Observations of a new dean
I am delighted to be here at what is not only your first Shingles night, but my first Shingles night. Convocation and get-togethers have provided a chance for me to get to know you as you head off as doctors in the next steps of what will be long and wonderful lives.
I thought I would entitle my address tonight Observations of a new Dean because, as you know, I started just April 5. This will give me an opportunity to share with you some light-hearted and serious comments.
I’ve been calling it sunny St. John’s since I arrived in April! There was that snow storm in April, but I missed that as I was in Halifax for the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges meeting. When I came back to St. John’s the snow had melted and even better yet the largest strike in the province’s history had melted away, which was one of the other things that greeted me as I started as new dean.
The weather here sure is changeable. A couple of weeks ago I took a great long hike south from Cape Spear for the day with a colleague and visiting professor Dr. John Wynn-Jones from Wales. It started off sunny and warm, and soon we were sweating as we hiked along this tremendous, spectacular coastline enjoying the most easterly point in North America. Then the fog rolled in and we put on our mitts and hats and wished we had hats with ear flaps. The hiking trails about town and beyond are just amazing. I look forward to spending a lot of time on them, especially when my wife is able to join me down here along with our dogs.
This seems to permeate the whole town. At the medical school one of the very neat things is that the cafeteria is a melting pot place for staff, faculty, basic science, clinicians, nurses and students. It’s quite remarkable because at most medical schools these things are so divided up there’s little chance for people to meet together like this. One of the other things that I’ve found particularly helpful is the friendliness I’ve been offered through invitations to different people’s houses which is a great opportunity for me to find out why people live where they do out of town, in town, eastside, westside, Gower St., Harbour View, Churchill Square. It was quite a decision where to buy a house. And of course everybody from afar thinks coming to Newfoundland that housing prices are going to be cheap. Well, as I found out, the market here is pretty fast-moving and while it’s not Toronto prices it’s certainly not cheap either. But it’s a great place to be and we’re thrilled that we have a house by Bally Hally Golf course.
When I accepted my position as the dean of medicine at MUN, those who had never been to Newfoundland said, “Oh, why go there? and those that had either lived or visited commented “Aren’t you the lucky one,” and so I am.
I have seen that student and residents who do their medical education training at Memorial graduate with practical skills and knowledge that lets them step right into whatever position they are put in across Canada. I’ve also observed that so much outstanding work is done by Memorials’ graduates and faculty. Examples at this year’s convocation the honorary degree to Dr. Bruce Aylward’s (MUN Med 1985) and chief physician at the World Health Organization in charge of the Global Polio Eradication Program that has seen the number of cases drop from 360,000 in 1988 to fewer than 700 in 2003. Other honorary degrees were given to Drs. Donald Hillman and Elizabeth Hillman, both former professors of pediatrics at Memorial and recipients of the Order of Canada for their international child health and development work. Dr. Proton Rahman, was named by the Globe and Mail’s Report On Business as one of Canada’s top 40 under 40. In Basic Sciences, Dr. Jeffrey Biernaskie, a PhD. graduate this year, was a feature leader in MacLean’s profile of top 25 young researchers. Our MUN graduates make an enormous contribution to the clinical patient care practice here in Newfoundland, including over half of the physicians practicing at the Health Care Corporation in St. John’s who also provide key support to medical practice for all of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I haven’t had much time to get to know you, but I’ve been impressed by your class. I’m impressed by the close support and comradery that is evident in the way you relate to each other and have helped each other through the hard times and enjoyed the good times together. I’m impressed by your hard work and dedication to get to where you are. We know that it is difficult and challenging for anyone to get through medical school. I do know, however, that your training at Memorial will set you up for further successful training and practice, no matter where that is. I’m delighted half of you are coming back here for postgraduate training, and also delighted that half of you are going away to take in further experiences on a broader prospect across the country.
It will be fascinating to follow each of your careers as you progress through your training and into practice because you are the people that will make a difference and the world a better place. Together with you, we will build a healthy tomorrow. We will make the world a better place. We will provide the best health care, do research that makes a difference, and help educate future doctors. In fact, now that you’re doctors, you will almost immediately begin educating medical students.
Medicine and life are full of joys and challenges. In the days and years ahead, many of you will share in the miracle birth, and at times be overwhelmed by the extent of human suffering. Remember that relationships are the heart and soul of humanity. Kindness, friendliness, respect for you patients, your friends and your family, and especially those less fortunate are hallmarks of great people and great doctors.
As you move forward in you lives and careers, To the doctors graduating in 2004, I wish you the greatest of personal and professional success and happiness.