Whether you have been a member of the Faculty of Medicine for decades or are just joining us, I wish to extend a warm welcome to the start of the 2017/18 academic year. I hope that you had some time to get away and take a well-deserved vacation with your family and friends.
UBC is one of the great universities of the world and this is one of the great medical faculties, which in a short period of time has established itself as globally leading in both the science and practice of medicine. It’s a place where the advancement of medical knowledge goes hand in hand with a deep commitment to apply this knowledge for the benefit of society. British Columbians have placed their profound trust in all of us to deliver the next generation of health care providers, researchers and educators — while at the same time, advancing critical research that has the power to transform patient and population health and well-being.
In whatever role we serve at the faculty, it is incumbent upon us to remember that health is a human right that we must seek to uphold. And in upholding this right, we must be compassionate, inclusive and non-judgmental. Above all else, we must respect diversity.
Also over the summer and throughout the year, our graduate students and post-doctoral fellows continued to demonstrate their commitment to developing impactful research. These learners are a cornerstone of the faculty and help to advance important research underway, while strengthening our educational community. As we enter another academic year, we are excited to see new faces enter these programs and look forward to celebrating those who will be graduating in November.
This academic year we have the privilege of greeting more than 1,000 new students into our programs, drawn to our faculty by its myriad of degree programs, its outstanding faculty and its reputation across the globe. 288 students recently entered our MD undergraduate program, followed by: 80 students in Physical Therapy; 56 students in Occupational Therapy; 36 students in Speech-Language Pathology; 13 students in Audiology; 6 students in Genetic Counselling; 21 students in Midwifery; and 14 students in Medical Laboratory Science. And just this past July, 350 new trainees joined our residency programs.
We should also be very proud of our researchers who have contributed powerful new advances across a wide range of disciplines ranging from the basic sciences through clinically applied research and population-based research. For example, Weihong Song recently added to his long list of discoveries this summer, this time finding a new, promising avenue for a drug that could provide a more precise, targeted disruption of plaque formation in Alzheimer’s disease. Martin Gleave, Kim Chi and Alexander Wyatt, with collaborators in the U.S. and Finland, showed that a blood test can identify all of the key driver mutations in prostate cancer that would typically be detected through tissue biopsy, thus demonstrating the feasibility of a less invasive method of diagnosing that disease. And Gina Ogilvie, Sheona Mitchell and OBGYN resident, Heather Armstrong return from Uganda after making advances in the ASPIRE project to save many lives by implementing a scalable and affordable integrated cervical cancer screening program that uses a novel technology developed for resource limited countries.
Building on this momentum, I would like to take this time to highlight a few important initiatives taking place this fall, with thanks to many of you who have helped set them in motion.
In September, we will successfully reach the one-year mark in the implementation of our Strategic Plan: Building the Future. I’m very pleased to say that we are making great strides towards achieving our goals. We have initiated the searches for the President’s Excellence Chairs in Precision Oncology and Brain Health, created the School of Biomedical Engineering with our partners in Applied Science, launched the Office of Educational Innovation and are now actively beginning the process of faculty renewal including the recruitment of a cohort of translational scientists. I would like to extend thanks to those who have invested significant time and energy in helping us to move the plan forward towards achieving our collective goals across the four pillars of education, research, organization and partnership. Next year we aim to deliver further momentum in all of these domains.
This October, we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Aboriginal MD admissions program, which has played a key role in helping to recruit and support Aboriginal medical students. Just this past May, the total number of Aboriginal medical students to graduate since the program was first established in 2002 reached 71, which is a significant accomplishment and a reflection of our steadfast commitment to the program. Since its inception, the Aboriginal MD admissions program has become a model of success for other Canadian faculties of medicine. Our faculty is committed to working with our partners and communities to help reduce inequities in Aboriginal health care and outcomes, which is a key objective within our strategic plan and work in this priority area is already underway to establish a new Joint Advisory Committee with the First Nations Health Authority.
Finally, as we all embark on the start of a new academic year, I encourage you to explore the faculty’s Back to School series, which profiles our learners and offers a window into some of the exciting new teaching and educational initiatives underway within our faculty.
As we go forward, I am empowered every day by the more than 11,000 faculty and staff, who are hard at work inspiring our learners and advancing research in a wide range of areas — all of which contribute to the overall well-being of society. Our commitment to society — placing the patient and public at the centre of all that we do — is exemplified by our distributed program and this is one of the elements that sets us apart from other faculties of medicine. We should all be proud of our position as one of the world’s leading medical schools and all in this faculty should be proud of the role they play in maintaining our excellence.
Dermot Kelleher, MD, FRCP, FRCPI, FMedSci
Dean, Faculty of Medicine
The University of British Columbia
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