Dr. James Stempien.

Emergency medicine gets full department status

Following years of work, it's official!

By Marg Sheridan

It’s been a long road, with starts, stops and lots of work done by many people.

But on June 23, 2016 the emergency medicine faculty learned that the department had been granted full academic department status.

The path to this point started in 2008, according to Dr. James Stempien, when they created their first proposal demonstrating the academic contribution the department was already making to the College of Medicine.

“We compared ourselves to departments across the country and basically showed that we’re punching well above our weight with the abilities we have right now,” he explained. “But (we can’t do) what other academic departments do across the country because they have the extra facilities and funding that we don’t have.”

And while they got close, the roll-out of TransformUS wound up sending them back to square one until 2014 when the CoM named a new dean.

“(Dr. Smith) came from Dalhousie where emergency medicine has been an academic department for a long time, so he was very supportive,” Stempien continued. “We’ll be able to access more funding for research, create an academic network across Saskatchewan allowing us to expand our teaching.

“It (will) allow us to ask for protected time for our academics – right now most of our department, even though we contribute a lot to research and teaching, we all do it off of the side of our desk, so that will help us to expand our job, our roles, and our development.”

Prior to the decision, EM faculty were managed under the family medicine and surgery departments, and having a home – a place where faculty recognize themselves as emergency medicine specialists – is an important change that Dr. Brent Thoma is looking forward to.

“As we continue to do more research and teaching, it is appropriate to have an academic emergency medicine department to coordinate our work,” Thoma explained. “It will give us an identity and place to belong within the College of Medicine. With increased infrastructure we will be able to better support the academic interests and pursuits of our department members.”

The new status not only will enhance access to research funds, with protected time for full-time faculty, but will also help with recruitment.

“Recruitment will be better under an academic department, retention will be better, we’ll be able to better contribute to the medical school in terms of teaching,” continued Stempien. “I think the overarching theme is to improve emergency care across the whole province by being able to better enhance our research, better teach, and be able to expand across the province in the secondary centres.

“That’s the theme: can we make it better for the people of Saskatchewan?”