A year of success and progress
As 2017 comes to a close, I would like to thank everyone in the medical school community for your tremendous efforts over the past year. It has been a stellar year, with many accomplishments and ongoing progress towards achieving the objectives of our strategic plan.
First and foremost, we can all be very proud of the successful accreditation reviews of our undergraduate medical education and continuing professional development programs. Both received enthusiastic positive feedback from the reviewers, thanks to the dedicated efforts of our faculty and staff.
A great deal of effort also went into the Wave research process, culminating in the identification of four priority area of research excellence for the Faculty of Medicine. Over 250 faculty were identified in the 27 team applications that participated in the Wave process, speaking to the high level of engagement of faculty in areas of research excellence.
Our postgraduate programs were also in high gear, preparing for their accreditation reviews this coming year. Anesthesia and ENT (Head and Neck Surgery) carried the additional challenge of rolling out Competency By Design in their programs. Over the next year, five more programs will be integrating this individualized competence-based approach to residency training.
New residency training positions in Nova Scotia
It’s a time of great change and excitement in our residency programs, in fact. Most recently, we’ve been delighted to learn that the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness has agreed to fund an additional 25 residency training seats beginning in 2019. Ten of these will be in the Department of Family Medicine, and the other 15 will be distributed across our specialist programs.
We will be working closely with the residency programs, the Department of Health and Wellness, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK to ensure that these specialist training seats are assigned to those disciplines that best match the projected health care needs and priorities across the province.
These are the first new residency seats to be funded in Nova Scotia for many years and a most welcome development. This new investment in our postgraduate programs—and indeed in the health of Nova Scotians and Maritimers—signals a major commitment on the part of the Nova Scotia government to address physician shortages and work with the medical school to plan and prepare for the future.
New COO to start in January
I am very pleased to welcome the medical school’s first-ever chief operating officer, Ms. Linda Penny, who will join the Faculty of Medicine after the holidays.
Prior to her most recent role as a senior financial and strategic planning leader for Dalhousie University, Ms. Penny worked for many years in senior roles in the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness, with direct responsibility for financial management and business planning of physician services and district health authorities. She has worked extensively with the alternative funding program, physician contracts, Doctors Nova Scotia, and leaders across the health care system.
We feel very fortunate to welcome someone with Ms. Penny’s depth of experience to a new role at the medical school. As COO, she will oversee all facets of operations, in support of implementing the strategic plan, Dal Med Forward. This will include communications, finance, governance, human resources, policy, information technology, facilities and space planning. We are looking forward with great enthusiasm to working with Ms. Penny!
New academic leaders
On the academic side of things, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Elizabeth Cowley is the new head of the Department of Physiology & Biophysics. Dr. Cowley is a strong educator and highly respected scientist, known for her work in the role of oxidative stress in lung diseases. She brings extensive experience in departmental work and the ability to engage and synthesize a wide range of viewpoints. She will be a unifying force within the department, to guide it forward in the achievement of its academic goals.
In welcoming Dr. Cowley, I must also thank Dr. Nik Morgunov for his service as Physiology & Biophysics’ head since 2012. Dr. Morgunov has helped the department advance its academic contributions and strategic goals tremendously throughout his time as head.
In clinical departments, we are happy to announce that Dr. Jean-Philippe Pignol will be joining us in April 2018, as the new head and chief of the Department of Radiation Oncology. Dr. Pignol is currently a professor and chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at Erasmus University in The Netherlands, with a cross-appointment in the Department of Radiation Science and Technology at the Technical University of Delft. An acknowledged world leader in the advancement of radiotherapy for the treatment of breast cancer, Dr. Pignol will be a valuable asset to patient care, teaching and research in this vitally important area. We are grateful for the many years of service provided by Dr. Tettah Ago, who has led the department with great dedication and skill since 2006.
We also have a new assistant dean of graduate studies. Dr. Valerie Chappe, associate professor in the Department of Physiology & Biophysics, has a wealth of experience supervising graduate students. She will do an excellent job overseeing the progress of our graduate students at this higher level. Dr. Chappe is assuming this portfolio from Dr. Roger McLeod, who has been overseeing graduate studies in addition to his role as interim associate dean for research.
Kicking of our 150th anniversary celebrations
With 2018 and the 150th anniversary of the medical school just around the corner, we have already begun to celebrate.
On December 2, the Division of Continuing Professional Development and Department of Emergency Medicine co-hosted the 7th annual Fear family memorial conference on the theme of disaster planning and management, in deference to the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion and as the initial event of our 150th anniversary celebrations.
The Explosion was a significant event in the medical school’s history, as it catapulted faculty members and students into prominent leadership roles and cemented the medical school as a pillar of the community. This disaster called on every physician, resident and medical student associated with the faculty to work around the clock for days on end to help thousands of injured people. Medical students, in particular, were thrust into roles they were not prepared for—such as delivering anesthesia and assisting in surgeries—and did an outstanding job.
An enthusiastic crowd attended the conference, representing a broad spectrum of our community. Among the speakers was Dr. T. Jock Murray, a former dean of medicine and noted medical historian, who spoke of the medical response to the Halifax Explosion.
A few days later, on the 11th, we hosted a book signing to launch Dr. Murray’s new book, Noble Goals, Dedicated Doctors: The Story of Dalhousie Medical School. It is a wonderful read and out in perfect time both for Christmas and to mark our 150th year! I encourage everyone to pick up a copy, it is a fascinating story.
Stay tuned for announcements of other events that be rolling out over the course of 2018 and mark your calendars for the November 3 gala!
In a year of good-news stories for the medical school, I am especially pleased to note the extraordinary contribution of medical professor emeritus, Dr. Ron Stewart, who has pledged $1.3 million to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation (DMRF). The funds will be used to establish the Ronald Stewart Symposium in Emergency Medical Services Research and provide seed funding for a chair in the same field. This kind of gift has transformational potential. We are honoured that Dr. Stewart has provided such a generous gift to research in the faculty.
Research funding and awards
Two faculty members recently received Canada Research Chair funding. Dr. Johan Van Limbergen has been named a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Translational Microbiomics, in support of his work to understand the role of the microbiome in nutritional therapy for patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Dr. Van Limbergen has also received funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund as part of its partnership with the Canada Research Chairs Program.
Dr. Andrew Roger’s Tier I Canada Research Chair in Comparative Genomics and Evolutionary Bioinformatics has been renewed. Dr. Roger will clarify the mechanisms by which harmless microbes can evolve into disease-causing pathogens, develop resistance to drugs and adapt to changing environments.
One of our star graduate students, PhD candidate Simon Gebremeskel, is receiving national and even international recognition of his work, with Dr. Brent Johnston, to develop a cancer treatment that kills cancer cells by both activating the immune system and introducing viruses that kill cancer cells. Simon was top winner at this year’s Canadian Student Health Research Forum in Winnipeg, earning himself a nomination to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany in 2018.
The Canadian Pain Society has recognized the outstanding research of Dr. Natalie Rosen, naming her recipient of its 2018 Early Career Award. CPS also honoured Dr. Christine Chambers for her many years of exceptional contributions as mentor to a new generation of pain researchers.
Accolades and acknowledgements
Our faculty members have continued to shine on the national stage, reflecting their important contributions to their fields.
Two of our faculty members—Dr. Michael Dunbar and Dr. Janice Graham—have been named to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. This is a prestigious and influential appointment reserved for individuals who are not only at the top of their fields but have made extraordinary contributions to society. Dr. Dunbar is an international leader in advancing technology, practice and outcomes of joint replacement surgery. Dr. Graham advises national and international bodies on complex issues around the ethical procurement and use of research evidence, so that regulatory and policy decisions about therapeutics, vaccines and other interventions truly serve the public interest.
Dalhousie’s former dean of medicine, Dr. Noni MacDonald, received the National Child Day Award from the Canadian Institute of Child Health in November, for her significant work in Canada and around the world promoting immunization and solutions for maternal-child health problems.
One of our faculty members in New Brunswick, Dr. Karlyne Dufour (postgraduate program director in the Department of Family Medicine), has been named one of Canada’s 2017 Family Physicians of the Year. This is a great honour, as recipients are nominated by their peers and provincial chapters of the Canadian College of Family Physicians and must exemplify the qualities of a skilled community-based clinician.
I must also congratulate Dalhousie’s Stroke Interprofessional Team, which received a regional award for its contributions to simulation-based training at the 2017 SIM Expo in Toronto earlier this month. This award recognizes exceptional commitment to innovate, advocate and advance simulation.
Finally, two of our faculty members received certificates of merit from the Canadian Association of Medical Education—Dr. Robert Boulay, assistant dean of clinical education for Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, and Dr. Geoff Williams, assistant dean of postgraduate medical education—for their valuable roles in medical education at Dalhousie.
With that impressive collection of achievements, I will sign off for 2017. It has been an outstanding year on many levels, thanks to the passion and commitment of so many individuals and their willingness and ability to work extremely well in teams. It takes teamwork to achieve great things and we have incredibly strong teams. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do in 2018!
I extend my best wishes to everyone for a joyful holiday season and hope that, amid all the celebrations with family, neighbours and friends, you are able to find some quiet time to relax and reflect. Most of all, I wish you a happy and healthy year in 2018!