Dean's Corner

October to December 2015

While January follows on the heels of December, psychologically they are completely different. In December, things slowly ground to a halt, people became more relaxed, and there were festive events to attend, including our own Holiday Magic. One by one the lecture halls and offices emptied. While students had exams to deal with, once these were over, they too were off to their holidays. January started without fanfare, and people seemed to be able to pick up where they left off and plunged immediately into the many tasks at hand.


And 2016 is special—it is our 10th anniversary (more on that later).

But first some very good news. On the last day of term, the provost notified us that School has been granted $200,000 in one-time-only funding for faculty renewal, part of the largesse of Bill 3, the Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, which restored previous cuts to the universities in the province. We successfully applied to a pool set aside by the provost by arguing the need to recruit two new junior faculty members to ensure a smooth transition in anticipation of imminent retirements.

We had a busy quarter from September to December, with several major events.

Noted humanitarian speak on conflict, hope, peace and public health

On October 28, we relaunched the Douglas R. Wilson Lecture, created in honour of our friend, colleague and ambassador, former dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, Douglas Wilson. We invited Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian physician and internationally renowned human rights and peace activist. He is the author of I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity. Currently a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, he devotes much of his energy to the Daughters for Life Foundation, which he founded and which is dedicated to the education of girls and women in the Middle East.

Izzeldin delivered a moving and passionate speech to a packed audience of over 220 people, about a third of whom were from outside the School community. View the photos in our album.

His speech spurred many in the audience into action. School alumna and staff member Fatima Al Sayah subsequently formed a local group to raise funds for Daughters for Life. Vice-Dean
Davis has also taken the lead on behalf of the School to develop a partnership agreement with the foundation on an MPH scholarship for female applicants from the Middle East.

Also inspired by the lecture, the Edmonton-based Al Rashid Education Foundation approached the School about jointly offering a scholarship for a Muslim student in public health.

INSIGHTS with a difference

The Douglas R. Wilson Lecture was the first event of the annual research day that we traditionally call INSIGHTS. It was followed by a panel discussion featuring several distinguished members of our External Advisory Council: Michael Dan, Martin Garber-Conrad, Stephen Hodgins, Penny Lightfoot, Roger Palmer and Robyn Tamblyn. (I invite you to read their biographies.) They provided an entertaining account of their very diverse career paths, and engaged our students in a lively dialogue on how they were going to make the world a better place with their public health training.

The afternoon oral and poster sessions culminated in the award of prizes for best posters to Cerina Lee, Sofiya Manji, Danielle Thiel, Colin Reynolds, Katelynn Crick and Janis Geary.

Once again, I invite you to view the photos in our Flickr album.  

This is Public Health round 2

Another significant event last fall was the second public lecture in our This Is Public Health series. On November 19, Cam Wild gave a talk on 10 Things to Know about Addictions. The event was well advertised in local media and received much attention. Some 175 persons attended, and a further 29 joined in online. Shown below are some photos taken at the event. Some facts about the issue of addiction are highlighted in this infographic

The intent of these lectures, which we aim to do twice a year, is to inform the university community and the general public about the research of our faculty members, and promote their understanding and appreciation of the value the School brings to Alberta and beyond. Our next This is Public Health lecture will be on maternal health and given by Zubia Mumtaz on March 8, International Women’s Day.

MPH curriculum review marches on

We are close to—but not quite there yet—in completing our curriculum review. The reviews of both the MSc and PhD programs have been concluded and the changes implemented. The committee reviewing the MPH program (co-chaired by Patrick Hanington and Ruth Wolfe) worked extremely hard during the year, and the process was given a major boost when faculty, staff and students held a retreat on November 27, to discuss and debate the various proposed changes. The MPH review is timely as the landscape of public health education is rapidly changing. The Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH), which accredits schools and programs of public health, is actively pursuing changes to the evaluation criteria. 

Do not linger; convocate!

November is also Fall Convocation time, and this time we graduated 12 MPH and 16 MSc students.

It is of course a joyous occasion for families and friends and, not least, the students themselves. They can no longer be referred to as students, but alumni from now on. The School hosted a reception after the ceremony when graduates and their guests mingled with faculty and staff. Parents and spouses (and children, too) expressed their relief while graduates looked forward to the next step of their journey. You'll see below some photos of the event.

Completion rates—the percentage of students who graduate within the "maximum time to graduation"—is one of the performance metrics used by CEPH when accrediting a school. It is very important that as a School, we strive for the highest possible completion rates in all our programs.

Students grade their professors

Each year the tables are turned, when the School of Public Health Students’ Association selects the best teachers and mentors. The winners are:

  • Instructor of the Year – Small Class: Arif Alibhai
  • Instructor of the Year – Large Class: Dean Eurich
  • Instructor of the Year – Distance Class: Irina Dinu and Tanis Farish
  • Teaching Assistant of the Year: Sarah Lane
  • Advisor of the Year: Kate Storey
  • Supervisor of the Year: Paul Veugelers
  • Outstanding Contribution to Student Life Award: Janis Geary

The awards were presented at the closing reception of INSIGHTS. The School values teaching excellence. In 2016, we hope to conduct regular peer teaching evaluation, to supplement the electronic surveys that are now the only means of assessing performance.

Research makes an impact

For years, Don Voaklander and his staff at the Alberta Centre for Injury Control and Research—now renamed the Injury Prevention Centre—have been collecting data on farm safety and lobbying the provincial government for legislative action. Their efforts have finally borne fruit with the recent passage of Bill 6, the Enhanced Protection for Farm and Ranch Workers Act. Regrettably, the changes are not welcome by some Albertans—but that is what democracy is all about.

Clear policy impact is hard to find in the research that we do. Increasingly, funding agencies, governments, and indeed the general public demand “return on investment” in academic research, which is expected to result in the improvement of health and health care, and social and economic benefits to Canadians at large. As researchers, we need to be fully aware of this trend, which is really what public health is all about.

Accolades continue to flow

Dean Eurich received $720,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research under its eHealth Innovations Partnership Program for his Reorganizing the Approach to Diabetes through Application of Registries [RADAR] study.

Our PhD student Atsushi Kawaguchi (supervisor Yutaka Yasui) received a best research award at the Critical Care Canada Forum.

Two School students, Serena Chen and Mackenzie Moir, were among first batch of 10 students to receive graduate studentships in patient-oriented research from the Alberta SPOR SUPPORT Unit.

When you are 10 years old

Here is a sneak preview of some of the celebrations we have planned for 2016:

  • March 17 there will be a 10th birthday party for our School community.
  • On October 12 we will host a public event, a Report to the Community at City Hall.
  • On November 2 and 3, we will host an International Forum on Public Health Education.
Stay tuned for more information.

Kue Young, Dean