A Q&A with Dr. Davy Cheng, Acting Dean

Dr. Davy Cheng began his tenure as Acting Dean on October 1. Throughout his term as Acting Dean, Dr. Cheng plans to do a series of interviews focused on topics of interest to faculty, staff and learners in hopes of communicating achievements, project advancements, and news of School activities.

It has been an exciting first two months for Dr. Cheng whose attention has been divided up amongst a variety of projects and initiatives. During our first interview with him, he shared more details about the intensity of the budget process, which involved faculty and staff from the School’s 14 clinical departments; seven basic science departments; medicine, dentistry, the professional education portfolio, the research portfolio including Robarts Research Institute, and the BioMedical Research Facility, as well as all the Dean’s Office units. He also shared his focus for the next few months and how grateful he is to staff and faculty for their commitment to the School.

Can you describe what the first few months in your new role of Acting Dean have been like?

First of all, it has been very exciting and intensely busy.

Let me say, that it is an honour and truly humbling to be in this role to continue to excel and transform Schulich Medicine & Dentistry.

I didn’t realize the scope and intensity of the budget process, and because we are facing a six per cent reduction in the School’s budget, this involves many meetings and discussions with stakeholders across the School, as well as with the Provost’s Office. 

But, I really value and have been so impressed by the commitment of faculty and staff and their understanding of what needs to be done during this challenging time. 

I’ve also had a number of opportunities to meet the School’s alumni and I am so grateful to them for their continuing loyalty and their continued connection with us. I want to ensure we continue to make them proud of the School.

What are some of the most immediate projects that you are focused on? What are the longer-term projects?

There are day-to-day projects and challenges that come up in the education, research and clinical fronts. There is, of course, the two-year budget cycle. 

But beyond the immediate budget preparation and submission, we are also very focused on a number of short and long term projects. These include: infrastructure renewal and fundraising; recruitment and retention in medicine and dentistry; competency-based medical education and distributed education integration; impactful research; talent and leadership development; mentorship; diversity, equity and inclusivity; Indigenous priorities, and strategic internationalization. 

The School is actively recruiting for a Chair position in Biochemistry, and Chair/Chief positions in Paediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, a Vice Dean & Director for Schulich Dentistry, and other decanal and faculty and staff leadership positions. 

We are realigning our education and training priorities in the Middle East and continuing to work with our academic partners on renewing our clinical department mandates. 

The directions and goals outlined in the School’s strategic plan remain front in centre for us as work to realize our vision to be a global leader in optimizing life-long health. 

Part of this includes developing new ideas for disinvestment and reinvestment so we can fiscally sustain the School. We need to work on becoming more creative and on developing new sources of revenue and attracting revenue so that we aren’t so vulnerable to shifts in provincial and other funding. Doing so will ensure we are healthier as a School, and that our programs achieve their goals. 

From my perspective, we need to emerge from this budget challenge and transform the School in becoming a much stronger and more sustainable organization in order to fulfill our strategic plan directions and goals.

What has been the most surprising to you about this role? What has been the most satisfying? What has been the most challenging? 

I would say, the most surprising aspect of this role is just how busy it is and the multitude of interactions I have on a regular basis with faculty, staff, learners, hospital partners, regional partners, and government leaders. 

The most satisfying for me has been the interactions with faculty and staff. I’ve been so impressed with their talent and commitment especially as we are going through the budget process. 

The most challenging has been some of the more difficult conversations that arise from time to time when people may not have a full understanding of the broader goals for the School and the University. I would say change is a constant in health care and education, and we always need to strive for excellence at the School. 

With such a busy schedule, how are you achieving balance in your life? 

Well… ironically I have not yet mastered my own work-life balance, so I would say right now don’t do as I do, but do as I say, when it comes to balancing work and life. 

Seriously though, I am very fortunate and am blessed that my spouse, Winnie, is very understanding of my increased responsibilities. I also love to drive, and sometimes I’ll just jump in the car and go for a short drive, and I don’t seem to worry about anything but driving. Wellness and work-life balance are important and I continue to work on this for myself and all our faculty and staff. 

If you have specific questions for Dr. Cheng or you want to share news and information with him, please send an email to comms@schulich.uwo.ca