As the days become longer and brighter and the countdown to Convocation begins, spring has officially come to our Dalhousie campuses. So much has been happening—not just in terms of the usual exam-time crunch and planning for year-end celebrations and farewells—but also in the bigger picture of new strategic directions for the medical school. Let me bring you up to date!
First Wave of applications landed
As part of our strategic priority area one, enhancing our research excellence, we placed a call for applications from self-identified (Wave 1) teams that see themselves as internationally competitive. We’ve received 11 applications that will be reviewed by a panel judging not just the quality of the applications but the teams’ potential for success in national and international grant competitions. I’m looking forward to sharing more details after the applications have been officially reviewed.
We are having a second round of applications in June (Wave 2) for more junior groups that have the potential to become internationally competitive in the next three to five years. We look forward to seeing proposals from up-and-coming research areas that may need greater collaboration among investigators, more activities across the research continuum and, potentially, strategic recruitments to make them more competitive.
We strongly encourage groups to come forward for this opportunity. Please contact Dr. Roger McLeod if you have any questions or concerns about the Wave 2 application process.
The applications we receive in Wave 1 and Wave 2 will help us identify our focus areas of research for the coming years. It’s a bottom-up approach that allows our research communities to work collaboratively and build for future success. It will be great to see what possibilities come to light.
CIHR renews Canadian Immunization Research Network funding
Congratulations to the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN), led by Dalhousie’s Dr. Scott Halperin. In this second round of renewal funding for CIRN, CIHR is providing $10 million from 2017 to 2022, with a substantial focus on improving vaccine acceptance and uptake in the face of falling vaccination rates and rising rates of previously controlled vaccine-preventable diseases. It’s encouraging to see such a strong team of Dalhousie and IWK colleagues working together with Dr. Halperin to make this area of research such a success.
Research in Medicine research day showcases emerging investigators
Also in the realm of research, kudos to all for the success of the Third Annual RIM Research Day in April. It is just so gratifying to see our medical students’ enthusiasm for research, and their creativity in approaching their various investigations. We were privileged to see and hear 61 students’ research findings, in platform and poster presentations of outstanding quality.
To date, more than 200 students have presented at RIM Research Day, and 50 students have published their results. Many say that RIM has opened their eyes to the power of research and stimulated a desire to pursue research in their medical careers. And if they weren’t already keen on research, they were surely inspired by the words of our keynote speaker, Dr. Roderick McInnes. A leading Canadian geneticist who was the inaugural scientific director of CIHR’s Institute of Human Genetics from 2000 to 2010, he spoke about the excitement and satisfaction of pursuing research as a physician.
I offer my congratulations to our Faculty of Medicine RIM students. I also extend a special thanks to our reviewers, facilitators and planning team who pulled together an excellent program.
NSERC grant capture nears 74 per cent success rate
As a final remark on the research file, I’m pleased to note that our faculty members secured 17 awards from NSERC in its most recent funding competition, a success rate of close to 74 per cent. The awards represent a total of $2.6 million over the next five years. Congratulations to our NSERC funding recipients!
Successful CPD accreditation
I must also offer my sincere thanks and congratulations to the members of our Division of Continuing Professional Development for their hard work in preparing for accreditation. The preliminary report from the accreditation council looks very favourable. Accreditation is an exhaustive and sometimes daunting prospect, but Dr. Connie LeBlanc and her team did a stellar job demonstrating the high quality of our educational program for practicing clinicians to the Committee on Accreditation of Continuing Medical Education.
Accolades, achievements and contributions
I am always amazed by the steady stream of accolades that flows into the faculty, recognizing the contributions and achievements of our students, staff and faculty.
Dr. Ford Doolittle, professor in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, has won yet another outstanding honour for his revolutionary work in evolutionary biology—the Killam Prize in the Natural Sciences from the Canada Council for the Arts, one of Canada’s most prestigious academic honours. Four years ago, he received another top prize, the $1-million NSERC Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. Dr. Doolittle has shifted the world’s understanding of evolution with his discovery that lateral gene transfer is evolution’s true driving force.
In the realm of clinical excellence, Dr. Geoff Williams, our assistant dean of postgraduate medical education, was recently named recipient of Doctors Nova Scotia’s 2017 Patient’s Choice Award. This is given annually to a physician who has forged meaningful connections with patients and made significant contributions to health, community, medical education, and research. Dr. Williams exemplifies this ideal, which perfectly reflects the medical school’s mission.
Another of our faculty members—Dr. Romesh Shukla, head of the Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management & Perioperative Medicine—is receiving recognition from Doctors Nova Scotia this spring. Dr. Shukla will receive the 2017 Distinguished Service Award for his exceptional achievements and contributions as an anesthesiologist for 34 years, at the Doctors Nova Scotia annual conference in early June.
Our Faculty of Medicine students demonstrated their impact on the university community and beyond at the 6th Annual Dalhousie Impact Awards, coming away with a remarkable SIX awards. The Dalhousie Medical Students Society won the “Most Impactful Faculty Society” award for its leadership in such areas as fundraising (Euphoria raised $14,000 for Camp Triumph), community outreach (health care for vulnerable populations) and wellness. Two students—Moamen Bydoun and Matthew To—received Certificate of Distinction awards for outstanding contributions to campus life and the community, while Antionios Diab and Marissa LeBlanc received Faculty Leadership Awards for their initiative and passion in their chosen field. Finally, Natasha Larivee won the prestigious “Gold D” for her “elite” level of involvement and achievement.
I’m happy to say that the medical school once again showed its dedication to our community, raising more money for United Way than any other Dalhousie faculty or administrative unit—for the second year in a row! Many of you will be gratified to know that the coveted turtle will once again reside in its familiar location in the Tupper Foyer in a few months.
Changes on the senior management horizon
As many of you may know, Diane Gorsky, who served for many years as our highly effective associate dean of policy and planning, has left Dalhousie to join her spouse, Dr. Manohar Bance, in Cambridge, U.K. We are grateful for her many contributions to the Faculty of Medicine and wish her well in this exciting new adventure.
With the departure of a key senior leader, we are taking the opportunity, over the next several months, to re-evaluate our senior administrative roles here in the medical school. These include determining how to organize and manage the vitally important functions of finance and communications. I will have more information to share with you in the near future, as we complete our review.
Looking ahead to convocation
It’s that time of year again, when we begin the hard yet satisfying work of preparing for convocation, which this year will take place on the last Friday of May.
This year marks a milestone for the Faculty of Medicine in that we are graduating our largest-ever class of graduates of African descent. Five of our new graduate MDs are African Nova Scotian and one is of African descent. Next year, another six new MDs of African or African Nova Scotian descent will also receive MD degrees. Their success is evidence that our efforts to create diverse and inclusive environments are gaining traction. I’m looking forward to seeing even more diversity in the years to come.
Graduating students are the focus, but convocation is also a time when we recognize those who have made outstanding contributions to society. This year, we are extremely happy to be conferring this honour on the one and only Dr. Ron Stewart. Dr. Stewart is well known and loved on faculty for his many years of service and remarkable contributions—in particular, for establishing the Music in Medicine Program that has become so important to so many at the medical school. He has served as Nova Scotia’s Minister of Health and the American College of Emergency Physicians has named him a “Hero of Emergency Medicine.” His accomplishments and contributions are so many and varied, it’s not possible to do them justice on this blog, so I invite you to learn more about him.
As we approach Convocation, I wish students well in their exam preparations. For those of you who are graduating, I wish you all the very best as you move on to your residency training and the next phases of your career. I trust that your experience here will stand you in good stead!
In addition to graduating students, we are bidding farewell this year to a number of faculty and staff members who are either retiring or moving on to new opportunities. Thank you for your contributions, and best of luck in your next endeavours.
Save the date for our 150th anniversary celebrations
2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Dalhousie University and the 150th anniversary of Dalhousie Medical School. That’s a lot of years to celebrate! We are kicking off our 150th -anniversary events on December 6, 2017, with an event to be co-hosted by the Department of Emergency Medicine and Division of Continuing Professional Development. Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, the focus of this event will be emergency preparedness.
On November 3, 2018, we will be hosting a special gala event at the new World Trade and Convention Centre, under construction now in downtown Halifax. Mark your calendars and book the time off, so we can gather as many alumni, former faculty and staff, supporters and friends from around the world.
In closing, I offer my humble thanks to our dedicated staff, faculty and students for your efforts to make this year a great one.