Dean's Corner

October to December 2017

Welcome to 2018! As students, staff and faculty return, the School is once again abuzz with scholarly activities. The last quarter of 2017 was an extremely busy one. Of particular importance was our re-accreditation site visit by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) in October.

We spent much of 2017 preparing our very detailed self-study, which was submitted in September. A CEPH team consisting of three reviewers and a staff member conducted a site visit during October 23-25, during which time they interviewed key members of the School’s administration and representatives of faculty, students and alumni. At the end of their visit, they provided us with feedback at a public meeting. I am glad to report that we have done well, with no evaluation criteria that we did not meet. The written report was received in December and we shall prepare a response. The final award of accreditation status will be made late in June 2018. We shall, of course, keep the School community informed.


New Centre on Health System Improvement announced

On October 20, the creation of the Centre for Health System Improvement (CHSI) was formally announced. The event was marked by a public lecture on Systems Thinking: Understanding the Complex, by Nathaniel Osgood, professor of computing science at the University of Saskatchewan. Over 140 persons attended the event, with 63 joining online. The lecture was followed by a panel discussion by Janet Davidson, former deputy minister of health of Alberta; Anil Arora, chief statistician of Canada; and Lord Nigel Crisp, former chief executive of the English National Health Service.

Please view the lecture online and also the Flickr album.

Over the next several months, CHSI interim director Dev Menon, together with Tania Stafinski and Aslam Bhatti, will develop a work plan for the Centre and undertake extensive consultations across campus and seek support from government agencies, non-governmental organizations and industry.


Wilson lecture focuses on homelessness

The annual Douglas R. Wilson Lecture was held on October 19. This year we featured Stephen Gaetz, professor of education at York University in Toronto and director of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. He spoke on The Shift to End Homelessness and proposed innovative approaches to address this national public health problem. Over 200 persons attended the lecture, with 15 joining online.

Please view the lecture online and the Flickr album.


Machine learning featured at INSIGHTS

Our annual research day, INSIGHTS, was held on November 2. Some 176 participants attended, with 37 oral presentations and 24 posters by students and faculty. Please view photos of the day through our Flickr album.

This year’s keynote address was delivered by Osmar Zaiane, professor of computing science at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Science, and scientific director of the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. He spoke on Machine Learning for Precision Medicine. He was followed by Kai-On Wong, one of our newest PhD graduates, who presented several applications of machine learning in public health, partly based on his doctoral research.


Towards reconciliation in Indigenous health research

Also featured at INSIGHTS was a special panel discussion organized by Stephanie Montesanti, with invited panelists Cree Elder Bert Auger, aboriginal initiatives advisor at Grant MacEwan University; Nancy Hollman, executive director of the Nistawoyou Association Friendship Centre in Fort McMurray; and Laurie-Ann Lines, PhD student and member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. They discussed different perspectives and provided advice on conducting health research in Indigenous communities.

Stephanie Montesanti has been conducting research on the health impact of the Fort McMurray wildfires on indigenous communities in the region. Her research serves as a model for research partnerships with indigenous communities and organizations.


Yellowknife retreat kicks off northern outreach strategy

During the weekend of November 18-19, a 10-person delegation from the School, as well as UAlberta North director Roger Epp, attended a retreat in Yellowknife hosted by Susan Chatwood and Kimberly Fairman of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research. We discussed ways to increase our recruitment of northern and Indigenous students and engage regional governments and Indigenous communities in education and research partnerships. We held very productive meetings with the Tłįchǫ Community Services Agency and with the mayor and City Council. We presented the School’s programs at a public meeting held at the museum which generated considerable interests among participants. We also met local elders and stakeholders, including several University of Alberta alumni, at the evening reception.

With the appointment of Susan Chatwood to our faculty, who will be based in both Yellowknife and Edmonton, the School will take concrete steps towards establishing a “branch” in Yellowknife.


Clearing the smoke on legalizing cannabis

The federal government’s act to legalize cannabis has generated considerable public interest. It is thus timely that this fall’s This Is Public Health public lecture, held on November 23, was devoted to this topic. There is no better speaker than Elaine Hyshka, who has established a national reputation for her research on drug use and is frequently consulted by governments.

A record 187 people attended the lecture, with another 27 who joined online. The lecture and Flickr album can be viewed online.

Elaine gave the same talk a week later at an alumni event held at the University of Alberta Calgary Centre, which attracted a standing-room-only audience of over 110 people.


Fostering alumni relations on the west coast

The University of Alberta’s Office of Alumni Relations organized two luncheons in December in Victoria and Vancouver, with featured speaker Cam Wild, who spoke on Five Things to Know about Addictions. The School sponsored a table at each event which provided an excellent opportunity for our alumni to catch up on news of the School from myself and also Donna Richardson (marketing and alumni relations) and Katherine Millen Worré (advancement).


New grads honoured at Fall Convocation

On November 21, 31 students received their degrees (14 MPH, 13 MSc, and 4 PhD) from Associate Dean (Research) Kim Raine at Fall Convocation. The complete list and the Flickr album is available online.


Faculty, staff and alumni achievements recognized

Kate Storey received a New Investigator operating grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Her project is on the impact of school-based sleep education on children’s sleep behaviours at home.

This year the teaching awards sponsored by the School of Public Health Students’ Association (SPHSA) and the Staff Recognition Award were presented in a joint event on November 28.

SPHSA teaching awards were presented to:
• Erin Pollock, Advisor of the Year
Arto Ohinmaa, Supervisor of the Year
Ruth Wolfe, for her Outstanding Contribution to Student Life
• Kirill Lissovskiy, Teaching Assistant of the Year
Maria Ospina, Professor of the Year (large class)
Dean Eurich, Professor of the Year (small class)

The School of Public Health Staff Recognition Award was presented to Donna Pressick, administrative assistant with the Alliance for Canadian Health Outcomes Research in Diabetes (ACHORD), a research unit in the School.

It seems that each year some of our alumni are named to an honour list published by Avenue Magazine of Edmonton. This year is no exception.

Keren Tang (MSc ‘14) and Devon Guy (MPH ‘17) were both named among the “Top 40 under 40.”

Kathryn Dong (MSc ‘07) was named Global Woman of Vision for her clinical work and research at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and advocacy on behalf of Edmonton’s inner city residents.

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


And we had fun, too

On November 8, we sought relief from the Edmonton winter blues by visiting Escape City. Members of the School community and their families and friends exercised their wits to find hidden clues, riddles and solve puzzles in order to break out from several locked rooms. No one was left behind.

On December 8, we ended the academic year with our annual Winter Party.   

Kue Young, Dean