Dean's Corner

July to September 2017

Many of you—new students, staff and faculty—will be reading this quarterly report for the first time. The new academic year is already several weeks old and classes are well underway. Orientation and Alumni Weekend have come and gone. I invite you to view our Flickr photo albums below.


We shall have a busy year ahead of us, and some of the activities are highlighted here. First, here are a few introductions and accolades.

Awards for faculty, students and alumni

Vice-Dean Faith Davis was inducted as Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences in a ceremony in Ottawa on September 15, in recognition of her career contributions to cancer epidemiology. (Please see Prof celebrated - Receives high national honour for further information.) Faith has also been appointed to the Board of Scientific Counselors of the US National Cancer Institute, further attestation of her international stature.

Last year, we established several alumni awards in celebration of our 10th anniversary. This year, Bach Tran was the first recipient of the Alumni Early Career Award. Bach received his PhD in health services and policy research in 2011 from the School of Public Health under the supervision of Arto Ohinmaa. After postdoctoral years at the School and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Bach returned home to Vietnam where he is currently associate professor of health economics at the Hanoi Medical University. He flew back here to his alma mater to deliver a lecture and receive the award at our Alumni Weekend event on September 22.

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

Faculty renewal continues apace

In the last quarterly report, I welcomed Steve Hodgins and Roman Pabayo who joined us in August. Joining us on September 1 was Susan Chatwood, director of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research (ICHR) in Yellowknife and assistant professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. Susan has devoted much of her career to the Canadian North, serving as primary care nurse, researcher and administrator. She received her BScN from the University of British Columbia, MSc in epidemiology from McGill University, and PhD in health policy from the University of Toronto. She was a Fulbright Arctic Scholar at UCLA in 2016/17. Committed to developing health research capacity based in the North, she founded ICHR in Yellowknife, which has an affiliation agreement with UAlberta. She will play a major role in implementing the School's strategic goal in northern and indigenous health in research, student recruitment and community partnerships. She will be dividing her time between the School and ICHR.

We have confirmed the appointment of two additional faculty members, and they will start in July 2018. They are Denise Spitzer, currently professor of Women and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa, and Sherilee Harper, currently assistant professor in the Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph. Denise has a particular interest in refugees and immigrant women, while Sherilee has a research focus on the health impact of climate change in the Canadian Arctic and tropical Africa. More information about them will be provided in the future.

The search for a faculty member in biostatistics is underway and we hope to conclude the process by year’s end.

Record number of students and postdocs enrolled

This year, we received 984 applications to our graduate programs from around the world, a new record since the School was created in 2006. Of these, 133 were offered a place (14%), and, as of October 1, 79 (8%) enrolled. Among them are 51 students pursuing the MPH, 23 the MSc and eight the PhD degree. This is strong evidence of the increasing reputation of our programs and the continuing competitiveness of the admission process.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) created a new Health System Impact Fellowship aimed at providing a rich learning environment within health agencies. The School recruited two new fellows from among the first cohort. They are Megan Highet from the University of Alberta (working with Jeff Johnson) and Farah Mawani from the University of Toronto (working with Stephanie Montesanti). There are six other new postdoctoral fellows working with and funded by our research faculty: Hongyu Li (with Patrick Hanington), Arsene Zongo (with Dean Eurich), Xuejing Jin (with Jeff Johnson), Ngoc Khan Vu (with Yan Yuan), Leon Nshimyumukiza (with Paul Veugelers) and Ninat Mehta (with Stephanie Yanow). Postdoctoral fellows are integral to the research agenda of the School, and we are taking steps to fully engage them in the School’s activities and to create a cohort identity. Incidentally, UAlberta now recognizes postdoctoral fellows as employees.

Re-accreditation enters home stretch

Our final Self-Study Report for re-accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) has now been submitted, having undergone preliminary review by CEPH in July. We also received feedback from members of the School community. We owe much to the hard work of accreditation coordinator, Felicity Hey, who has returned from retirement to complete this onerous task. We eagerly await the site visit team, who shall be spending time at the School from October 23-25, meeting with and interviewing a variety of stakeholders.

I would like to mention that UAlberta is no longer the only CEPH accredited school of public health in Canada. We have now been joined by l’École de santé publique de l’Université de Montréal (ESPUM). However, we remain the only anglophone accredited school! The MPH programs of Simon Fraser University and Western University are also accredited by CEPH but these universities do not have free-standing comprehensive schools of public health.

Research centres approved and renewed

Our proposal for a new Centre for Health System Improvement (CHSI) has been approved by General Faculties Council on September 13. Dev Menon has been named the interim director, assisted by a core planning team of Aslam Bhatti and Tania Stafinski. There will be more details in a future quarterly report.

The Centre for Health Promotion Studies (CHPS) has now been renamed the Centre for Healthy Communities (CHC). CHPS has a long history in UAlberta, having been started in 1996 as an interdisciplinary centre under the Health Sciences Council. It became part of the School of Public Health when it was formed in 2006. When the School became a non-departmentalized faculty in 2013, the identity and mission of CHPS changed as a result. Under the leadership of Jane Springett, CHPS continued to be a leading centre for innovation in participatory action research nationally and internationally. After a year of consultations during 2016-17, much of which was led by Emma Wilkins, a long-term associate at CHPS, a new strategic direction of CHPS has emerged. Candace Nykiforuk was appointed as director to lead the Centre in its new phase. The name change will signal new directions in the coming years.

Both centres will receive core support from the School to ensure firm financial footing going forward.

Search for new dean underway

Finally, the provost and vice-president (academic) has initiated the search process for the next dean of the School of Public Health. Last year, I sent an email to the school community and announced my decision to step down as dean effective June 30, 2018. It is my sincere hope that the search process will be completed for the new dean to begin the term on July 1, 2018.


Kue Young, Dean