Year End Message from the Department Head

 

 

Year End Message
From the Department Head

December 17, 2020

 

Dear colleagues, staff, students and residents,

As I reflect upon the year, I am truly grateful to all of you for your tremendous contributions over these last twelve months. Suffice to say, 2020 has been a uniquely challenging year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to impact not only the functioning of the Department and the University, but virtually every aspect of our daily lives. I would like to commend all of you for your resilience and flexibility during these uncertain and trying times. Your tireless efforts have ensured the excellence and continuity of our education programs, our research activities, and our administrative operations, despite the many sweeping measures implemented to keep our communities safe. Given the unprecedented hurdles we have overcome, I am especially proud to share the highlights of our accomplishments this year, as well the many individual achievements by our Department members in 2020.
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Although the pandemic caused some delay to our timelines, we recently completed the final Department-wide consultation on the 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, titled Transforming Mental Health Care Through Innovation & Leadership, and I’m delighted to inform you that the finalized Strategic Plan is being prepared for release in the New Year. Because of your honest and candid feedback, I believe we have achieved an inspired and inclusive Plan that strongly represents our collective mission and strategic priorities for the years ahead. I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to review, reflect upon, and provide your input on the proposals set forth in the Plan. Your engagement in this process has proved invaluable.
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While the Strategic Plan is pending release, we have nevertheless stayed focused on our clear objectives with regard to the strategic pillars of Research, Education, People and Partnerships, and have made very good progress on all fronts. I am very pleased to report that, as of December 2020, our total research grant funding stands at approximately $11 million, signifying an increase of approximately $1M since 2019. In light of the significant disruptions to national funding competitions due to COVID-19, I would like to congratulate all our successful grant recipients, including Dr. Fidel Vila-Rodriguez, Dr. Bill Honer and Dr. Daniel Vigo, who obtained CIHR research funding, as well as Dr. Jehannine Austin, who received a grant from Genome BC. Furthermore, I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Dr. Sophia Frangou, who has been leading the Department’s coordinated strategy to facilitate research on COVID-19 and mental health.
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With regards to educational programs, as a testament to the excellence of our postgraduate education program, it has achieved full accreditation status and the pass rate of our residents was once again 100% this year. In July, Dr. Ladan Sadrehashemi stepped down as PGE Program Director after serving in this role for many years and doing an outstanding job. I am grateful to Dr. Irfan Khanbhai for stepping into the role of Interim PGE Program Director, and under his competent leadership, we saw the successful 2020 launch and implementation of Competence By Design (CBD) in postgraduate psychiatry education. I would also like to thank Dr. Andrea Chapman, who after many years of exemplary service as the Program Director for the Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Subspecialty Program, has decided to step down from this role as of December 31. We will be announcing shortly the new director for this program. Additionally, I wish to thank both Dr. Wei-Yi Song and Dr. Rachel Boulding for serving admirably in their roles as the Associate Program Directors for the residency programs for VIHA and Northern Health, respectively. As they have stepped down this year, we are pleased to have appointed our new Associate Program Directors, Dr. Alison Gregson for VIHA and Dr. Dmitri Zanozin for Northern Health.  Finally, I would also like to thank both Dr. Kathryn Fung and Dr. Clare Beasley for their continued excellence in leadership and support to our Psychiatry Undergraduate Education Program.
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This year, we welcomed 33 new members to our clinical faculty, and the Department is currently in the process of recruiting for a new CRC Tier 2 faculty position, as well as two new Professors (Partner) from South Korea who will support research and clinical work at Lion’s Gate Hospital. The Department is actively pursuing other opportunities, including a new full-time faculty position in Northern BC, in order to build research capacity beyond the Vancouver epicentre and within our distributed sites across the province. Additionally, I am pleased to share that the development of the new graduate program in Translational Psychiatry is well underway, which will further support the training of clinician scientists in psychiatry.
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There have been a number of other important accomplishments to note this year. Last March, very soon after a Provincial State of Emergency was declared in BC, the Department responded swiftly to address the potential surge in demand for mental health services amongst the general population as well as frontline health workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Department, in collaboration with the Physician Health Program, sent a call-out to our faculty should auxiliary mental health services be needed in a coordinated emergency response. I was moved by the overwhelming number of Department members who heeded the call, and I want to personally thank each of you for stepping up and offering your assistance. The Department continues to build strong collaborative relationships with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC, the BC Psychiatric Association, as well as with the Ministries of Health and Mental Health to influence and support mental health policy and the standards of psychiatric practice.
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Over the summer, the Department and the IMH completed its review and selection process for the 2020-2021 IMH Marshall Scholars and Fellows Program, announcing in October the list of 20 outstanding awardees for the coming year. As well, this fall the Department held its first virtual Research Day via Zoom, which was a great success thanks to the hard work of our organizers and presenters.  While social distancing measures kept us from gathering in person, on a positive note, the lack of the usual physical space and geographical limitations allowed us to showcase a record number of posters online, and also welcome registrants from all over the province.
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In 2020 we saw a total of 13 promotions granted to our clinical faculty members, as well as a promotion for Dr. Will Panenka to the rank of Associate Professor (Partner). I wish to also send my congratulations and well wishes to Dr. Stephen Kline and Dr. Rosemary Basson, both of whom provided many years of dedicated service to the Department before opting for retirement in 2020. Many other staff and faculty members were deserving of significant honours, awards, and recognition, including the following:

  • Jennifer Russel and Dr. Matthew Chow named Physician Changemakers by the Canadian Medical Association
  • Verena Langheimer recognized as a Physician Culture Changer by the Canadian Federation of Medical Students
  • Carol Ward awarded the 2020 CAGP/CCSMH Seniors’ Mental Health Outstanding Care & Integrative Practice Award from the Canadian Academy of Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Soma Ganesan and Dr. Wei-Yi Song designated as Fellows of the Canadian Psychiatric Association
  • Lynn Raymond appointed Director of the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health
  • Steven Taylor appointed to the Government of Canada’s Expert Panel on COVID-19
  • Jacob Stubbs awarded the 2020-2021 Killam Doctoral Scholarship
  • Caden Poh awarded the FoM Applegarth Staff Service Award, and Dr. Ashok Krishnamoorthy awarded the FoM Clinical Faculty Award for Excellence in Community Practice Teaching, VFMP
  • Sophia Frangou awarded the 2020 Teaching Award from the Society of Biological Psychiatry
  • Lakshmi Yatham and Dr. Raymond Lam named among the global Highly Cited Researchers for 2020 by Clarivate Analytics
  • Lakshmi Yatham and Dr. Raymond Lam elected as Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences

(Please accept my apologies if I have missed any other members’ major achievements).
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As well, this year we were all saddened to learn about the passing of Ms. Corinne Carpenter, who was a member of our Psychiatry administration team for many years until 2019. We also mourned the loss of our dear colleague and friend, the preeminent researcher and Professor at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the University of Calgary, Dr. Glenda MacQueen.
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In closing, I wish to once again thank all of you for your incredible contributions over the course of the year. I especially want to thank each of our Associate Heads, Dr. Sophia Frangou, Dr. Anson Koo, Dr. Raymond Lam, and Dr. Paul Dagg, for the significant roles they have played in supporting the Department and its strategic objectives.  The last twelve months have not been easy, but as the COVID-19 vaccine holds promise in stemming the pandemic in Canada and around the world, I am optimistic for brighter days ahead.  In my role as your Department Head, I look forward to working with you all as we achieve our lofty goals for 2021, and in the meantime, I will be counting on each of you for your continued support and perseverance.

I wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!

Sincerely,

 

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