Dean's Corner

July to September 2013

Since I do not blog, or tweet, I shall communicate with the broader School of Public Health community the old-fashioned way, i.e. a short report four times a year distributed via e-mail. These reports may satisfy those faculty, staff and students who may harbour the question: “What has the Dean been up to?”

These reports are informal—they may recount events chronologically, thematically, or haphazardly. They are not meant to be blow-by-blow accounts of my daily activities, which are boring indeed. I would like to highlight some important issues, with a view to generate discussion, and in some cases, even resolution. I shall also pledge not to say “this is how we do it in Toronto”, which some people find irritating.

While I officially started on August 1, this quarterly report covers also July, during which time I made a couple of visits to Edmonton, attended a mini-retreat for deans, and spent a week talking to various individuals and groups, trying to get a sense of what makes the place “tick”, who’s who and what’s what. This process, incidentally, is still on-going, and I suspect will never end.

Before I say anything else, I want to thank interim dean Lory Laing for not only keeping the ship afloat, but steering it full steam ahead during a critical period of the School’s development. She has made my job much easier, and her crowning achievement is of course leading the school to the holy grail of accreditation. We shall keep saying U of A is Canada’s first and only accredited School of Public Health until some other school gets tired of us bragging and picks up the challenge to become accredited itself.

They say there are few fun things that deans can get into, which is true. I did enjoy greeting the incoming crop of new students on “opening day”, improvised a noon-time dialogue [dare I say “conversation”] on the future of public health [ugh], but unfortunately missed the evening barbecue for the simple reason that I was late for the bus and had to walk to Hawrelak Park, but could not find the party! I was able to drop in on CASCH – the Campus Alberta Students’ Conference on Health, which was held in Banff over the first weekend of September.  This impressive conference was organized entirely by public health students from the three Alberta universities. I certainly hope there will be an encore next year. Another fun thing was the Dean’s Wine, Cheese and Strings during Homecoming – what a civilized and genteel event! Meeting alumni from all walks of life was particularly heartwarming, especially for someone like me who has had no previous exposure to U of A, a deficiency which I hope is not too late to rectify.

Reorganization

I would like to thank associate deans Sentil Senthilselvan (education) and Cam Wild (research) for their dedicated service. In their place I have appointed Faye Davis as vice-dean (“for everything”). The education office has undergone extensive changes and we hope will be more efficient.

Although the Board of Governors approved the School’s change to a non-departmentalized faculty in January this year, the transition is proceeding slowly but surely. There may still be emotional attachments to the past, but as a School we must move forward.

Curriculum review

Much progress has been made, and at the Faculty Council in September, changes to the PhD program were approved. Some work remains to be done for the MSc and MPH, but we shall get there! I want to thank Sentil Senthilselvan, Jane Springett, Don Voaklander, Duncan Saunders, Faye Davis and others who devoted many person-hours to this onerous task.

Faculty evaluation

This is a source of much grief and anxiety among some faculty members. Faculty Council in September approved changes to the size and composition of FEC. Nominations and election will take place in October. There is much work to be done by the new FEC, foremost of which is a thorough revision of the current guidelines, which are considered confusing and inconsistent by some. The season of annual evaluations shall soon be upon us.

Honours and awards

Our faculty, students and alumni continue to excel. Penny Lightfoot, MHSA ’83, received the 2013 Alumni Centenary Award for Voluntary Service to the University. Two faculty members were fêted at the University’s Celebrate! ceremony in September: Cindy Jardine for her prestigious Fulbright Scholar award; and Kim Raine for her induction into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. Louis Hugo Francescutti was installed President of the Canadian Medical Association in August.

Stacey Fisher, MSc student, was awarded the CIHR Banting and Best Graduate Scholarship and the AIHS Graduate Studentship. Fatima Al Sayah, PhD student received a teaching award and a dissertation award from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. Derek Clark and Jennifer Pillay, MSc students, each received an educational grant from Pfizer Canada.

What to watch for in the next quarter?

  • The Provost will deliver to all faculties the 2014/15 budget decisions in October.
  • Dr. Nick Ashbolt, latest addition to our faculty, will arrive from Cincinnati early in October.
  • The National Forum on Public Health Education and Research will be held at the Lister Centre on November 13.

We should get back to our strategic planning, which has been stalled. Hard times demand tough decisions, and collectively we need to be clear where we are heading with the resources at hand.

Finally, I am overwhelmed by the camaraderie of colleagues within the School and University who warmly greeted my arrival, and their willingness to help initiate a newcomer. I am not sure if there is a honeymoon period for deans, but I will try my best not to squander the goodwill and serve the School and University to the best of my abilities.


Kue Young, Dean