Dean's Corner

April to June 2018

This is my final quarterly report as dean of the School of Public Health. Many of you attended my retirement party on June 21, and many kind words were said. I am deeply touched and honoured. You may view the photos in our Flickr album.

Time indeed flies, and five years have passed quickly since I started back in 2013. My job was made so much easier by the support of my many colleagues. I am indebted to them. I hope I shall have the opportunity to thank them all personally.

One of my last acts as dean was congratulating our graduating class on June 7, both at the reception and at convocation itself. This time, we had 26 MPH, six MSc, and six PhD graduates. You may view the class list and Flickr album.

At the reception, I presented the Dean's Gold Medals to Kevin Lien (MPH), Gilgamesh Eamer (MSc), and Dat Tran (PhD).

Reconciliation

The University of Alberta is committed to honour and, where possible, implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The School of Public Health will also do its part. We have established a working group led by Stephanie Montesanti and Jeff Johnson to coordinate and plan our collective response, through inculcating Indigenous knowledge and perspectives in all our undertakings, be they teaching, research or service. An immediate task is to develop a strategy to recruit Indigenous students. Cree Elder Bert Auger will assist the working group in this task.

As a follow-up to our retreat in Yellowknife in November 2017 and the subsequent launch of the Northern Outreach Strategy, we have now appointed five new adjunct professors and two elders-in-residence from the Northwest Territories. (See School’s Indigenous Strategy a Step Towards Reconciliation.) These are highly respected community leaders and knowledge keepers, with extensive experience in traditional healing, education, Indigenous rights, knowledge translation, health administration, environmental stewardship, and youth leadership, among other things. A full list and their biographical sketches are available on our website. The announcement was made in Yellowknife on May 23 at the annual Hotiì Ts’eeda Ełèts’ehdèe (Working Together for Good Health) conference organized by the Tłı̨chǫ Government. The new adjuncts and elders will participate in orientation and teaching of our students, and provide advice on their research and practicum experience.

We now have three elders-in-residence: Bert Auger (Cree), Be’sha Blondin (Sahtu Dene), and Rassi Nashalik (Inuit). A warm welcome to them all.

Appointments

We eagerly anticipate the arrival of our new dean, Shanthi Johnson, in July. Norm Neumann has been appointed interim vice-dean from July 1 to December 31, 2018.

Katherine Millen Worré, who has previously been shared between us and Learning Services as associate director (advancement), will now be working exclusively for the School as assistant dean (advancement). Important progress has been made in the short time she has been with us, and she will work closely with our School community as the University launches its capital campaign in the near future.

Although I won’t be here to show them around when they arrive, we welcome two new faculty members who shall be joining us in July. Denise Spitzer comes to us from the University of Ottawa. It is a homecoming for her; she obtained her PhD in anthropology from UAlberta and had been an assistant professor in that department.

From 2010-2015, she held the Canada Research Chair (tier 2) in Gender, Migration and Health in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa. She is currently professor at the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies. Her focus of research is on migrant women’s health, both in Canada and in Southeast Asia.

Sherilee Harper received her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Guelph where she is currently assistant professor in the Department of Population Medicine. Her main area of research is the health impacts of Arctic climate change on Indigenous people. In addition to her fieldwork in Labrador and Nunavut, she also works with Indigenous groups in Peru and Uganda. She holds a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) team grant in climate change and indigenous food systems. She is a lead author of one of the reports in the next assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Events

Our signature annual academic event is the Douglas R. Wilson Lecture. This year we invited Siila Watt-Cloutier who lectured on The Right to be Cold on April 26. An Inuit leader and Indigenous rights advocate, Watt-Cloutier discussed the interrelationships among environment, economy, policy, health and human rights. She brought the issue of climate change impacts on the Inuit to the attention of global leaders. There were over 130 attendees. See photos of the event in our Flickr album.

The newly created Centre for Health System Improvement organized an all-day workshop on Implementing Change through Systems Thinking, targeting decision-makers and managers in government agencies and regional health authorities. Sixty-four people from across the country participated. 

This year it was Calgary’s turn to host the Campus Alberta Health Outcomes and Public Health annual provincial forum on May 9. The theme was In Defence of Public Health, which generated lively discussions.

The annual conference of the Canadian Public Health Association was held in Montreal the last week of May. The School organized a small dinner party for several area alumni.

On behalf of the Centre for Healthy Communities, Jane Springett hosted the Annual Working Meeting of the International Collaboration for Participatory Health Research (ICPHR). Over 40 people from universities in 12 countries came together on the many international research projects. Delegates reviewed progress on projects and celebrated the completion of various initiatives. In addition, they started new projects and developed a work plan for the coming year. Hosting this event was a fitting contribution from a university whose aim is to uplift the whole people and for the School, which has an unrivalled reputation for engaged scholarship.

Accolades

UAlberta named Candace Nykiforuk to the Killam Annual Professorship for her outstanding contributions to scholarship and to the university community. She joins Jeff Johnson and Zubia Mumtaz who were previous recipients of this prestigious award.

We cannot name them yet, but I cannot withhold any longer the great news that our graduate students were awarded four Frederick Banting and Charles Best Canada Graduate Scholarships and two Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in the latest round. We can, however, announce that Rebecca Foley received the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Doctoral Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. Concurrently, the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research awarded her the President's Doctoral Prize of Distinction. Her co-supervisors are Tania Bubela and Elaine Hyshka.

Sydney Rudko, PhD student of Patrick Hanington, received the Knowledge Translation Graduate Student Award from the Canadian Public Health Association.

Grants

Patrick Hanington was awarded the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Discovery Grant ($220,000) and a Discovery Accelerator Supplement ($120,000) for his study on snail-schistosome compatibility.

Roman Pabayo received $95,000 from the MSI Foundation for a study on neighbourhood income inequality in maternal and child mental health in Calgary.

Stephanie Montesanti and Cam Wild were funded by the Addictions and Mental Health Strategic Clinical Network ($200,000) for their study on suicide intervention skills training in Metis communities in collaboration with the Metis Nation of Alberta.

It is testimony to the interdisciplinary nature of our faculty that we now have funding from all three federal research councils.

Farewell

And now, it is time to bid you all best wishes and good bye. Serving as your dean has been the high point of my academic career. I am deeply honoured to have had this opportunity. Starting July 1, I shall go on a year’s administrative leave. I shall fully retire at the end of the leave. Let’s keep in touch and keep me informed of exciting things happening in our School community.

 

Kue Young, Dean

SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH
UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA