Interim Dean's Message 

 

Dr. Marilyn Baetz (MD) is the interim dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.

April 29, 2024

Hello to all.  I am now two-thirds of the way through the interim Dean position and my wish to keep things moving along has certainly been granted! Much has happened since my last message. On a personal note, I had a wonderful, albeit short, vacation in late March in Portugal. I was slightly stressed about leaving as our vacation was booked before I knew I was taking on the interim dean role. We flew out on provincial budget day,which as you will see, had many important announcements for the College of Medicine. However, the time in Portugal was amazing, with so much to see and do and some wonderful hikes in beautiful landscapes. It feels like a “must-do again” type of place.

Dr. Marilyn Baetz hiking the Algarve coast in Portugal.
Dr. Marilyn Baetz hiking the Algarve coast in Portugal.

As things turned out, budget day was largely positive for our college. One of the most significant developments is support for the ongoing theme of “growth”. The planned new programs in speech language pathology and occupational therapy were announced and we anticipate that they will welcome their first learners—40 in each program—in 2026. As with the physical therapy program, these will be delivered by the School of Rehabilitation Science. There is a great deal of work to do between now and 2026, but it is a truly exciting addition to program delivery for the school, our college, university and province!  Looking back, the original proposal for these programs was formalized in 2007 – the need has never been more evident than it is now.

Very shortly after returning from Portugal, I attended the annual International Congress on Academic Medicine (ICAM), an Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) Board meeting and the Okanagan Charter Committee meeting, all hosted in Vancouver this year. There were more than 1,600 in attendance at ICAM with a big contingent from Saskatchewan. We were able to celebrate and cheer on several award recipients from our college at the conference, as well. Riley Plett, who is graduating this year in our medical doctor program, received the AFMC Indigenous Health Advocacy Award. Dr. Kent Stobart was recognized with the AFMC President’s Award for Exemplary National Leadership in Academic Medicine and Dr. Brent Thoma received the AFMC John Ruedy Award for Innovation in Medical Education. More details can be found on our college awards page.

We will celebrate these and many other internal and external awards received by members of our college at our annual recognition events. Regina has their annual Appreciation Gala on May 1 and Saskatoon has an afternoon for recognition on June 13. These are some of many exciting upcoming events we are looking forward to as June 6 is Spring Convocation and our MD program grad banquet. Additionally, the annual Highlights in Medicine conference is June 20 to 22 (check out the program here – we would love to see you).

In other news, I recently attended the USask Board of Governors meeting where they approved transitioning the current Division of Oncology to a department and then attended the University Senate to speak for the final approval. We expect to receive our report from the full accreditation review of our Postgraduate Medical Education program in May. As many know, we had many good outcomes for our programs and our MD students in the first iteration of the CaRMS match this year, and following the second iteration, we have successfully filled all our programs.

I want to thank the many people across our college who continue to move the dial on so many really significant initiatives that we have on the go in our college now: the Master of Physician Studies program, the expansion plan for government, due to them in June, outlining how our college can expand in our rural and remote areas and smaller urban centres, the establishment of the new Department of Indigenous Health and Wellness—to name just a few!

It is such an exciting and busy time for our college. We are doing great work that is setting our college up for even more success as we welcome new dean, Dr. Sarah Forgie, on July 1.

Previous Messages

Greetings to all! I hope this message finds you well and refreshed after the holiday break. With this, my first message to you as interim dean, I want to welcome you back for the start of a new year.

The holiday season is a time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. Over the break, my husband Andrew and I hosted my extended family for our first gathering since my mom passed away this past fall. That change, along with the fact that both of our children are married now, means more juggling of time to be together. We know that change is the one constant, so it is important to embrace it. As we step into the New Year, that theme of change will be with us as we gear up for an exciting and busy time ahead.

Although we are so fortunate that Dr. Preston Smith has left things in good shape at the college, there is no time to let things slide. I have hit the ground running and am excited to keep the momentum going. Our college thrives on the energy, ideas and enthusiasm that you bring. Your curiosity, passion, and dedication to bettering our college is what makes us proud and successful.

My work with faculty (and staff) engagement has reinforced the importance of building and maintaining relationships as key to effectively moving forward. Caring for each other and building teams are key to inspiring progress and I look forward to working with all of you to continue the good work we have been doing.

Some of that good work includes the recent full PGME accreditation review, gearing up for another full UGME accreditation review in 2026, and another admissions cycle, the second for our renewed MD admissions processes, which have already proven promising and effective. Take a few minutes to look at these great graphics on our admissions website showcasing results from the first year of our Saskatchewan-connectedness admissions process.

Our growth mandate is gearing up even more, with the new Master of Physician Assistant Studies program now in development to welcome its first learners in 2025, the potential for new occupational therapy and speech-language pathology programs, and growth in our training sites across the province.

There is also a change in our research portfolio. With the New Year, Dr. Marek Radomski is on a well-deserved six-month administrative leave, and Dr. David Cooper brings his talents to the vice-dean research role during this time. The research enterprise keeps moving forward with new researchers joining the college, alongside investment in supporting resources, including a research navigation specialist to make their welcome even warmer. The upcoming CoMGRAD awards, with an application deadline of January 15, are positioned as a pivotal opportunity to encourage and reward graduate students and supervisors as they pursue external funding, contributing to the team's ongoing commitment to furthering research. Please refer to the Research Impact page on the CoM website with our recently updated research reports.

Changes in fundraising and alumni and donor relations include work to include medical residents among our college alumni and the recent unveiling of the new CoM Alumni and Community program and Community Advisory Committee, replacing the former CoM Alumni Association. Beyond that, the annual finance and budget cycle gets even more intense as we prepare for this fiscal year-end and finalize budgets for our next fiscal year beginning May 1. Thankfully we have a fantastic finance team, as budgeting of this magnitude is a huge learning curve for a new dean!

I had the opportunity to connect with MD program clerks (Year 3 and 4 medical students) at their town hall meeting in December. I met with the Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan executive. Connecting with our learners is both informative and refreshing and will be an important part of my work in this role. As vice-dean faculty engagement, I also found taking our team out to meet faculty, staff and learners where they are, in different communities across the province, to be so beneficial and plan to continue doing this as interim dean. The life of the college occurs at the local department level where academic and clinical work comes together. We cannot forget the crucial synergy required to meet our mission.

Through the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, I became involved with the Okanagan Charter, a global initiative that encourages universities and colleges to incorporate wellness into every facet of campus life and to spearhead health promotion efforts both locally and worldwide. Established in June 2015, the charter equips institutions with a common language, principles, and a structure to transform them into campuses that promote health and well-being. Considering the pressure on our healthcare system, it is of utmost importance to be proactive in this area for the benefit of our students, their educators, and the staff and other team members who support them.

I will be in touch again soon with more updates on progress across the CoM.

Just like that, 2024 is flying along and we are into March and looking forward to spring around the corner. With the weather over the weekend it is feeling quite a bit farther away, and I hope everyone has stayed safe and warm through the weekend blizzard. The significant snowfall is good news for our province and farmers. I am particularly aware of the rural drought as I still have family connections to the farm. It does feel hopeful though each spring as the days are getting lighter and longer and things are also looking very bright at our college!

The interim dean position has been full speed ahead for me which is exactly what I had hoped it would be. Our teams have been working hard as you will see from the updates. One of the things I have truly been enjoying and appreciating is the opportunity to connect with staff from college departments and units across the province. So far in 2024 I have had the opportunity to meet—virtually or in person—with more than 200 members of our administrative staff. It has been so interesting to learn who they are, what they do and how they are engaged with their work. I believe staff engagement is critical to the success of our college. I know for a fact that as leaders, faculty members and learners at the CoM we benefit from the extraordinary support of staff. Their engagement in our mission and work makes everything exponentially better for everyone.

I’m also thrilled to report that our new promotion standards for CoM faculty have been approved. The standards now better reflect who we are and what we do. This has been a long journey of renewal and is an important step forward on greater faculty engagement. If we succeed in achieving more engaged faculty and staff, we can get to that exponential magic of 2+2=5. I encourage all leaders in the CoM to make time for and get to know the members of your staff teams, and listen and respond to what they share, as an important step in this direction.

Speaking of visits around the CoM, I was able to join USask Provost Airini and Deputy Provost Patti McDougall at our CoM Regina campus on February 23. We were treated to such an impressive display of the campus! Airini and Patti were inspired by our team, the facilities and the pride in accomplishment in Regina. This was reflected back in Airini’s empowering words about belonging to something bigger than ourselves and the importance of a sense of purpose as a leader. They were both gifted by Dr. Gill White, associate dean Regina campus, with beautiful pieces of Indigenous art from a local artist.

As always, the vast amount of the work of our college moves along behind the scenes. At this time of year we are working on budgets and as we enter a fourth year of flat funding we are facing difficult decisions that come with not being able to fund everything we would like, impacting areas like research startup funds and limiting staff and faculty recruitment. While this is difficult work, it is very important work that must be done. At the same time, we’ve had wonderful success recently with research funding through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in important areas of biomedical sciences, breast cancer and other research.

In medical education, we’ve just announced our new dermatology residency program, based in Regina, which will welcome its first resident this summer. In addition to hiring Dr. Trustin Domes as academic director of the new Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, we’ve hired a manager, Gayathri Manoharan, for the program. Gayathri brings great experience from her years working on our Postgraduate Medical Education Team. These and other ongoing initiatives are part of our work with government on the province’s critical health human resources initiatives.

As you are likely aware, we have announced the new permanent dean of our college, Dr. Sarah Forgie, who begins a five-year term on July 1. Let’s welcome her here this summer with continued progress on these and many other important initiatives underway at the CoM.  In the meantime, please connect with me and know that I am always interested in listening and working toward a positive and productive College of Medicine.