This fall, the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine will have a full accreditation site visit, after being taken off probation in 2015. Since then, the college has continued to work on major improvements, including a new curriculum for undergraduate students.
Accreditation is an eight-year cycle in which the college undergoes an evaluation based on several standards for educational quality. In 2013, the College of Medicine received a follow-up visit and was subsequently put on probation because of 12 areas that still needed to be improved upon, relating to overall structure, faculty engagement and the curriculum.
Dr. Preston Smith, Dean of the College of Medicine, discusses how the college managed to address all of the concerns brought up in the 2013 site visit by 2015.
“Rather than just look at what’s wrong with accreditation, the college stepped back and looked at what’s wrong with the big picture. We wanted to fix the big picture rather than just plugging the holes,” Smith said.
The faculty structure is a major change that has been addressed, and Smith believes that this will be helpful in maintaining accreditation in the fall.
“One of the big things about accreditation in 2013 was the [concern] about the faculty structure and the way the college was organized,” Smith said. “What we’ve done is create a new structure, where the doctors are appointed by the university to work at the College of Medicine and they’re all on an equal status; there’s no two-tier system. This has allowed us to get more doctors engaged with the college.”
Overall, there are about 1,400 doctors in Saskatchewan. Smith explains that in 2014, there were 130 doctors working with the College of Medicine. Going into the fall accreditation visit, there are now 250 doctors working with the college.
“The big difference going into accreditation now is we’ve got a faculty structure that welcomes all doctors in the province to be engaged and active in our college,” Smith said. “We value all of them, and that has resulted in us engaging with almost twice as many doctors as just three years ago.”
Throughout the two probation years, the college continued to graduate 80 doctors every year, and Smith is confident that each student received the education they will need in order to succeed, despite the challenges the college was facing.
Smith explains that, besides improving the faculty structure, one of the major changes that the college has been working on is a new curriculum that will be implemented for fourth-year students this coming fall.
“We have a brand-new curriculum, which we introduced in 2014, so this year is the first group of students who will get the new fourth-year curriculum,” Smith said. “That’s a big change that we have rolled out, and [it] will be a big improvement for this accreditation.”
Smith discusses how, despite its shortcomings in the past, the college has many strengths, such as its high number of Indigenous graduates.
“We have a history of being a socially accountable medical school and being responsive to our communities, and connected to that is our service to our Indigenous communities and the number of Indigenous graduates, so that is going to help us a lot with our accreditation,” Smith said.
Even with the provincial budget cuts, Smith is confident that the college will receive enough funding to run the programs at the level necessary to maintain accreditation.
“Currently, the money from the province and the money from the university itself is providing the college with the money it needs to run its programs,” Smith said. “I have every confidence that we will have the money we need to run the programs at the College of Medicine.”
Smith explains that maintaining accreditation is the goal for this coming fall but that the College of Medicine will continue to improve on its programs even after the upcoming site visit.
“Accreditation is a minimum standard; it’s not what we aspire to be. We aspire to be a great medical school.”
Graphic: Lesia Karalash/Graphics Editor