The COVID-19 pandemic, along with our budget crisis, makes me reflect on what is important. It’s an opportunity to adjust and contemplate different paths. For us at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (FoPPS), our focus is on listening to you – students, alumni, donors, patients, faculty and staff – and continuing to deliver the excellence you expect. We are maintaining our commitment to excellence because working with you to meet your expectations is our main priority. I remain convinced that this year we can still achieve our goals, as behind all of our objectives is a talented and motivated team comprised of people committed to delivering the best experience to our stakeholders and making you as proud of the FoPPS as we are of you. We serve to accompany you in your achievements and aspirations, in our profession and in our Faculty, so that together, we can go further.
Permit me to be more personal than usual in this message. I empathize with all the anxiety and fear that you are experiencing. I don’t have all the answers and solutions, but I will do my best to alleviate your concerns. We are here to listen and provide the necessary support to everyone that needs it during this difficult time. You are not alone. There will be a transition period as we adjust to the many changes required, but we are working exceptionally hard to provide prompt updates and assistance to our community. We care very much for all of you and want to get this right.
We are very aware of how important learning and examinations are to our students, and we will do everything we can to ensure that the evolved curriculum works well going forward. We are preparing for alternative assessments, completed remotely, for students. It is also possible that the University of Alberta could physically shut down, and in that case, we will stay connected through email, social media, and video chat as best as we can.
I am actually composing this message from home. I managed to get my eldest daughter on a flight back to Canada from the United Kingdom last night, so my family and I will be in self-isolation for the next 14 days. I too have elderly parents, and I am doing my best to repatriate them back home to Canada. I too have close family members with chronic health conditions and I too suffer from such a malady myself. I understand what many of you are facing.
What is clear to me, during the COVID-19 pandemic and concurrent budget crisis, is that I cannot and do not serve as Dean without the repeated support of this Faculty, past and present. We have a wonderful Faculty overwhelmingly filled with people who are motivated by their professional interests, perception of the public good, and duty to do what they believe is right for educational pedagogy, professionalism, public service, research, and scholarship. I am uplifted by a small but supportive executive team, the wider Faculty staff, alumni, stakeholders, and our students and their notion of professionalism, dedication, and sense of obligation. My Deanship continues to be the greatest honour and privilege of my professional life, for which I am eternally grateful. Support, stoicism, and fortitude continue to be the key excipients in our sustained release formulation that acts as a therapeutic modality for the challenges that currently face us.
When I was growing up, I often returned to Wales for family visits. Driving through the coal valleys, my grandfather made me memorize songs and recite poems by heart in Welsh. I asked him once if he knew any Dylan Thomas poems. Although he did not like Dylan Thomas because of his politics, his proclivity for drinking alcohol, or the fact that he wrote in English, he did direct me to one he thought was insightful: Light Breaks Where No Sun Shines. I share the first six lines herein with you:
Light breaks where no sun shines;
Where no sea runs, the waters of the heart
Push in their tides;
And, broken ghosts with glow worms in their heads,
The things of light
File through the flesh where no flesh decks the bones.
Thomas, as a masterful poet, is using light and water as metaphors for hope and faith. He is reminding us even in the darkest of times to keep our faith and keep our hope alive – that things will get better. Currently, in what seems to be one of the darkest hours in the history of Alberta, our country, and the world, I too seek to reassure you that things will turn around, and that we must carry our torches high. A wave of optimism can enlighten our path forward.
My heartfelt thanks for everyone’s kindness, support, patience, understanding, and empathy. This is going to be a long haul. I hope that you feel our continued dedication and sense of caring. We will get through this. It will be to the credit of our Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences community that we will do so. Our team is here to support you, and we thank you for your commitment to the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and our proud profession.
Neal M. Davies BSc(Pharm), Ph.D., R.Ph.
Dean and Professor