An international reputation for excellence in research, a passion for mentorship and a deep well of front-line experience are just a few of the assets Brenda Hemmelgarn will bring to her new role as dean of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
“I am extremely excited for this opportunity,” she said. “I bring a lot of experience and innovative thinking to this new role, and I’m personally very closely aligned with the values at the University of Alberta. ‘For the public good’ in particular really resonates with me.”
An avid reader and hiker in the rare moments she gets away from work, Hemmelgarn joins the U of A from the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, where she was a professor in the Department of Medicine and head of the Department of Community Health Sciences.
Hemmelgarn has served for more than 35 years in a variety of roles across health care, academics and administration. Originally trained as a nurse, she became a specialist in nephrology, completed a PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University, and earned her medical degree from McMaster University. Since then, she has become a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, with significant front-line experience in health care as a nephrologist, a strong knowledge of operational issues and an in-depth perspective on health-care issues under her belt.
“The big thing about me is that I'm very much about teams and team-building,” she said. “I like to lead by example, and I value transparency and equity, but one person does not make an organization.
“It’s all about the team, collaboration and bringing in a variety of different perspectives to build that team.”
Despite a busy schedule, Hemmelgarn has never lost her passion for clinical care or research. Her interests include medical conditions such as chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. One of the things she finds particularly exciting is the shift to more patient-engaged research—something she experienced most recently as a co-investigator on a national team project exploring shared decision-making in treating chronic kidney disease.
Hemmelgarn’s vision for the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry is to build on the work researchers and educators are already doing, leveraging the faculty’s strengths to push it forward.
“The U of A of course has a great track record when it comes to educational programs and research, but I really see the people and the infrastructure in the faculty as the biggest opportunities that will take us to the next level,” she said.
“The Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry has an outstanding cadre of world-class researchers and educators, as well as amazing infrastructure and facilities available to researchers and educators, and I think building on the excellence there will be key.”
Hemmelgarn will officially begin in her new role as dean on Jan. 1, 2020. She takes over from interim dean Dennis Kunimoto, who moved into the role in November 2018 following the passing of Richard Fedorak.