Each year I have the great pleasure of welcoming our new students. Yesterday, I greeted the Class of 2015 in Rehabilitation Science. These talented 160 individuals are training to be a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or rehabilitation scientist. Here is what I said to them.
It was exactly 40 years ago today that I started my first day at medical school. I remember it well. It involved some laughter when Phil Gold, a now famous immunologist told our class that we had all made our mother’s very happy. Dr. Gold also said he had good news and some bad news. The good news was that we were about to receive an exceptional education worth about a million dollars. The bad news – that training would be delivered a nickel at a time.
Just over three years ago, I started my first day at Queen’s, as the dean of health sciences. Believe it or not: I think there are some parallels to your day one.
You see, like many of you, my wife Cheryl and I made the move to Kingston from another city – we leased a condo – had to set up a new home; we had to deal with an incredibly grumpy dog who hated Kingston; said goodbye to some old friends and colleagues; had to start working with many new colleagues; finding out where stuff is located – new city, new university.
Is this starting to sound familiar?
During that first week, my orientation involved meeting about 100 people, reading 30 or 40 massive documents, sifting through 200 emails. I likened this experience in my very first blog to drinking from a fire hose!
Let me also tell you something else about, day one and week one: I was restless! I couldn’t wait to get going to make some progress on the goals I had set out for myself and for this Faculty.
Does this also sound familiar?
The pathway to becoming a practicing rehabilitation therapist is going to be a challenging journey, no question. And yes, you are going to have your fair share of “firehose” moments too. But keep in mind healthcare professions are the most rewarding there are and for most of you, the next two years will be transformative.
Galileo once said, “You cannot teach a man (woman) anything. You can only help him (her) to discover it within himself (herself).” I think Galileo’s words will ring true for you in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy.
We are very excited for what you, the class of 2015, are going to discover in the coming years. First off: your classmates – they are going to become your colleagues, and from what I have seen in my three years as dean: like family.
I have visited and lectured at universities around the world. Nowhere have I seen as tight-knit a community of students and faculty as at Queen’s University.
So let me tell you a bit more about what this all means…
Vice-Dean and school director Dr. Marcia Finlayson and a large and strong team of therapists and educators have worked continuously to build a training experience for you that is built on up-to-the-minute principles of competency, professionalism and skills development that I could scarcely have imagined when I trained many years ago: I must admit, I am a bit envious.
In my day, students would sit for hours in a lecture theatre at times trying to stay awake while being grilled by a veteran doctor or professor. An acceptable way for a dean to welcome a new class, maybe, but not the best way to educate.
Now, you will do independent study; work in small teams with your classmates, learn to communicate inter-professionally, address problems and discover solutions with advanced technology to support you; and the most exciting part…you will do more than a thousand hours of clinical placements.
Together, and this is the transformative part I mentioned, you will discover in yourselves the strength and skill to interpret a patient’s tears and how to offer wise counsel and the empathy to console.
Is there anyone here who might be thinking of a career in research? I hope so, because you are going to have opportunities to bring out that “inner scientist”. You will find there are a large number of research all-stars in the School of Rehabilitation Therapy that you can connect with.
For example, Queen’s is now the epicentre of 26 university partners in the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, “CIMVHR”. Launched a year and half ago, the we are already seeing terrific progress in understanding the complex issue of caring for our military personnel, veterans, and their families. “CIMVHR” is led by a Rehab faculty member and Canadian military veteran, Dr. Alice Aiken.
Another hallmark program in the School is the International Centre for the Advancement of Community Based Rehabilitation “ICACBR”. For more than two decades the Centre has led the international development charge at Queen’s University, serving vulnerable populations in 20 nations including Bolivia, Tanzania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Belize, Uganda, Bangladesh and India.
In the past, there was an unfortunate tendency for the health care professions to live in siloes: doctors in one; nurses in another; and occupational and physiotherapists in another. I can assure you this is not the case here.
We are just over a year into the implementation of a new unified strategic framework and vision for the Faculty of Health Sciences. It is built upon three interconnected pillars involving research, education, and at the foundation, the patient. Our new unified
vision for the faculty is to “ask questions, seek answers, advance care, and inspire change”.
This is all built upon the guiding principal that the success of our three schools, the faculty members, staff, and students like you, are inextricably linked.
Where are you in these three pillars and vision? The quick answer is all of the above. Our education pillar is dedicated to creating novel models of training – which will continue full speed while you are here. I’ve touched on research opportunities – but above all we will be judged ultimately be judged by how well we prepare you to look after our patients and the system that provides for their care.
So I want to challenge you, the class of 2015, to commit yourself to one day standing out in our health care system. You might think “how can I even think about standing out on my first day at Queen’s?” – simple – be restless and let that be your mantra for your time here.
This province and this country will need your expertise. But they also need you to be engaged, and to become leaders in our system. It will be your responsibility to promote and advocate for an efficient health care system, one that delivers superb care to its patients at a cost that we, as a society can sustain. And it will be your responsibility to continue to fight for a system, wherein every patient has access to excellent care that is affordable and equal to all. And finally, it is going to be your responsibility to improve the system by making it safer, fairer, more responsive and more efficient. It’s not some administrator’s or politician’s problem. It’s up to health professionals to take charge, and work hard to effect system change for the benefits of Canadians. It won’t be easy, but as Edward R. Murrow, one the most famous journalists of the last century said, “difficulty is the excuse history never accepts”.
Now before you silently curse your dean for throwing down the gauntlet so soon, rest assured that using everything that I have just talked about, we are going to make sure that you are the best prepared rehabilitation specialists in this country; prepared to take leadership. Our dream is to make you better than us – to prepare you to do something special. Know that I make this promise to you with absolute confidence and commitment
And by the way, three years in, I am happy to report that “drinking from a fire hose” is pretty good. Cheryl and I have become Kingstonians, made great friends, our dog has begrudgingly adjusted, I work with great colleagues and our affection for Queen’s continues to grow. As dean, I would like to think that I have in some ways made a mark at Queen’s. I can tell you that Queen’s University has certainly made a powerful impression on me…one that will remain long after my time here; as it will for you too.
Thank you for the honour of addressing you, the class of 2015, as your dean.