Dr. Marilyn Baetz (MD) is the new interim dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan (USask).
Dr. Marilyn Baetz (MD) is the new interim dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). (Photo: David Stobbe)

Baetz brings loyalty and experience as College of Medicine interim dean

With the start of the new year, Dr. Marilyn Baetz (MD) became interim dean of the University of Saskatchewan (USask) College of Medicine for a one-year term, or until a new dean is appointed.

By Kate Blau

She is the first woman to be dean of medicine at USask, and only the second psychiatrist. In fact, she was a student in the medical doctor program when the last psychiatrist, Dr. Ian McDonald (MD), was dean, and received her degree—as well as the Lindsey gold medal for top of her class—from him onstage at USask convocation in 1993.

Hers is a Saskatchewan story. She grew up on a farm near the Gardiner Dam and Danielson Provincial Park, where life included helping with seeding, harvest, gardening, animals, and other farm chores. She attended school in Strongfield and then Loreburn. 

“Small town community activities were part of growing up. It was certainly a different life. Most kids would have stayed on the farm or left for a couple years and then come back. No one had ever been a doctor from those communities, so it was never even seen as a possibility.”

It was only after completing a Bachelor of Science degree with great distinction at USask and then working as a hospital dietician that Baetz realized she could become a doctor. She completed her medical degree and residency in psychiatry, both also at USask. She made her career as a psychiatrist and academic based in Saskatoon, and is known widely in the province as a leader, dedicated mentor, and strong researcher.

She’s excited for the new opportunity as interim dean and the challenges it presents.

“This is not going to be about maintaining a status quo,” she said. “We’re on a huge trajectory of growth and I want to keep that going. There are research positions to fill. The new physician assistant program is in development. There’s a pressing need to grow in rural Saskatchewan and potential site expansions related to that. So it’s really important to keep moving forward.”

She also identifies the need for the college to keep advancing on its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, and sees the college offering opportunities for qualified people from a broad range of backgrounds. She would like to see more women in leadership and more Indigenous and rural learners, graduates, and members of faculty and staff. Workforce wellness is also a priority for Baetz, which she is particularly aware of as a physician.

“We’re over capacity in the health care system. These people are also our teachers, and this is the teaching ground for our learners. All of our faculty and staff are so important for our college. I want to see our staff proud and our faculty engaged.”

Baetz took on the interim dean role from a deep sense of loyalty to the college and university. It was the same reason she stepped into the position of provincial department head in psychiatry in 2010. From there, in 2019, she became the college’s vice-dean of faculty engagement. Here too she demonstrated her loyalty to the college and a deep understanding of faculty issues and perspectives. And in 2023 an interim dean was sought for the college, with the departure of Dr. Preston Smith (MD).

“There was a need, and I think I have the skillset,” she said. “As vice-dean, I’ve worked with faculty across the province. I’ve taught and mentored our learners. I know the issues. I’m rural Saskatchewan, and I’m loyal to the province and college. I feel a really strong commitment to keeping the great progress this college has made during Preston’s time as dean continuing and growing.”

A psychiatrist for 25 years, she has trained numerous undergraduate students and residents in psychiatry. She served on the Senior Leadership Council for the College of Medicine, and contributed to The Way Forward blueprint—an extensive renewal plan for the college—as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Committee. Her research interests include mood and anxiety disorders, with a special interest in maternal mental health, and she earned an international Templeton Award as one of the first researchers in Canada to examine the role of spirituality in mental health.

Additionally, Baetz is a Canadian Certified Physician Executive and a board member of the Canadian Society of Physician Leaders and the Royal University Hospital Foundation. She served on the Senior Leadership Team for the former Saskatoon Health Region, and the Physician Advisory Transition Team for the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Her hopes for the future of the college include seeing every physician in the province join its faculty and  more medical learners trained here staying here. Over many years, Baetz has served as a significant linchpin between the college and the health care system. She has a deep understanding of each based on her extensive experience and involvement in both. It positions her well to lead the continued progress of the College of Medicine.

“There’s such a great need for growth and continuity. I see that I can fill a gap and ensure we don’t have a loss of momentum.”

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