This issue’s theme is something we can all relate to, alumni or not—health. Taking care of our health in the modern world is much more complicated than it ever was. Every day we hear about a new invention, technique, procedure or intervention that may have applications for this or that condition. And every day we hear about the rising costs of health care.
A good deal of the $536 million spent on research at the University last year was health-related. Increasingly, this research is being undertaken in an interdisciplinary environment where different faculties work together to solve problems. It’s also worth noting that not all of the collaborators are from the traditional health science fields. For instance, design studies professor Robert Ledere is working with 3D modelling to build better prosthetics; law professor Timothy Caulfield is looking at the legal and societal implications of stem cell tourism; and library studies professor Tami Oliphant is looking at how people suffering from depression access information online.
In fact, research in cooperative environments is fast becoming the norm at universities around the world. The University of Alberta has taken vast strides in this area in recent years. It perhaps started with the National Institute for Nanotechnology (2007) that brought together researchers and scientists from different disciplines to work on common problems. That was followed up by the Mazankowski Alberta Health Institute (2008), the Li Ka Shing Centre for Health Research Innovation (2010), the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (2011) and now the Edmonton Clinic Health Academy (2012).
All of these facilities are modern wonders that raise the bar in providing students, faculty and researchers access to the most up-to-date educational tools. But above all, they stress the interconnectedness of research and discovery, the absolute need for a diversity of disciplines to come together and communally seek solutions for the good of all.
In a sense, the growing interdisciplinary nature of education and research takes us back to the real meaning of a university, a word derived from the Latin phrase universitas magistrorum et scholarium, which roughly translates to a “community of teachers and scholars.” A university was always meant to be a community, much like our alumni are a community who can accomplish great things by working together.