The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

U of S med school put on probation

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Students need not worry, the doors to the College of Medicine will remain open despite the handing down of probationary status from accreditors.
Students need not worry, the doors to the College of Medicine will remain open despite the handing down of probationary status from accreditors.

SASKATOON (CUP) — The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine has been put on probation for a second time, as anticipated by the university’s president.

U of S President Ilene Busch-Vishniac said the implementation plan the university has come up with to remedy its accreditation issues fully took into account what the accrediting committees have been discussing.

“The reality is that we were well aware that there were issues that were problematic for accreditation. We are not surprised by the decision that has come down,” Busch-Vishniac said.

On Oct. 4, the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools/Liaison Committee on Medical Education (CACMS/LCME) informed the college that the Undergraduate Medical Education program will be placed on “Accreditation with Probation.”

The College of Medicine is Saskatchewan’s only medical school and is the first in Canada to be put on probation twice.

Busch-Vishniac assured the campus community in an Oct. 4 press release that despite the status of probation, the college is still accredited.

“Our College of Medicine remains fully accredited,” Busch-Vishniac wrote. “Restructuring  the medical college has been my top priority since arriving, and this latest development makes it even clearer that the restructuring of the College of Medicine remains a most critical priority.”

A medical school or program that has its accreditation withdrawn or is put on probation by the LCME must inform all students that are seeking enrolment, have accepted enrolment and that are currently enrolled. While on probation, programs are subject to withdrawal of their accreditation if the issues of noncompliance are not addressed within a period of 24 months.

Dan Hunt, co-secretary and senior director of accreditation services for the Association of American Medical Colleges, said that probation will not have any direct negative effects on students or graduates.

Students “will be graduating from a fully accredited medical school that happens to be on probation. They have every other right that every other Canadian and U.S. student has that has LCME accreditation. They’ll be recognized as coming from an LCME-accredited school, albeit one on probation, but a fully accredited status so they have all the rights and privileges.”

However, Hunt said withdrawal of a school’s accreditation is an extremely negative and rare event.

“It is probably reasonable to note that in the 75-year existence of the LCME there has never been a withdrawal of accreditation from an existing school,” Hunt said.

The College of Medicine has been dealing with issues of accreditation since 2002, when it was put on probation until 2006 for reasons such as outdated curriculum and lack of student diversity.

Since March of 2011, the college has been working on correcting 10 shortcomings that the CACMS said would need to be rectified if the college wished to maintain its accreditation.

Of the 10 issues, the arrangement of teaching duties, clinical rotations, inadequate study space at the satellite campus in Regina and the timeframe in which students received their final grades were all major concerns.

At that time, the college was given until early 2013 to rectify all of the outstanding issues or it would have been put on probation.

In March of this year, accreditors returned to the U of S to re-evaluate the College of Medicine’s progress.

The college has been dealing with a great imbalance between clinical work and research. This March, the Sheaf reported that Busch-Vishniac said that nearly 100 of the college’s nearly 250 faculty members are working solely on their clinical practice.

These faculty members are not teaching or doing research.

As a result, the College of Medicine is averaging only eight per cent of the university’s total research — other Canadian medical colleges average 50 per cent of their institution’s total research.

“Over the last year it has become abundantly clear to us that the problems we face in the college are structural, not a result of insufficient funding,” Busch-Vishniac wrote in the press release. “The College of Medicine was founded 60 years ago on a model that simply does not work for our medical school today.”

As for the near future, Busch-Vishniac said that additional efforts will be put into maintaining the College of Medicine’s accreditation.

“What we can do is do everything in our power to act upon what we know have been raised as issues in the recent past, and that is what we’re doing with the implementation plan,” Busch-Vishniac said.

“It is important for the students to hear that we are absolutely committed to turning this situation around and that we remain accredited. We will not be losing our accreditation. We can not let that happen.”

The status of “Accreditation with Probation” will not affect the day-to-day operations of the college, nor will students graduating this year need to worry about graduating from an unaccredited institution.

A finalized implementation plan for the College of Medicine will be presented to University Council on Oct. 24, where Busch-Vishniac said there will be full discussion about the college’s current probationary status.

The Student Medical Society of Saskatchewan — the representative body for students in the College of Medicine — issued a press release on Oct. 7 in which it stated that it will continue its heavy involvement in addressing the issues that led to the college’s probationary status. However, the SMSS will not take the status of probation lightly.

“As the representative body for medical students, the SMSS is taking the status of probation very seriously,” the SMSS stated. “We recognize the impact that this has on the community, the university and the province as a whole. However, we hope the probation will not be viewed solely as a negative outcome but rather as a catalyst for positive change.”

A third-year nursing student at the U of S who has applied for the College of Medicine said that the status of probation with accreditation is a definite deterrent to re-applying.

“I’ve always wanted to go to the U of S [College of Medicine] and it has actually turned me off of it quite a bit,” said the student, who wished to remain anonymous as to not affect the application process. “I have a few friends who are in first, second and third year and they are telling me to apply elsewhere around Canada or even in Europe.”

The student cites complaints of lack of direction given from professors and a shortage of faculty members as two reasons why their friends “haven’t had a great med school experience.”


Photo: Jordan Dumba/Photo Editor

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