April to June 2017

For a northern city such as Edmonton, the coming of summer is more readily observable from the lengthening daylight than an increase in temperature. In the School of Public Health, the end of June is marked by the joyous occasion of spring convocation.

On June 12, 47 students (37 MPH, 8 MSc and 2 PhD) walked across the stage at the Jubilee Auditorium and were congratulated by Associate Dean (Education) Jeff Johnson. The full list of graduates is available on our website. Earlier in the afternoon, Vice-Dean Faith Davis presided over a reception for the graduates and their families and friends. Their happy faces can be seen in the Flickr album.

First ever Dean's Gold Medals awarded

In 2016, as part of our 10th anniversary celebrations, we created the Dean’s Gold Medal to recognize outstanding academic performance by our students. At the recent spring convocation reception, the medalists were announced and congratulated. They are:

  • Lina Li, MPH (health policy and management, supervisor Arto Ohinmaa);
  • Jacqueline Noga, MSc (environmental health, co-supervisors Norm Neumann and Duncan Saunders);
  • Nicole Kain, PhD (public health, supervisor Cindy Jardine)

Each of them will receive a gold (coloured) medal, which is being struck as we speak.

A full list of recipients of student scholarships and awards is available for viewing.

Quality assurance reassured

For two intense days in April, two teams representing the President’s Visiting Committee and Graduate Program Review visited the School. The two reviews, separate but conducted concurrently, were part of the university’s quality assurance process. Both teams consisted of internal and external members. They reviewed the self-studies we prepared, and interviewed faculty, staff, students and alumni. Their reports have now been released and available to the School community in our intranet. We are currently assembling comments and will prepare a response. Both reviews applauded the School’s achievements, while offering very insightful and helpful recommendations for improvement.

Undergoing these two reviews is unquestionably an onerous task, but it has actually been helpful to us as we gear ourselves up for the re-accreditation visits by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), scheduled for October 23-25 later this year. As accreditation coordinator, Felicity Hey has the task well in hand.

New faculty welcomed

Two new faculty members started on July 1, 2017. We recruited Stephen Hodgins from Save the Children in Washington, DC, to join our global health program as associate professor. A Canadian, Steve received his MD and MSc in epidemiology from McGill, and the DrPH in public health leadership from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill. He was certified in family medicine in Canada and in preventive medicine in the United States. His early career was devoted to Aboriginal health in Canada, from serving as family physician in the Mohawk community of Kahnawake to director of public health for the Nunavik regional health board, serving Inuit communities in northern Québec. After fellowships at UNC and Johns Hopkins, he spent over 15 years in Africa and south Asia, as technical advisor and project director for national health ministries and international organizations such as USAID, WHO and UNICEF, mainly in the area of maternal and child health.

Roman Pabayo is another Canadian returning home from the United States. He received his MSc in nutritional epidemiology from McGill and the PhD in public health from Université de Montréal. He served two postdoctoral fellowships, first at UAlberta in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, followed by a second one in social and behavioural sciences at Harvard, funded by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research fellowship. Since 2014, he has been assistant professor in community health at the University of Nevada Reno. Roman’s research focuses on social epidemiology, especially in understanding how neighbourhood factors influence the health of school children.

New paths taken

We regrettably bade farewell to two of our senior professors at the end of June. Cindy Jardine has been appointed to a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Health and Community at the University of the Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, B.C. Tania Bubela will assume the position of dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. While their departure represents a significant loss to our research capacity, we take pride in the fact that our faculty members have been recruited to senior academic leadership positions in other universities.

On June 26, we celebrated the retirement of Felicity Hey, after 36 years in the School and its various academic predecessors. Felicity keeps our corporate memory and is the repository of our growing list of procedures and policies. Most importantly, she served our students wholeheartedly. In my forays to different parts of the country meeting alumni, I was frequently asked, “How is Felicity?” For many alumni, that they continue to have fond memories of their time at UAlberta owes much to Felicity’s friendly and smiling face. We wish her all the best as she embarks on the next phase of her life. I invite you to read more about Felicity and view the photos of her farewell reception.

We have also seen a few staff changes recently. The Office of Educational Programs gained a new graduate program administrator, Helen Starodub, but lost long-time graduate student advisor Shona Williams, who moved on to the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Erin Pollock, practice coordinator, came back from maternity leave.

Faculty and students fêted

Faith Davis joined the ranks of Canada’s leading health scientists when she was named a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences. The formal induction ceremony will take place in Ottawa in September.

Dev Menon was awarded the Dr. Jill M. Sanders Award of Excellence by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) in recognition of his seminal role in the development of health technology assessment in Canada, particularly in serving as the founding executive director of the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment, the forerunner of CADTH.

Elaine Hyshka received UAlberta’s Community Connection Award at a ceremony at City Hall on May 15, in recognition of her work with community groups and the municipal government in promoting harm reduction programs in Edmonton. More information about her work can be found in this news story. The celebration was captured in our Flickr album. 

We are particularly proud that this is the second time in three years that one of our faculty members won this important award. Candace Nykiforuk received hers in 2015.

As if to emphasize the importance of Elaine’s work, Alberta’s minister of health announced on May 31 the creation of the Opioid Emergency Response Commission to address the public health crisis. The commission is co-chaired by Karen Grimsrud, chief medical officer of health and our very own Elaine Hyshka. Further details can be found in the news release.

Each year the Robert Wood Johnson Awards are presented by the Canadian College of Health Leaders to one student each from six Canadian universities offering master degrees in health administration. Recipients are selected by their respective faculty for their individual achievements and promising contributions to health services management. This year, Lina Li, who graduated from the MPH program in health policy and management, was the recipient from UAlberta.

Congratulations to Byeonghwa Jeon and Patrick Hanington who were promoted to associate professor with tenure.

Warren Kindzierski was honoured by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors by a Lifetime Honourary Membership

School’s programs promoted

We constantly take advantage of opportunities such as provincial and national gatherings to promote the School’s academic programs. In May, it was our turn to host the Campus Alberta Health Outcomes and Public Health annual provincial forum. This year’s theme was Precision Health. The forum aims to promote networking among researchers and practitioners, and is a partnership among our School, the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, the Universities of Calgary and Lethbridge, and Alberta Health Services. Over 130 people attended, and our Flickr album shows some of the action.

Towards the end of May, we were in Banff for the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, of which we were a sponsor. Almost without a break, we moved on to Halifax early in June to participate in the annual conference of the Canadian Public Health Association. As in previous years, the School was an official sponsor and exhibitor. The highlight of the week was the dinner at a local restaurant for participants from the School and alumni from the Maritimes. A special guest of honour was Denise Perret, deputy minister of health of Nova Scotia, who was formerly with Alberta Health.

First Fellowship in Health Systems Improvement cohort completed program

April 30 marked the end of the first year of our executive program, the Fellowship in Health Systems Improvement (FHSI). Over six weekends between September 2016 and April 2017, four of them at the Banff Centre and two in Edmonton, some 20 participants from five provinces learned from distinguished academic researchers from across the country and interacted with current and former decision makers in the federal and provincial health systems, including health ministers, deputy ministers, and CEO of health authorities. We thank Don Philippon for his passion and dedication to plan, develop and sustain the program, and Erin Hamilton for her excellent organizational skills. Several faculty members and adjunct professors served as mentors and spent hours with the participants on their action learning project”—Aslam Bhatti, Chris Eagle, Dev Menon, Stephanie Montesanti and Tania Stafinski. The evaluations from the participants are strongly positive, and we are gearing up for the second cohort to start in September.

Special thanks to Alberta Health and the Interior Health regional health authority of British Columbia for sponsoring several of their senior executives to attend the program. We also received start-up funding from the Office of the Provost and Vice-President (Academic).

Health and nutrition centre under new leadership

Visitors to our building may have seen signs referring to the Alberta Institute for Human Nutrition (AIHN). Rather dormant in recent years, AIHN has now been revitalized and repurposed with a new name—the Centre for Health and Nutrition (CHaN). It is a joint venture between the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences (ALES) and the School. Kim Raine is the scientific director and Laurie Drozdowski is the coordinator. To mark the rebirth, CHaN held a “spring soiree”on May 29. You can see photos of the event in our Flickr album.

Kurdistan MOU signed

In May, UAlberta formally signed a memorandum of understanding with the founders of the Canadian University of Kurdistan (CUK), which committed the university to assist in the development of CUK in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Back in December, I was part of a mission organized by UAlberta International which visited the region and met political leaders, higher educational authorities and non-governmental organizations. Over the next several years, three faculties—ALES, Arts and the School—will be engaged in faculty development and curriculum design.

Enjoy the summer. My complaint about the lack of temperature increase at the beginning of this report is clearly mistaken!


Kue Young, Dean