Dean's Corner

January to March 2018

We can only describe the arrival of spring in Edmonton as “hesitant,” but it will come sooner or later. Another term is coming to an end, and before long students and faculty will be preparing for their exams.

I am delighted to announce that Susan Chatwood has been awarded the McCalla Professorship by the University of Alberta. This three-year award recognizes individuals for their educational leadership and significant contributions to the integration of teaching and research. Susan will spearhead our northern strategy with a focus on curriculum co-development with Indigenous scholars that will incorporate Indigenous values, knowledge and land-based teaching. She will foster partnerships to provide support and mentorship for northern-based students.

In the January Town Hall, I presented a financial outlook for the School, given the University’s decision to impose a 4 per cent cut to the 2018/19 budget, followed by two further years of annual 2.5 per cent cuts. We will survive this turn of event by focusing on our core activities. In the near term, we will see no disruption to staffing. While we will not be hiring to fill faculty positions, we are in the fortunate position of recently having undergone faculty renewal, which has brought us several new and promising junior faculty members.

Applications reach record high

The Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research’s (FGSR) electronic admission portal closed on January 31 and, this year, we have once again surpassed previous years’ number of applications. A total 1,052 applications were received (817 MPH, 143 MSc and 92 PhD). Faculty and staff are now busy selecting and notifying those applicants who will be offered a place.

The Office of Educational Programs has now been strengthened by the addition of a second graduate student advisor, Susan Slenders. Susan previously worked in FGSR as admissions advisor, and her experience will be invaluable. She will be responsible for MPH students while Helen Starodub, who joined us over a year ago, will be responsible for MSc and PhD students. Erin Pollock is now lead of the MPH Practice Office.

Faculty Service Officers appointed

For the first time in the history of the School, we have appointed two faculty service officers (FSO). FSOs are members of the academic staff who assist and collaborate with faculty members in teaching and research, and also undertake specific administrative duties. They are members of the Association of Academic Staff of the University of Alberta (AASUA) and are evaluated annually by the School’s Faculty Evaluation Committee (FEC), along with other professors.

Ruth Wolfe will assume the position of Director of Professional Degrees and Gian Jhangri as Teaching Professor. Both are long-time members of the School’s academic staff and their new roles will strengthen our educational programs considerably.

Teaching excellence recognized

Several of our faculty members and students have had their teaching excellence recognized.

Dean Eurich and Arto Ohinmaa received the Great Supervisor Award from FGSR.

Kirill Lissovskiy received the Graduate Student Teaching Award, given to outstanding graduate teaching assistants.

Being able to present one’s research project in three minutes is a teaching skill that professors should acquire, and they can learn from their students. Rebecca Clark (MSc epidemiology student, supervised by Yan Yuan) was a finalist in the 2018 UAlberta Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

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

Good and not-so-good news in research

The latest data from the Office of the Vice-President (Research) indicate that our total sponsored research funding continues to decline from the peak of $17.2 million in 2012/13 to $13.1 million in 2016/17. The good news is, our tri-council (Canadian Institutes of Health Research [CIHR], Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) funding is at an all-time high—just over $3 million in 2016/17. These grants are the most competitive and prestigious. Our shortfall is due to decline in provincial and private sector funding. In terms of total funding, we continue to pride ourselves in ranking 5th among UAlberta’s faculties, behind such large faculties as Science; Engineering; Medicine and Dentistry; and Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences.

A team led by Candace Nykiforuk (which also includes Kim Raine, Elaine Hyshka, Katerina Maximova, and Cam Wild) received $451,350 from CIHR under its Project Scheme. The project is called Health, Prevention, and Policy Environments (HAPPEN) and will investigate policy-maker and public knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about the effectiveness of healthy public policies that affect behavioural risk factors for chronic diseases.

Zubia Mumtaz and colleagues in the U.K. and Pakistan received $1.35 million from the Medical Research Council for an implementation study on scaling up maternity care in Punjab province.

Candace Nykiforuk, Stephanie Montesanti, Norman Neumann, Chris Sikora, Jane Springett and their team were successful in CIHR’s Healthy Cities Initiative’s planning grant competition ($10,000). At the end of the planning process, each team will be asked to pitch a “Big Science” research idea on healthy city interventions. The funding level for this subsequent large scale research is as yet unknown, but potentially could be in the millions.

CIHR awarded three planning and dissemination grants to School researchers: Shelby Yamamoto on arthritis among immigrants ($19,000), Yan Yuan on radiological diagnoses of primary brain tumours ($10,000), and Kue Young to support the fellowship program in health system improvement ($10,000).

Alberta’s Tomorrow Project’s Research Kickstarter Program funded Katerina Maximova to develop socioeconomic indices for lifestyle risk factors and cancer outcome. The Alberta Primary Health Care Integration Network supported Stephanie Montesanti to conduct a rapid synthesis of the evidence on primary health-care interventions to enhance patient experiences.

Sleeping soundly and other events

This spring’s This is Public Health lecture on March 15 featured Kate Storey, who spoke on Sleeping soundly: Why catching Zzz's matters for kids. Please see the Flickr album and watch the lecture online.

The School’s Diversity and Inclusion Action Group organized a Kairos Blanket Exercise on March 16, attended by 27 faculty, staff and students. You may view photos of the event in the Flickr album. The event began with a smudging ceremony by Elder Gilman Cardinal, and the exercise was facilitated by Elder Bert Auger and Sangeeta Sicking. The exercise is an interactive learning experience that teaches Indigenous rights history.

We piloted our first Public Health Case Competition on March 23, an event organized by the School of Public Health Students’ Association with support from Erin Pollock, Bob Sadler and Jeff Johnson. Three teams competed and the team of Charlotte Ryder-Burbidge and Iain Miller won. Thanks to the volunteer judges Ann Goldbatt, Simon Otto and Jeff Johnson. We gained valuable experience and, in the near future, plan to launch a national public health case competition open to students across the country.

More accolades for faculty and alumni

In February, Elaine Hyshka was one of five Canadians invited by the US Ambassador to attend a three-week International Visiting Leadership Program on combatting the opioid crisis in North America. The program was organized and sponsored by the U.S. State Department, and aimed to bolster bilateral partnerships between the United States and Canada. The group traveled to Washington, D.C.; San Diego, California; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Louisville, Kentucky; and Concord, New Hampshire to study collaborative initiatives among federal and state-level public health officials, legislators, law enforcement agencies, advocacy organizations, and community-based health and social service providers.

Stephen Hodgins has been appointed editor-in-chief of the journal Global Health Science and Practice.

The Alberta Council for Global Cooperation named one of our alumni and one of our students among its Top 30 under 30. They are alumna Azalea Lehndorff (MPH ’14) and MPH student Juanita Gnanapragasam.

SPHSA elects new officers

Congratulations to PJ Vasdev, the newly elected president of the School of Public Health Students’ Association. Other members of the executive include Iain Miller, Charlotte Ryder-Burbidge, Emily Maplethorpe, Shelby Johnson, Hilton Chan, Alex Loverock and Mariem Oroloso. A full list of members is available on our website.

This Just In ….

The provost and vice-president (academic) announced the appointment of our next dean, Dr. Shanthi Johnson, currently professor at the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina. While there, she also held the position of associate dean (Graduate Studies and Research) from 2008-14. Welcome to the School community!

Kue Young, Dean