Recap of Health Sciences Town Hall

Greta Cummings - 07 October 2021

On October 4, 2021, I had the honour of hosting the first town hall in the College of Health Sciences. I want to thank the nearly 550 people who joined me on Zoom and expressed an interest in the development and future of the College of Health Sciences. For anyone who was unable to attend, a recording of the town hall is available here.


The University of Alberta is my home. I completed both my MEd (Admin) and PhD in nursing at the U of A, and received great satisfaction from my role as dean of the Faculty of Nursing. As interim college dean I am committed to supporting our shared future, and while there is work to do to set up the college structure, I am excited for the opportunities that I see in our new college. The College of Health Sciences brings together the combined strength of all our health sciences faculties and schools, and will enable a new level of interdisciplinary health science research and teaching that advances the full spectrum of human health and wellness in individuals and communities around the world.

Over the summer, I have been working with the Council of Health Science Deans, as well as the other college deans, on the development of the college. At the town hall, I provided the updates below.

College Structure

As you may recall, the UAT Operating Model—released last June—defines the roles of the university, colleges, faculties, departments and units at the U of A and serves as the framework for all of the colleges, including the College of Health Sciences. It is vital that the college supports faculties and departments, and not the other way around.

To ensure that we achieve this, the Council of Health Science Deans have held weekly meetings beginning in the winter as we build out the college structure—as have the college general managers and faculty general managers, since spring. Together we have struck several working groups charged with taking inventory of the functions and processes within the faculties, and recommending which of these could best operate at the college level. To date, working groups have been exploring the following areas:

  • Graduate Studies
  • Research
  • Experiential Learning
  • Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Indigenous Initiatives
  • International
  • Health Sciences Education and Research Commons (HSERC)

New working groups for Academic Integrity and Interprofessional Education are also about to start meeting.

The recommendations flowing from these working groups will help to determine what work is done by the College Offices. You may recall from the operating model that each college will be made up of the following primary offices:

  • The Office of Education, responsible for shared student services, coordinated student advising, academic integrity processes, and administrative work related to experiential and work-integrated learning
  • The Graduate Office, which oversees academic structure and performance in partnership with FGSR
  • The Office of Research, which drives institutional research strategy and college-relevant initiatives, including interdisciplinary activity
  • Strategic Initiatives, including Indigenous initiatives, EDI, and international

Senior service partners are key to this operating model and to maintaining excellent services for students, faculty and staff. Senior partners will serve as the college's primary source of knowledge from their respective areas, and as liaisons between the College of Health Sciences and the university's various Centres of Expertise. The recruitment of senior partners is well underway, and I introduced many of them at the town hall (see more below).

I also received many questions on the college structure and its constituent offices during the Q&A session, and have included some of that conversation at the bottom of this recap.

Upcoming Activity

There are two upcoming activities that members of the college should be aware of. The first is that we will begin to develop a college budget in the coming months, and this work is currently under discussion at Deans' Council and the council of deans for each college. The second relates to setting strategic priorities that could guide our collaborative efforts and support UAT (U of A for Tomorrow). We have not yet set our strategic priorities in the College of Health Sciences, however, I would like to share some of the potential priorities that we have heard over the past six months:

  • Prioritizing Indigenous/FNMI health
  • Developing strategies for enrolment growth (e.g. an undergraduate degree in health sciences)
  • Refreshing interprofessional education course/program offerings
  • Continuing to work inclusively with Dietetics program, which is housed in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences
  • Building robust interdisciplinary research programs that address human health across the full spectrum, from wellness through disease prevention, management, care and cures
  • Reinvesting administrative savings into our core academic mission

If you would like to suggest other potential strategic priorities for the college, I invite you to email me at deanchs@ualberta.ca.

People of the College

It was my pleasure to introduce the people who so far make up the College of Health Sciences. This includes the members of the Council of Health Science Deans:

  • Brenda Hemmelgarn, Dean, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry
  • Paul Major, Chair, School of Dentistry
  • Shanthi Johnson, Dean, School of Public Health
  • Diane Kunyk, Acting Dean, Faculty of Nursing
  • Nick Holt, Interim Dean, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation
  • Tammy Hopper, Interim Dean, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine
  • Christine Hughes, Interim Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences

It also includes Susan Lynch, college general manager, and Shelley McDonald, executive assistant.

Last, the following senior service partners are embedded to oversee delivery of various services and functions within the College of Health Sciences, often through a network of service partners embedded in the faculties:

  • Kemi Kufuor-Boakye (finance)
  • Li-Kwong Cheah (finance)
  • Pam Averill (human resources)
  • Jim Bohun (enrolment)
  • Sherri Honeychurch (information technologies)

I look forward to introducing senior service partners in other areas—including communications, advancement, research, graduate studies, etc.—as they join the college in the coming weeks.

Thank you again to everyone who joined the town hall, asked thoughtful and well-considered questions, and expressed interest in the future of the college. I will be in touch in the coming weeks as we continue to build out the College of Health Sciences.

Greta G. Cummings RN PhD FCAHS FAAN FCAN
Interim College Dean, College of Health Sciences

 



Questions asked and answered

What will the Office of Education's role be, and what kinds of student support services will be offered at the college level?
The Office of Education will provide administrative support services to the faculties—for example: student advising (likely with referrals to faculties where specialized info is needed), programming, academic integrity, and some of the interdisciplinary work that has formerly resided with HSERC. We are aiming to provide better consistency across the college and university with this approach.

As we determine the exact role and offerings of the Office of Education, the driving question will be: what kinds of programming would multiple faculties in the college need and how can they be delivered more consistently, efficiently and at lower cost?

When will we see the transition to the new structure supporting research administration?
The transition is underway. Julie Stevens has been hired into the director of partnerships role, and potential senior partners for the colleges are currently being interviewed. We hope to have faculty partners in place by the end of October, though we anticipate ongoing work to identify and assess needs and gaps related to individual faculties' research administration needs.

What degree of financial autonomy can units and faculties expect in this new model as compared to now?
Faculties and units will maintain the same depth of budgetary responsibilities as they have in previous years, though they will see less breadth and be more focused on the core academic mission as administrative services are increasingly centralized. That said, there are opportunities for growth: enrolment growth presents a significant opportunity to generate new revenue that directly supports the core academic mission in faculties and units.

Will EDI and Indigenous initiatives be streamlined to function across the college, or will they operate at the faculty level?
Our approach will likely include aspects of both. For example, we will likely explore common experiences across all of the health faculties, as well as additional opportunities within faculties and related to specific disciplines. The overall goal is to create a broad culture of EDI, and we certainly see significant opportunities to advance this goal across the college and university.

We have seen an increasing need for healthcare professionals in rural locations that spans health faculties and disciplines—has college leadership considered rural health as a priority area?
Yes, rural health has been part of our preliminary discussions on priority areas. Given the geography of Alberta, rural health represents a significant opportunity for the College of Health Sciences, and it aligns with priorities identified by Alberta Health Services. In the new college model, we may have additional opportunities to couple this priority with recruitment from rural areas.

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