Dean's Corner

July to September 2014

Another academic year has started, and I wish to welcome our new students to the School of Public Health. I have met many of you at the orientation, and I hope to get to know you better in the course of the year at various academic and social events. At last count, we have 41 new MPH, 28 MSc and 7 PhD students currently enrolled. The total enrolment in all programs and in all years now stands at 326 students.

On a personal note, I have been dean for just a little bit over a year. Looking back, it has been an exciting year and a great learning experience for me. I remain optimistic that the School will continue to prosper and that we shall achieve our vision of becoming the leading school of public health in Canada.

A busy September

The beginning of September is always packed with events and activities. What better way to transition from the hot, lazy summer to the frenetic new semester than to spend the first weekend in September at the Banff Centre with our students at the Campus Alberta Student Conference on Health. For the second year, students from the Universities of Alberta, Calgary and Lethbridge pulled off another successful conference that showcased student research, brought in inspiring speakers, and provided an opportunity to network with students and faculty members from across the province. 

Members of the School of Public Health Students’ Association played a key role in the planning and organizing of the event, especially Tharsini Sivananthajothy, Lemona Anagnostopoulous, Shweta Dhawan, Lindsay Gaudet and Yvonne Uyanwune. 

Several faculty members served as mentors, and Stephanie Yanow, Jeff Johnson and Kate Storey were among the invited speakers. Harneet Chahal, a MSc student in global health, received the award for best oral presentation. I am sure there will be CASCH-3 next year, and the School will once again fully support this student initiative.

Over the summer, incoming students completed an online orientation, SPH 101. This was followed by the on-campus orientation during the first week of September—the schedule of activities can be found in our online calendar. A highlight of the week is the Welcome Back BBQ, attended by over 100 faculty, staff and students.

September is also homecoming, and once again the annual Dean’s Wine, Cheese and Strings was held during Alumni Weekend, attended by nearly 40 alumni, faculty, staff and students. If you check out these photos, you may see a few familiar faces.

I had the opportunity to make a presentation on the School to the University Senate, which is an advisory body chaired by the Chancellor and composed of a broad cross-section of Albertans with an interest in post-secondary education.

More Kudos

The excellence of our faculty continues to be recognized by external agencies through awards and appointments.

We are delighted that Candace Nykiforuk has just been awarded the Applied Public Health Chair for five years, one of 12 recipients in the country. Funding for the chair comes from the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions. This is a major award and will advance considerably the School’s research program and provide new funding for trainees.

Katerina Maximova was one of six recipients of the Canadian Cancer Society Capacity Development Award in Prevention. The salary award is for three years and is intended to support career development of junior investigators in cancer prevention research.

Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions announced the appointment of nine platform co-leads of the SPOR SUPPORT Unit, a Canadian Institutes of Health Research funded initiative aimed at fostering evidence-informed health care. [SPOR refers to “Strategy for Patient Oriented Research” and SUPPORT stands for “Support for People and Patient-Oriented Research and Trials”]. Dean Eurich is the co-lead for the Career Development in Methods and Health Services Research platform.

At the annual Alumni Recognition Awards ceremony, Kathryn Dong (MSc ‘07) received the Alumni Horizon Award. An emergency room physician, Kathryn directs the Inner City Health Wellness Program at the Royal Alexandria Hospital.

At the World Congress of Epidemiology organized by the International Epidemiology Association held in Anchorage, Alaska in August, Emily Hastings, PhD student in epidemiology (supervisor: Karen Goodman) won first prize in the best poster competition. At the same congress, I delivered a plenary address on circumpolar health.
A full list of scholarships and awards received by our students and faculty is available for viewing.

New Initiatives

The School will launch a professional development, non-credit, certificate program consisting of five core courses and an integrative seminar covering cross-cutting issues. On completion, students may write the Certified in Public Health examination offered by the National Board of Public Health Examiners. 

The certificate program is an outcome of our strategic plan and part of the revenue generation initiative for which one-time-only financial support has already been given by the provost.

An affiliation agreement has been signed with the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research in Yellowknife to promote research in the North, for the North, and with the North. With co-funding from the Provost’s Office, the School will support research infrastructure, develop capacity, and facilitate student and faculty outreach.

Applicants to our programs will now use the North American wide system called SOPHAS, a benefit of the University of Alberta being a member of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health. This completely online paperless system will replace the mountains of files and documents that bombard our Education Office staff each fall. We shall monitor closely how SOPHAS will improve the efficiency of the admission process. 

In accordance with the rest of the University, our website has undergone a facelift. Soon, our professors will be given access to their pages. I encourage you to enhance and individualize your web pages at your earliest convenience.

The School will contract with the School of Public Health Students’ Association to develop an inventory of collaborations and partnerships in teaching, research and service at the local, regional, national and international levels. This is an action item of our strategic plan and will enable the School to identify gaps and opportunities.

What’s coming?

What is public health? I am sure there are probably as many answers as there are professors in the School. The general public is probably quite confused. In an attempt to enhance the public image of the School in Alberta and in Canada, and also promote the public’s understanding of the multiple facets of public health, the School will launch a campaign called This Is Public Health. In addition to incorporating the message in all communication pieces, different events and activities are also planned, including public lectures and a photo contest for students. Stay tuned.

Kue Young, Dean