As the year 2019 draws to an end, it is with a sense of pride that I reflect upon all the UBC Department of Psychiatry was able to accomplish this year. The last twelve months not only signified transformation and progress, but also marked a pivotal phase during which we took stock of the unique opportunities and challenges that lie ahead, and embarked on the process of charting a new roadmap for the future of the Department. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of you for your support and contributions, as our successes would not have been possible without your dedication and hard work.
I’m delighted to share with you the many highlights for the Department over the course of 2019. The Department has witnessed growth and development in virtually all areas. By November’s end, our total annual research grant funding for this year reached approximately $10 million, a very healthy figure by all accounts, in large part due to significant Health Canada grant funding obtained by Dr. Daniel Vigo, Dr. Michael Krausz, and Dr. Christian Schütz, major CIHR grants awarded to Dr. Weihong Song and Dr. Erin Michalak, and MSFHR Scholar awards won by Dr. David Kealy and Dr. Trisha Chakrabarty.
In terms of education, the pass rate of our residents was 100% this year, and we also saw the highest enrollment in our Vancouver Summer Program to date. As well, thanks to our PGE Program Director Dr. Ladan Sadrehashemi (currently on leave) and our Interim PGE Program Director Dr. Irfan Khanbhai, Psychiatry Postgraduate Education is well prepared for the launch of Competence By Design (CBD) in 2020.
This year our clinical faculty increased by 43 members, and to our academic faculty we welcomed Dr. Daniel Vigo, Assistant Professor, and Dr. Sophia Frangou, Professor and UBC President’s Excellence Chair in Brain Health. In addition to the Department’s success in securing a new faculty position this year through the FoM’s faculty renewal process, as well as a new CRC Tier 2 faculty position negotiated with the FoM, the Department is continuing to explore several other opportunities to create academic faculty positions though partnerships with Health Authorities, hospital foundations, our distributed sites-affiliated universities, and government agencies. Our focus will continue to be attracting and retaining top talent, and building research capacity in the Department. As we welcome new faculty members to Psychiatry, we also bid a fond farewell and best wishes to one of our outstanding faculty members, Professor Steven Vincent, who, after having served the Department and the University for 36 years, will retire on December 31, 2019.
On the leadership front, four Associate Heads were appointed this year and each has overseen a number of exciting initiatives with respect to education, continuing professional development, research, clinical affairs, and partnerships at the regional, national and global levels. This summer, the Department signed historic memoranda of understanding with three top mental health research centres in China, opening up new opportunities for knowledge exchange and cross-training of students and fellows in order to strengthen our collaborative research networks in Asia-Pacific. Closer to home, we have been actively pursuing opportunities to meet and hold discussions to align our objectives and priorities on mental healthcare policy with the Ministries of Health and Mental Health & Addictions, the BC College, the UBC School of Population and Public Health, the Health Authorities, and other government and regulatory bodies.
To add to this, the Department and the Institute of Mental Health were proud to announce in 2019 the establishment of the IMH Marshall Fellows and Scholars Awards, made possible by the vision and commitment of the Marshall family, along with some matching funds from the Faculty of Medicine and the BC Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills & Training’s BC Graduate Scholarship Fund. The outstanding inaugural cohort of IHM Marshall Fellows and Scholars have been making the best use of their awards, gaining valuable experience and training in translational research which will be instrumental to success in their respective future careers. In addition, we are excited to work with the UBC School of Population and Public Health on the development of a new graduate program in Translational Psychiatry aimed to support research training of residents, clinical faculty and potentially other healthcare providers in order to foster the development of clinician scientists in psychiatry care.
With respect to promotions as of July 1, 2019, a total of 15 clinical faculty members were granted promotions, and within our academic faculty, Dr. Evelyn Stewart was promoted to the rank of full Professor. A number of our faculty received recognition in the form of major awards and honors, including:
- Jehannine Austin, who received the Graham Boeckh Foundation’s 2019 Samarthji Lal Award for Mental Health Research and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ Scientific Lecture Award
- Erin Michalak, recipient of the Douglas Utting Prize for Depression Research and the CIHR Gold Leaf Prize for Transformation: Patient Engagement
- Sophia Frangou, winner of the prestigious Colvin Prize for Mood Disorders Research from the Brain & Behavior Foundation in the U.S.
- Lakshmi Yatham, recognized again this year by Clarivate Analytics as among the World’s Most Highly Cited Researchers for 2019
- Tony Bailey’s induction as an INSAR Fellow, the highest honor conferred by the International Society for Autism Research
- Tony Phillips’ invitation to join the Academic Advisory Board of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
(Please accept our apologies if we have missed any other members’ major achievements).
In September, we shared the news that the book authored by Clinical Professor Dr. Biju Mathew, titled Super 30: Changing the World 30 Students at a Time, became a blockbuster movie in India and one of the highest-grossing Hindi-language films of 2019. We were thrilled to see a valued member of our Department celebrated on an international stage for the telling of the inspirational story of mathematician Anand Kumar. Dr. Mathew is also the recipient of a 2019 BC Achievement Award, which follows another significant honor given to him last year, when he was named Citizen of the Year by the Maple Ridge Community Foundation.
The Department also honoured the memory of Associate Professor Emerita Dr. Martha Donnelly and of Ms. Cindy Woo, Research Coordinator for the Mood Disorders Centre, two long-standing members whom we lost in 2019. We were also saddened by the passing of renowned psychopharmacologist Dr. Alex “Dooley” Goumeniouk who, while a member of the UBC Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, was nevertheless a cherished friend and colleague to many here in UBC Psychiatry.
Finally, I am pleased to confirm that a refreshed Strategic Plan is slated for completion by Spring 2020. We are on schedule and have made considerable progress particularly in the last few months. The strategic planning process was very interactive, and involved a Department-wide survey as well as first-ever strategic planning sessions hosted at all our distributed sites. To every Department member who dedicated their valuable time and energy into contributing their voice, ideas, concerns and feedback with respect to the four strategic pillars of Education, Research, Partnerships and People, I am truly grateful. Because of your active engagement and participation, we are now very well positioned to move ahead in developing a Strategic Plan which broadly encompasses the vision, goals and priorities of our diverse and multifaceted department.
In closing, I wish to once again express my sincere appreciation to all our faculty, staff and students who had contributed to our many achievements in 2019. Serving as your Department Head this first year has been a privilege, and we all have reason to be proud of what we have accomplished. I look to the New Year with renewed determination and purpose as we continue working together to attain the high goals set forth for 2020 and beyond.
I wish you all the best and a happy holiday season!
Dr. Lakshmi N. Yatham, MBBS, FRCPC, MRCPsych (UK), MBA (Exec)
Professor and Head, UBC Department of Psychiatry
Director, Institute of Mental Health, UBC
Regional Head and Program Medical Director, VCH/PHC
President, World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry