College of Medicine to prepare alternate renewal plan

With an agreement in place to allow faculty more say in restructuring the College of Medicine, University Council voted Sept. 20 to reverse its earlier decision to support imposition of a three-division model intended to solve some pressing issues within the college.

By Colleen MacPherson
Council was forced to reconsider its May 17 decision to support the restructuring concept by a motion passed at a special meeting of the General Academic Assembly Sept. 6. But before the Sept. 20 meeting, an agreement was reached to give the college's Dean's Advisory Committee the opportunity to present an alternative plan. Brokered by the president with representatives from Council, the college faculty council, the acting dean of medicine and the provost's office, the agreement stipulates an alternate restructuring plan must address accreditation concerns within one year, rebalance teaching, research and clinical responsibilities over five years, define how success will be measured, and not require any additional resources from the university.

An alternate restructuring plan must also be presented to Council for approval at its Dec. 20 meeting.

The original changes proposed for the college were designed to deal with accreditation issues around the assignment of and accountability for teaching within the college, its lagging research performance and to clarify the delivery of clinical service in the health region.

In light of the agreement, speaker after speaker withdrew support for the motion just as it appeared before Council on May 17. Among them was President Ilene Busch-Vishniac. Although she admitted to having misgivings about allowing faculty to restructure themselves, "I value as a fundamental principle shared faculty governance" and said she sees the new agreement as a way to overcome faculty feeling like restructuring is being imposed on the college.

"I'm shocked and embarrassed by our situation," she went on, pointing out that accreditation represents minimum acceptable standards "and we've been warned that we might not clear that bar. To lose accreditation would be to tell the world to avoid our (medical) school.

"We must move to a more conventional medical school model," she said, reminding Council that should the alternate plan prepared within the college not meet the requirements of the agreement, the university will again support the three-division concept.

"One thing we don't have," said Busch-Vishniac, "is the option for the status quo."

Bob Tyler, chair of Council's Planning and Priorities Committee which in May recommended support of the restructuring concept, said he would now vote against the motion to "allow the college to focus its full attention on crafting an alternative plan." Provost Brett Fairbairn, who seconded the original motion May 17, said he too would change his vote, adding that "taking the motion off the books is the best way to give the college the space it needs" to develop a new plan.

Lou Qualtiere, acting dean of medicine, said voting down the motion was a "unique opportunity to break the stalemate" between faculty and the university, but "the mission ahead for the college is going to be difficult. Many changes will involve individual faculty members' personal situations" but he expressed confidence an acceptable plan can be developed.

Dr. Tom Wilson, chair of the college faculty council, encouraged Council to "remove the constraints of the three-division model" to allow for a plan "that will accomplish the president's objectives." Faculty council will meet Nov. 21 to review reports from nine working groups already active in the college, and again Nov. 28. The president has been invited to that meeting, he said, "and I hope it will be a love-in."

Although not a member of Council, Dr. Vernon Hoeppner, head of the Department of Medicine, addressed the meeting to report faculty interest in participating in college renewal has risen 10-fold in his department with the announcement of the agreement. "As clinicians, we're encouraged when sick patients improve with proper treatment, and the patients are pleased too," he said. "I hope Council supports continuing effective treatment."

Speaking after Council voted to reverse its May 17 decision, Vice-Chair John Rigby described it as a watershed moment for the university which now should have only
one objective—to determine "how we can make the University of Saskatchewan a better place today than it was yesterday, how we can make it a better place tomorrow than it is today, and how we can help the College of Medicine to be part of that growth."

More information is available on the College of Medicine renewal website