"It felt like being in the emergency room and hearing the police and ambulances had been called to an accident. You knew something was coming," he said.
By mid-March 2020, nearly every aspect of teaching and research was shutting down at the medical college he oversees.
"Experiments were interrupted. There was an enormous loss to our research," said Smith.
Crediting 'amazing teamwork' for moving coursework online and getting biomedical researchers back into their laboratories, Smith makes it clear -- science is the only way out of this pandemic.
In this episode, he discusses the pandemic, the need for research and dollars to support it, and his recruiting drive to fill 15-20 faculty positions over the coming years, as a cohort of senior researchers in Saskatoon retire.
“It is a fabulous time to be trying to recruit doctoral and post-doctoral biomedical scientists," said Smith, who is now in his second term as dean.
And he's unequivocal: provinces that spend tax dollars on biomedical research see fewer preventable illnesses and deaths.
“Our researchers are incredibly creative,” Smith said, noting his faculty punch well above their weight in securing grants.
“We need more local funding that will equip our researchers to be competitive nationally."
Smith pointed to investments in clinical research in multiple sclerosis, neuroscience, as well as cancer treatments as examples of biomedical research with an immediate impact on Saskatchewan's wider public.
“It’s essential not just for our researchers, but for the well-being of all of us.”