Preston Smith was the third candidate to present for the position of dean of the College of Medicine. He pitched his vision for the college come 2020 on Nov. 4, 2013.
Smith graduated from Dalhousie University in 1981 and practiced medicine in Moncton, N.B. for over 20 years. He played a key role in developing the Northumberland Family Medicine Training Program and the Maritime Family Practice Research Network.
In 2009, Smith was asked to be the senior associate dean of medicine at Dalhousie and received his masters of education with a concentration in medical education. He was a key leader in the overhaul of the undergraduate medical education program at the Faculty of Medicine, which launched in 2010 and was instrumental in getting the school off probation.
His research interests include the distributive model of education, the social accountability of colleges of medicine and the learned center of thinking.
Smith’s presentation focussed on where the College of Medicine will be in 2020 and the changes that need to occur to get it there.
“Medical education is actually changing everywhere,” Smith said. “I would argue that your new vision for the College of Medicine is in fact a much bigger change agenda than at any other medical school in the country.”
The many strengths the college has — from its faculty to the network of urban, rural and remote health care to the research centres on campus — shows great potential for Smith.
“My vision, briefly: I’m going to say we can be the best medical school in Canada,” Smith said.
Come 2020, Smith said dichotomies will no longer be barriers to success and will have become valued as part of the college.
“By celebrating our differences and valuing our differences we become much stronger as a school.”
Trust and leadership will have been the driving forces behind the college reaching its goals. Smith said the dean will be the true leader in the College of Medicine becoming the best it can be.
He said the dean must be visible to the college and to its partners, have an open-door policy and be available for faculty and staff. Leading by example through collaborations is key for the dean while excelling at bringing people together and in building consensus. The dean must always be looking to the future, finding new resources, forming new relationships and improving current partnerships. Maintaining the accountability of everyone is important while being able to take responsibility when making hard decisions. The dean will also have to be a relentless driving force in getting everyone to achieve their goals and will reward and celebrate their success.
“No matter where I end up in academic leadership, I hope at the end of the day people say that ‘He did what he said and he said what he did,’” Smith said.
Relentless preservation of the college’s goals and being adaptable to alternate paths toward these goals are the two reasons why Smith sees the college as having a bright future.
Having already dealt with a medical school on probation — Dalhousie’s faculty of medicine was on probation in 2009 but was lifted two years later — Smith said the U of S College of Medicine will be fully accredited in seven years.
“Probation is a bad memory in 2020 — I can assure you. I’ve been there, done that. I know probation can become a bad memory. In 2020, we have built it into our DNA. We’ve got that kind of intense, rigorous internal review that means that we’re always well ahead of [the Liaison Committee on Medical Education] when it comes to accreditation standards.”
Smith said professional learning will be mandatory along with regular assessments for physicians.
“We need to be ready to help our practitioners be ready for in-practice physician assessment”
By 2020, the College of Medicine will have finally become research intensive as it climbs towards its goal of supplying 50 per cent of university’s research funding, Smith said. The college will have detailed management and processes with internal peer review, research mentors, excellent core facilities and all of the tools that researchers need.
“Because we know research is the prime driver of our reputation, we communicate, reward and celebrate research really well,” Smith said.