I hope everyone had a great summer and some free time to enjoy the fantastic weather we had in July and August with family and friends!
With September here, it’s time now to embark on a new academic year. There is a noticeable buzz in the Tupper Building and Carleton campus at Dalhousie as we welcome a new cohort of undergraduate medical, BSc Med Sci and graduate students to our campus. For all of them, it is the start of an exciting, challenging and very meaningful time, as they enter this new phase in their education.
A highlight of the early part of the year was our welcoming ceremony for 110 new medical students, which introduced them to the Hippocratic Oath they will be pledging in four years’ time when they graduate. The ceremony focused on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the Faculty of Medicine. We were privileged to have the Drummers from Home, Elder Debbie Eisan and Aaron Prosper, a fourth-year medical sciences student and member of the Eskasoni First Nation, involved with the ceremony.
I wish all of our students the best of luck as they pursue their studies and follow their dreams.
A big year ahead for postgraduate medical education
Last year, we focused a great deal of attention on undergraduate medical education and continuing professional development, as we prepared for accreditation of these two major programs. In 2017-18, we finalize preparations for the accreditation of our 57 postgraduate medical education (PGME) programs. The accreditation visit by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and the College of Family Physicians will take place in November 2018.
The accreditation standards for PGME have recently changed in Canada and Dalhousie will be the first Canadian medical school assessed using these new standards. This has created additional challenges and work for our program directors, as well as for our PGME office, who need all of our support in preparing for accreditation. Our PGME office has led a rigorous internal review process that for the most part revealed our programs are in good shape. They will continue to work with our program directors and programs this academic year, in the lead-up to accreditation. There will be more information to come on this very important topic in the months ahead.
b) Competency-based postgraduate medical education
Our PGME office has also been leading a major transition in how residents will be trained and promoted throughout their postgraduate years. In keeping with what is happening in PGME Canada-wide, we are transitioning to a competency-based medical education (CBME) model. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons is leading the shift in this direction and has developed a framework for residency training it calls Competence by Design (CBD). Our Family Medicine residency program has used a competency-based model for a number of years. Two of our other residency programs – Anesthesiology and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery – have begun the transition to CBD, starting with the new residents who arrived on July 1. We will start nine more programs on CBD this coming July, and gradually shift the rest of our residency programs to the CBD model over the next five years. Traditionally, residency training programs have taken a time-based approach, with a focus on completing a set curriculum over a series of 12-month periods (two for family medicine and five for specialty programs). CBD, on the other hand, involves a stage-based system in which residents must demonstrate competence in a specific set of prerequisite skills before advancing to the next level of the program. To facilitate this, our PGME programs are adopting updated assessment tools that use new concepts called “entrustable professional activities and milestones.” These ensure that residents have mastered the clinical tasks and activities that are expected of them at each stage of their training. In theory, this could take some residents more time, and others less, than the traditional time frames for residency training. This evolution in how we approach residency training will help us remain leaders in medical education.
As we transition to competency-based medical education, there will be multiple opportunities for everyone in the medical education community to learn about CBME and develop skills to support this transition. Keep an eye out for town halls, workshops, presentations, and a variety of activities to keep you updated. I must congratulate our PGME office for its exceptional work over the past year or more to prepare for two such monumental milestones – accreditation and the transition to a brand new model of medical education. We are fortunate to have a very high-functioning PGME office here at Dalhousie. I commend the leadership of our PGME associate dean, Dr. Andrew Warren, and assistant dean, Dr. Geoff Williams, and the dedicated efforts of the staff and faculty who are making it possible for us not only to succeed but to excel in these important endeavours.
c) New support for residents
Another new development on the PGME front is the recent establishment of an office of resident affairs, to provide academic, social, spiritual, emotional and mental health support to our residents. The office will be co-located with our office of student affairs in new facilities on the ground floor of the CRC Building, under the administrative umbrella of the Office of Resident and Student Affairs.
The new office is headed by Dr. Carolyn Thomson, our first assistant dean of resident affairs. Dr. Thomson brings a great deal of experience to her new role – for a number of years, she served as coordinator of professional support at Doctors Nova Scotia, providing guidance and support to practising physicians and residents and developing health and wellness programs for them. She will be working with all 57 residency training programs, Maritime Resident Doctors, our Resident Wellness Committee, and Dalhousie Health Services, among others, to identify residents’ needs and design and deliver programs and services to residents.
New department heads
I am very pleased to announce the appointments of three department heads. Dr. Irene Sadek is taking over the leadership of our Department of Pathology. An expert in hematopathology and blood transfusion, Dr. Sadek has demonstrated exceptional leadership, teaching and scholarship abilities over many years with the department. Among various roles, she served as chief of the Division of Hematopathology at the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) for over a decade.
Another long-time faculty member, Dr. Christine Short, is stepping into the role of head of the Department of Medicine. Dr. Short is well-known nationally and internationally for her groundbreaking work with MS and spinal cord injury patients. She previously served as chief of the Division of Physical Medicine at NSHA.
Dr. Susan Kirkland has been named interim head of the Department of Community Health & Epidemiology. Dr. Kirkland is a highly respected epidemiologist and one of the leaders of the seminal Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. She also is a board member of the National Centre of Excellence on Aging and Technology.
In addition to experience, these three leaders will no doubt bring a great deal of energy and enthusiasm to their new roles and I am looking forward to working with them in the upcoming years. I also wish to recognize and thank the outgoing heads of these three departments – Dr. Godfrey Heathcote (Pathology), Dr. Simon Jackson (Medicine) and Dr. Adrian Levy (Community Health & Epidemiology) – for their achievements and years of dedicated service to Dalhousie and the provincial health authorities. I am also very happy to note that the three most recent department head appointments have been awarded to women. Under the guidance of Dr. Jean Marshall, former head of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology and chair of our Diversity in Leadership Committee, we are placing greater attention on career development and leadership opportunities that relate to diversity and inclusion. Stay tuned for the forthcoming report from the Diversity in Leadership Committee, which will provide more detail about how we are striving to increase diversity in leadership across our operations.
Wave competition results to be released this fall
Also coming soon will be the announcement of the results of the Faculty of Medicine Wave research application process. As part of our research priority #1 in #DalMedForward, we have encouraged the assembly of research teams targeting international excellence. I am pleased that 11 groups submitted applications in the Wave I process (groups considered to be internationally excellent now) and 16 groups submitted applications in the Wave II competition (groups anticipating they can be internationally excellent in three to five years). An external review committee has completed its evaluation of the proposals and is now preparing its final report. I’m looking forward to sharing these results with you in the next month, as they will help to shape our major strategic research directions over the next five years.
Awards and accolades
Several of our faculty members have received noteworthy awards in recent months. The Heart & Stroke Foundation has recently notified me that Dr. John Sapp, a leading cardiologist and professor, has been chosen as this year’s recipient of the Dr. Greg Ferrier Award. The foundation established this award in 2006 in honour of the late Dr. Greg Ferrier, a well-known and loved cardiac researcher and member of faculty. It is awarded annually to the researcher with the highest-rated grant-in-aid proposal in Nova Scotia. Congratulations to Dr. Sapp for this achievement!
I must also offer my sincere congratulations to Dr. Christine Chambers, who continues to receive accolades for her groundbreaking work in children’s pain. In 2017, among other awards, she won first prize in the CIHR Institute of Human Development’s Child and Youth Health Talks video competition, for her team’s video, “3 Ways to Instantly Relieve your Baby’s Pain.” And, just yesterday, the Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres announced that it has awarded Dr. Chambers with its prestigious CAPHC Award for Individual Leadership. This annual award recognizes creativity and initiative to promote positive change and long-term improvement, which Dr. Chambers certainly exemplifies.
Our “Teaching Is Where It’s At” program, developed by our Office of Continuing Professional Development,” has recently received kudos as well, winning a 2017 Accredited CPD Provider Innovation Award from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Congratulations to Dr. Connie LeBlanc and her team for this tremendous accomplishment, which they will be able to share with colleagues across Canada at the National CPD Accreditation Conference in Ottawa later this month.
Save the date!
As many of you are already aware, we are closing in our 150th anniversary year for Dalhousie Medical School – 2018 is just around the corner. We will kick off the anniversary year a little early, actually, on December 2, 2017, with an event to be co-hosted by the Department of Emergency Medicine and the Office of Continuing Professional Development. The focus of this event will be emergency preparedness, in recognition of the 100th year anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.
Also be sure to mark your calendars for November 3, 2018, when we will be hosting a gala event at the new World Trade and Convention Centre. We are looking forward to an amazing weekend of joining together with alumni, former faculty and staff, supporters and friends who’ve been involved with the medical school over the years. It promises to be a truly memorable occasion.
Please visit our 150th anniversary website at www. medicine.dal.ca/dalmed150 for more information on these and other events.
For the latest news about ongoing and outstanding activities in Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine, please check our website, www.medicine.dal.ca.