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

Candidate for med school dean presents on innovation

By in News
John Conly is one of three candidates vying for the position of dean of medicine.
John Conly is one of three candidates vying for the position of dean of medicine.

The College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan has been without a permanent dean for over a year. Now looking at the second round of applicants, the Dean Search Committee has shortlisted three candidates.

One of the three candidates, John Conly — a professor from the department of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary,  gave a presentation on his vision for the College of Medicine on Oct. 28.

Conly received his MD from the U of S in 1978 and is a fellow of internal medicine with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. He has been responsible for the largest funding plan for internal medicine at a Canadian medical school and was active with the initiative the Ward of the 21st Century at the U of C — a centre that enables innovation through clinical and research spaces.

Conly has published over 300 papers and is currently focussed on innovations in health care, patient safety and microbial resistance.

Opening with a quote from American economist Ted Levitt, Conly’s presentation focussed on improving the College of Medicine by addressing its strengths and weaknesses while being innovative.

“Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress,” Conly quoted from Levitt.

Conly said the creation of a health sciences research institute will be able to join all areas of the health sciences present at the U of S. Conly said the institute would be able to help the education program of the medical school, however its primary focus would be research.

“It’s a very unique opportunity for collaboration and you can garner this through government and philanthropic sources to build the institute further,” Conly said, adding that the institute would the first of its kind in Canada.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are essential for fresh ideas and research to be done, Conly added.

“As a matrix, I believe it is important to have people congregating across their disciplines because you get very good ideas that come in when you work with other individuals who may think differently than you do,” Conly said.

These collaborations would occur in and out of the health sciences by engaging other programs such as the Edwards School of Business, the College of Engineering  and the departments of anthropology, sociology and computer science. Undergraduates and graduate students will benefit from being exposed to elements that are outside of their chosen discipline.

“They can learn to think outside the box, which is such an important element in today’s research environment,” Conly said.

Establishing an Academic Alternate Relationship Plan for faculty will help lower the reliance on the fee for service health care, Conly said. It will help with funding to maintain teaching mission for faculty and will promote innovation and new models of care delivery.

In order to accomplish his platform, Conly outlined six enablers. They are designing infrastructure, eliminating bureaucracy, establishing multidisciplinary culture, creating innovation roadmaps, establishing academic-business partnerships and engaging in international collaborations.

It is important to liaise with innovative organizations and bring them and their people to the U of S to create an innovative infrastructure for the college, Conly said. The creation of open meeting spaces will bring academics together to share ideas.

To eliminate bureaucracy, Conly stated he would like to ease the communication between the U of S and it’s programs at the University of Regina to create an entrepreneurial corridor between the two largest cities in the province.

“You want the ability to move things throughout your system with ease,” Conly said.

Having a multidisciplinary culture for the College of Medicine, Conly said, is critical for its success in an academic environment. The importance of cross-appointments help numerous departments link with different mindsets.

“I’m not just focussing on business creation, but also the ability to have people hatch new ideas,” Conly said.

To aid with multidisciplinary work, Conly said he would like to see the creation of an interdisciplinary research fund. The college will also be able to increase its total amount of research funding — which is currently below the national averages for medical schools — with the fund.

Innovation roadmaps will be used to help get young researchers started with their projects. Conly said they are used in many countries, such as Switzerland.

Business schools can be used as leverage opportunities to maintain support for contract work, relations with local and provincial governments and to bolster homegrown innovations.

International collaborations are imperative for schools to bring in the best talent from around the world, Conly said.

Photo: Evan Salter

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