenous health.

I’m also very excited about our work in CBME. As a School we will be asking the tough questions about how we will be incorporating this approach not only in our postgraduate programs but also in our undergraduate programs and Continuing Medical Education (CME).

And with our undergraduate medical curriculum we’ll also be discussing how we better integrate science, so our students can see themselves as researchers, as well as clinicians. This is going to be fascinating.

With my own research, I’d say I’m feeling really good about where things are at with my team’s work. The material we are going to be publishing in the next year are absolutely definitive papers on the new criteria on the dementia for ALS. We’ve been working on this for years, and have written what I believe is a landmark paper about the cognitive changes in ALS.

What was the most satisfying event/activity/accomplishment of the year so far and why?

There have been two activities that recently occurred of which I’m really proud. The first is See the Line, which took place in August. I’m particularly proud to see how the work we are doing with this event is beginning to help raise the profile of our research. So much so that in early 2016 we were contacted by Lisa MacLeod, MPP for Nepean-Carleton, when she wanted to work with an academic institution in connection with Rowan’s Law – what was then proposed legislation around concussion.

Our work with her led to a wonderful partnership that brought her and the Stringer family (Rowan Stringer’s parents) to the 2016 See the Line event, where they shared their journey to getting the new law created. As a School, we are leading the way in this work nationally, and helping to build the difficult conversations around a number of topics. I’m very proud of our School for having achieved this.

I’m also very proud of the events we held on medical assistance in dying. There were two events – one with students and the other with community members. Both provided incredible conversations, and opened the door for students and faculty to reflect and consider their own viewpoints and that of their peers and colleagues.

You’ve started hosting breakfast sessions with faculty at our hospitals, and there are a few sessions also planned for Windsor. What are you hoping to accomplish with these sessions?

These sessions are about having thoughtful and engaging face-time with our faculty. There are very few chances in our days and weeks to just sit down and talk about what is going on. And it’s particularly challenging because of the distributed nature of our organization in the city and across the region.

If just one more person comes away from each of the sessions with a better understanding of what we are doing at the School, and about the complexities that are at play, I will be pleased. I’m hoping to engage faculty, answer their questions and ensure they are operating with the correct information.

We will be taking these sessions to Windsor in the new year, and we are working with Dr. George Kim to determine how we can create a plan for similar activities in the region.

You are now the Chair of the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC). Can you tell me some of the priorities for AFMC this year?

The AFMC has two mandates: to oversee the training of physicians and to advance health sector research. My task as the Chair is to ensure that we are the leading voice on these mandates. We haven’t used our voice as the leader on these topics as much as we could have in the past, and I think that as Canada’s 17 medical schools work together people will begin to hear more from us.

What is one book that you have read this year that has had a significant impact on you personally or professionally?

I’ve done a lot of reading this year — everything from politics through to the new Jack Reacher novel. There was a new book out that I read from the next generation of Sherlock Holmes, and it was great. But there are two books that stand out as really making an impact.

This past year, I finished reading Bruce Cockburn’s memoir, Rumour of Glory: A Memoir. I’m a huge Bruce Cockburn fan to begin with, and reading his memoir helped me to develop an understanding of who he is as an individual. His music has political overtones and reflects Canadian values. It’s fascinating.

The other book is The Illegal by Lawrence Hill. It’s a great read. It’s about a young man who is an Olympic class runner living on a small island run by despots. It really tells the story of the human spirit. It’s beautifully written.