With the arrival of summer, we find ourselves in a time of transition here at the medical school. It’s a time of looking back, and of looking forward.
This is the time of year when we celebrate the accomplishments of our people—graduates, students, faculty and staff—with a wide variety of honours and awards. Many of these are presented at Convocation.
This year’s Convocation was a tremendous event—many thanks to the staff and faculty who put so much effort into ensuring that everything went smoothly!
It was a great pleasure to see our largest-ever class of African-descended MDs cross that stage. Six African-descended students received their medical degrees this year, a testament to their dedication and hard work, and to the medical school’s efforts to recruit and support these students over the past number of years.
One of these students, Cinera States, also won the Dr. Robert and Mrs. Dorothy Forsythe Prize, given annually to a graduating medical student who has demonstrated a strong aptitude and interest in mental health. Read more about Cinera and some of her peers here.
I must also offer my congratulations to a number of our outstanding graduating medical students, who received multiple awards each.
Marshall Dunn received not only the top prize for academic achievement—the Dr. C.B. Stewart University Medal in Medicine—but also the Dr. Robert C. Dickson Prize for highest standing in all examinations across the four years, and the Dr. Clara Olding Prize for highest standing in the clinical years, which he co-won with Erika Leck. Erika also won the Dr. John F. Black prize for highest standing in surgery and the Dr. Michael Brothers Prize in Neurosciences.
Another standout was Tommy Brothers, who won the DMRF Dr. J. Donald Hatcher Award for Medical Research for his work on aging and frailty in patients with HIV, as well as the Dr. Juan A. Embil Award for Excellence in Infectious Diseases Research, The Dr. John Embil Award for Excellence in Clinical Infectious Diseases, and the Lourdes I. Embil Award for Cardiovascular Research. Tommy truly has a bright future as a clinician scientist.
Also among our truly impressive multi-award-winning medical graduates: Oliver Hatheway, who won prizes for top achievement in cardiology, anesthesia and pediatrics; Holly Greer, who was the woman with the highest academic standing in fourth year and achieved the highest standing in psychiatry over the four years of the program; Emma Sumner, who achieved the highest standing in obstetrics in fourth year and best displayed compassion and clinical competence in obstetrics and gynecology clerkship training; and Kathryn Cull, who achieved the highest standing in psychiatry examinations in fourth year and also received the Dr. Leonard, Kay and Simon Levine Scholarship for academic excellence in a medical graduate pursuing studies in family medicine.
Congratulations to these and our many other exceptional graduates. The calibre of our graduating class of 2017 augurs well for the future of medicine!
Another highlight of this year’s ceremony was the awarding of an honourary degree to Dr. Ron Stewart. A global pioneer in emergency medicine, an innovator in medical humanities, and a leader in enlightened public policy, Ron is truly a deserving recipient of this honour.
Service, teaching and leadership awards
We’re pretty proud here at the medical school that two of our staff members were among the three recipients of this year’s Dr. Rosemary Gill Award. This is a prestigious Dalhousie award, given to individuals at the university who have provided outstanding service to students in a non-teaching capacity.
Sharon Forward, our director of admissions and student affairs, received a Gill award for her outstanding work helping students apply for medical school and then supporting them in myriad ways all the way through.
Eileen Kaiser, a key administrator in the Department of Pathology, received a Gill award for her dedicated efforts over 25 years to build a strong sense of community in the department and support the phenomenal growth of its graduate program from two to 32 students. Learn more about our Gill award winners here.
The Faculty of Medicine also gave out a number of awards this spring. Our Awards of Excellence celebrated and showcased the remarkable contributions of our faculty and staff.
This year, we were very pleased to present the Award of Excellence in Education to Dr. Janice Chisholm, director of the anesthesia residency training program, for her pivotal role in developing the critical care sub-specialty simulation program. The Early Career Educator Award went to Dr. Babar Haroon, an outstanding teacher who revolutionized simulation-based education and mentorship through the Internal Medicine Simulation Boot Camp. We presented the Community Teacher of the Year Award to Dr. Kara Macneill, a powerful and nurturing role model who has been in instrumental having New Glasgow and Amherst recognized as designated clerkship sites for psychiatry. In the realm of clinical practice, we recognized Dr. Donna Davis for her dedication to providing high-quality, deeply humane care to patients in the Department of Psychiatry.
The Dr. Allen Cohen Memorial Award for Community Service is a special award given each year to a student or member of faculty or staff who displays extraordinary dedication to making a difference in society. This year, we were pleased to present this award to Dr. Dan Boudreau, who has worked tirelessly to build relationships with a variety of community partners, so that students can collaborate on priority outreach projects helping underserved populations.
Leadership is so important to the overall mission of the medical school, we present annual awards specifically recognizing excellence in leadership. This year, we presented the academic leadership award to Dr. Ward Patrick, head of the Department of Critical Care, and the award for an emerging leader of note to Dr. Stephen Miller, our Assistant Dean of Skilled Clinician and Interprofessional Education. The award for excellence in professional and managerial leadership went to Shawna O’Hearn, director of the Global Health Office. Heidi MacKinnon, who does an exceptional job as undergraduate lab technician and IT and web administrator in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, received the award for excellent leadership in administrative, clerical and technical support. We are grateful for these individuals, whose efforts and abilities help us constantly improve.
The directors of our residency programs are also critically important leaders, teachers and mentors. Each year, we present “Program Director of the Year” awards to program directors who have made outstanding contributions to providing excellent training for our residents—one award is for leadership, the other for innovation. This year, Dr. Sarah Manos received the Leadership award for her efforts to ensure our 28 residents in the Department of Pediatrics receive a top-quality education. Dr. David Bowes, program director in the Department of Radiation Oncology, received the Innovation award for the many forward-looking improvements he has made to the design and delivery of the program.
Every spring, Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation provides generous support for several awards that recognize the accomplishments of our researchers. This year, we were pleased to present the Faculty of Medicine Early Career Award to a rising star, Dr. Alexander Quinn, who has transformed scientific thinking about scar tissue in the heart and opened the door to a whole new therapeutic approach to preventing heart disease.
Our Award for Excellence in Basic Science Research went to Dr. Paola Marcato, who is making groundbreaking discoveries in the mechanisms and potential treatment of breast cancer. Dr. Jai Shankar receive the Award of Excellence in Patient-Oriented Research for his extraordinary contributions to interventional radiology procedures in the brain.
The senior research award is the Max Forman Prize, which this year went to Dr. Andrew Roger, a globally influential leader in the genomic evolution of microorganisms. He has attracted several million dollars in funding to Dalhousie Medical School and plays a very active role in mentoring the next generation of scientists.
Special congratulations to Simon Gebremeskel won a Gold Medal and the top prize Lindau Award at the Canadian Student Health Research Forum in Winnipeg in June 2016. Simon is a PhD candidate in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Earlier this year he won the Three Minute Thesis competition amongst graduate students at Dalhousie University.
Many thanks to the teams who submitted applications to the Wave 2 Faculty of Medicine research teams competition! The response to the call for applications was tremendous. The review committees are now in the process of reviewing all of the Wave 1 and Wave 2 applications. We plan to announce the winners of both the Wave 1 and 2 competitions over the summer. Stay tuned for more news on this—the successful Wave teams will help shape our research priorities and directions in the future.
I must also congratulate our 27 members of faculty who were granted tenure and/or promoted this year. It speaks to their high level of commitment to developing their careers that they’ve reached these new academic milestones.
A large number of faculty attained the rank of associate professor: Samina Abidi (Medical Education), Keith Brunt (Pharmacology), Babar Haroon (Critical Care), Vered Gazit (Emergency Medicine), Helena Piccinini-Vallis (Family Medicine), Lori Connors (Medicine), Stephanie Snow (Medicine), Tony Lee (Medicine), Trudy Taylor (Medicine), Baharak Amir-Khalkhali (Obstetrics & Gynaecology), Arati Mokashi (Pediatrics), Johan van Limbergen (Pediatrics), Lynette Penney (Pediatrics), Cheryl Murphy (Psychiatry), David Tang (Surgery), Gwynedd Pickett (Surgery), Michael Bezuhly (Surgery), Timothy Brown (Surgery). Associate professor Jill Hayden (Community Health & Epidemiology) was granted tenure.
Special congratulations go out to those who achieved the rank of full professor: Janie Astephen-Wilson (Biomedical Engineering), Debra Morrison (Medicine), Timothy Mailman (Pathology) and Denis Dupre (Pharmacology).
There are a number of steps to take and requirements to meet in order to be promoted, but there are many resources and a lot of support available through the Faculty Development Office to help faculty members succeed in the process. A good place to learn more is in the “For Faculty” section of our website, where you will find all the guidelines and contact information.
Promotion is Dalhousie University’s mechanism to recognize and reward academic achievement. I strongly encourage faculty members to take the time to learn more about the promotion process and how it might apply to them.
Six of our faculty members received a total of $4.4 million in funding through the most recent Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) project grant competition. Among these, Dr. Sultan Darvesh (Neurology, Geriatric Medicine) was awarded $1.2 million to continue his groundbreaking work to develop PET and SPECT probes for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease in the living brain. Dr. Jill Hayden (Community Health & Epidemiology) and her collaborators in the departments of Emergency Medicine and Diagnostic Radiology received $784,000 to develop and test a clinical decision tool to help doctors make appropriate decisions about imaging for patients who present to emergency with low back pain. Only a small percentage of these patients have serious pathologies underlying their pain, and unnecessary x-rays do more harm than good, so this important project will dramatically improve management of what is, in fact, the third most common reason people go to the emergency department.
Our other CIHR project grant winners are: Dr. Jenn Corcoran (Microbiology & Immunology), for her work to understand how viruses reprogram host cells; Dr. Brent Johnston (Microbiology & Immunology), to explore cancer therapy that combines cancer-killing viruses with immune-cell activation; Dr. Jason McDougall (Anesthesia, Pain Management & Perioperative Medicine and Pharmacology), to study how proteases and protease-activated receptors contribute to nerve damage and pain in arthritis; and Dr. Chris Sinal (Pharmacology) for his work to understand a pathway that regulates bone cell development and could potentially be used as a therapeutic target.
Dr. Susan Kirkland (Community Health & Epidemiology) and her team in the Dalhousie node of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging have received Catalyst Grant funding from CIHR to further their work to understand the social, physical, and genetic factors that lead to individual differences in the way people age and develop chronic conditions.
Another recent CIHR award went to Dr. Alix Carter in the Department of Emergency Medicine. Through BRIC NS (Building Research for Integrated Primary Healthcare), she and her team are evaluating a program that has trained paramedics to deliver palliative and end-of-life symptom-relief care in the home, to prevent unnecessary and stressful transfers to hospital.
Members in the Department of Community Health & Epidemiology were also successful in their applications. Dr. George Kephart and Dr. Tanya Packer (School of Occupational Therapy) received $500,000 from CIHR and NSHRF to develop new tools to help patients self-manage multiple chronic conditions. Dr. Leslie Anne Campbell, meanwhile, secured a data-analysis grant from CIHR to see if the rising numbers of children and adolescents presenting to emergency rooms with mental health issues is the result of a deterioration in access to primary and outpatient care. Dr. Kephart and Dr. Campbell and their collaborators also received NSHRF Catalyst Grants in the areas of maternal-child mental health and reducing health care costs for patients with complex needs.
Congratulations to these dedicated researchers for their success in recent grant competitions!
Earlier this month, the Faculty of Medicine admissions review was presented at our annual faculty meeting and will soon be released on our website. I launched this review to receive explicit feedback on our medical school undergraduate admissions processes to assist our at-the-time new Assistant Dean for Admissions, Dr. Andrea Rideout. This committee was external to the Faculty of Medicine (save for the involvement of a medical student member), chaired by Dr. Gus Grant the CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. We thank this committee for its contribution to our medical school. The committee provided over 15 recommendations, some of which have already been implemented by our admissions team. If anyone has feedback for us about this review please feel free to reach out to Dr. Rideout or myself.
Now that Convocation is over, our recent medical graduates are preparing themselves to embark on the next phase of their journey to becoming doctors—their residency training—which begins on July 1.
At the same time, we will begin welcoming residents into our postgraduate programs—from Dalhousie and all across the country.
I offer my thanks to the faculty and staff in our clinical departments, who go to great lengths to welcome our residents and clerks and help them adapt to and succeed in their new roles, and my best wishes to the new residents and clerks starting this summer.
On that note, I wish everyone a wonderful summer. I know many of you will be working as hard as ever, but I hope all of you have an opportunity to enjoy some sunshine in our beautiful province and region.