November 28, 2008
A proposed governance structure for the Academic Health Sciences (AHS) project is wending its way through the consultation process as the university prepares to enter a new era of interprofessional and interdisciplinary education and research in the health sciences.
For Dr. Gerry Uswak, dean of dentistry and chair of the health sciences deans’ committee, the proposed Council of Health Sciences Deans and its supporting structures represents “leadership in health care and the health sciences for the future, and for the province. It’s about making effective decisions in a timely manner, and about ensuring the health sciences colleges work together to create the best education experience for our respective students in an interdisciplinary way.”
Uswak said the new structure does not create a single super college that encompasses all the existing health science colleges – dentistry, kinesiology, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and nutrition, and veterinary medicine. “We’re not blending everything and everyone into one college,” he said. Each will remain an autonomous entity. Rather, the proposed governance model will oversee health sciences activities, resource allocation and academic programming in areas of shared interest relating to education and research.
And because the colleges will be occupying and using the AHS centre, now under construction, Uswak said a new governance structure “was needed to address how we work together in the physical space.”
The existing deans’ committee has been around for some 25 years but its role has been passive, said Uswak, serving largely as a vehicle for information sharing between colleges. “When it came to making decisions, it fell back to each individual college.” The proposed deans’ council, which will also include the provost, will be more “robust,” he said, with the ability to “bring the collective weight of all the colleges to areas and functions of shared interest. It’s about finding the issues, areas and battles that the collective can add credence to.”
A draft white paper describing the proposed governance model has been made available in the health sciences colleges, and summaries of the proposal have been sent to faculty, staff and students.
In addition to the deans’ council, the new structure would include a Health Sciences Advisory Committee made up of deans and representatives of health science interests across campus like the director of the School of Public Health, the dean of the College of Arts and Science and the head of the Health Sciences Library. Reporting directly to the council would be an interprofessional health sciences officer and a health sciences chief operating officer. There would also be standing or ad hoc committees in areas of particular interest like aboriginal health or clinical education.
Uswak said the white paper “is the roadmap to where we want to go” with the next step being the development of an actual model and business plan. And time is of the essence— “we’re already making decisions for several years down the road so the sooner the structure is in place the better.”
The deans’ committee is looking for feedback on its proposal and Uswak said he hopes the governance model and business plan can be ready by February. And he believes it is incumbent on everyone to know how the governance of health sciences will work in the future.
“If I’m a professor or a student in a particular college, my life is not going to change significantly with this new structure. The students who are in the colleges now will graduate before the AHS building is complete but as health care professional, they will be stakeholders in the system. They will be our next set of leaders. For faculty and staff, you need to understand how this interdisiciplinary approach is going to make the health care system so much more responsive to the needs of the people of Saskatchewan.”