To become Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at Queen’s University is one of the greatest honours of my life. Being the first woman to hold this position is especially meaningful. I want to thank Dr. Richard Reznick for his amazing 10 years of service as Dean. He has accomplished so much and has kindly provided me with a great orientation to get started.
At the dawn of this five-year commitment, I reflect on what could be accomplished in partnership with the students, faculty, and staff of this historic institution, in the years ahead. So, in my very first blog post as Dean, I want to explore three words – Discovery, Harmony, Equity – and discuss what can be accomplished if we focus together on these three concepts.
Discovery: Advancing Research
Working with the great team we have in place, I intend to put a big emphasis on advancing research in FHS, doing so in collaboration with amazing scientists at Queen’s and beyond. We’ll reaffirm our areas of research strength and make sure more people know about the great discoveries revealed via Queen’s research quests. I would like to bring in new partners and expanded resources to push ourselves further. If you have ideas on this, please share them with me in the coming weeks.
To advance research at FHS, we need an ethos of curiosity, creativity, and courage. Our institution should be a safe, nurturing place for people to absorb what is already known and build on that knowledge with new discoveries. Lifelong learning happens when we interact, ask hard questions and actively wrestle with the most pressing problems of the day.
Let’s model best practices in health research for the 21st century. This means being inclusive, interprofessional, transparent and collaborative. It means working across faculties to use the most powerful tools of both science and the arts. It means clearly demonstrating how Queen’s research will improve the lives of Canadians as well as people beyond our borders. I’m committed to being a discovery champion, building on the exceptional work of Queen’s researchers and helping imaginative and talented people to do even more.
Harmony: Integrating Health Systems
One of the chronic challenges in healthcare is the terrible fragmentation of health systems. Fragmented care costs money and it costs lives. In my experiences as a family doctor, an academic and a policy maker, I’m convinced of this: institutions that show how to harmonize health systems – with the patient at the centre and rooted in primary care – will be the leaders of the future. This includes solving the dilemma of cyber-silos of health data and seamlessly linking hospital and community care.
Queen’s, Kingston, and the surrounding region are perfectly suited to demonstrate this ideal. One of the fantastic features of this community is the existence of SEAMO, the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization, of which I’m delighted to be the new CEO. For 25 years, SEAMO has enabled robust cooperation across specialties and an ability to support the academic mandate of clinicians in the area. We can build on this unique model and consider other ways health systems can better integrate across the region. Within Kingston and throughout the southeast region, we can ensure that no one is left without high quality health care.
With Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Rehabilitation Therapy already well aligned, Queen’s can continue to lead the way and push the boundaries of interprofessional research, education, and care. From the beginning of my career in Niger, West Africa where I trained village health workers, to my experiences in the federal government where I advocated for a broad range of health professionals, I am convinced of the necessity of harmonious teamwork in the health workforce. The model of Faculty of Health Sciences is the best way to educate health professionals and we can do even more to demonstrate the benefits of interprofessional care.
Equity: Being fair and inclusive
As a leader in the education of health professionals in the exceptional year of 2020, my greatest obligation to students and to society, is to be fair and inclusive. There is no doubt that systemic racism, sexism, and colonialism exist in Canadian institutions. Many health care systems and academic institutions are structured in a way that perpetuates these forces. I recognize the unearned privilege that I have received from deep-seated patterns of injustice and I take full responsibility to work with others on changing these structures.
The correct response to recognizing privilege is not denial or guilt, it’s self-reflection and informed action. I am determined to move quickly on these matters. One of my first initiatives will be the formation of the Dean’s Action Table on Equity. This will be more than an academic exercise. We will listen well, and we will take action.
Queen’s FHS can attract a student population that better reflects the diversity of Canada. Specifically, we can seek greater inclusion of Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians. Though FHS has already made progress in this area through the introduction of Indigenous admissions processes and the initiatives resulting from the acknowledgement of the ban on Black medical students, there is more to be done. This will require attention to our structural biases, so we can intentionally recruit and support more students and faculty from under-represented populations. We have more work to do on creating mentorships, adapting admission processes, and improving curricula. Queen’s FHS could be a leader in teaching about cultural safety, anti-racism, and anti-colonialism in the delivery of care. My vision is for us to become a centre of excellence on matters of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in the health professions.
I look forward to meeting you and working with you. Please reach out with advice or questions anytime. I believe we will learn an enormous amount together in the years ahead. Most of all, through my time as Dean, I hope that FHS will be a formidable force in bringing the world closer to the dream of health for all.