New Medical Dean makes a Positive Prognosis

UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 10 | Oct.
2, 2003

UBC’s medical school will double in size by 2010

By Hilary Thomson

The new head of one of Canada’s largest medical schools
feels like he’s under a national microscope.

Observing from the other side of the lens are Canada’s
15 other medical schools focused on the outcome of UBC’s
move to double the size of its medical school by 2010 with
education distributed at three sites in the province.

“I like construction projects — making this ambitious
expansion a reality is a big part of what attracted me here,”
says Gavin Stuart, a specialist in gynecological cancers and
the new dean of the Faculty of Medicine. “One of my goals
is to be a part of building the distributed education model
to become a national and international benchmark for medical
education and research.”

Tackling complex projects is nothing new to the third generation
physician who has served as professor and head of the department
of oncology at the University of Calgary, vice-president of
the Alberta Cancer Board and director of Calgary’s Tom
Baker Cancer Centre.

His challenge is to lead UBC’s Faculty of Medicine as
it expands in 2004, with students being educated and trained
at the University of Northern B.C. and the University of Victoria
in addition to the UBC campus. The number of medical students
— who will all graduate with a UBC medical degree — will
double to 256 by 2010. Both Ontario and Quebec have similar
plans for distributed medical education but UBC will be the
first to implement the model.

“UBC is in a leadership position right now and I feel
proud to be part of a faculty with so much talent and so many
innovations already in place. On the research side, we’re
very strong, and on the teaching side students will soon belearning
in an exceptional multidisciplinary environment,” says
Stuart, referring to the construction of a $110-million Life
Sciences Centre at UBC.

The 40,000-square-metre facility is one of only a handful
of Canadian medical schools to provide integrated life sciences
education in disciplines ranging from neuroscience to social
work. It will also serve as a catalyst for life science research
in B.C.

But there may be some squirming under the microscope as Stuart
grapples with issues such as workloads, pace of change, maintaining
research momentum in the face of increased teaching requirements,
and recruiting faculty in a globally competitive market.

He is optimistic, however, that with health education a government
priority at both provincial and federal levels, the time is
right to attract and retain top academics. He acknowledges
that balancing the objectives of the partners, UVIC and UNBC,
in the distributed model will be a significant challenge.

“Creating a true working partnership among three very
different universities in three distinct communities is the
task that lies ahead,” says the 49-year-old University
of Western Ontario alumnus.

Despite the complexities of the model, he feels the payoff
to the health of B.C. residents will be significant. A premise
of the new system is that doctors trained and educated in
their own communities are more likely to practice there, boosting
the number of doctors in rural and underserved areas.

In addition to building the medical education program, Stuart
wants to support further development of research activities,
both within the faculty and across the spectrum of health
sciences investigation at the university.

“We have a lot of talent and research strength here.
Success breeds success, which gives us some exciting opportunities
for growth.”

Although duties as dean will take up most of his time, Stuart
will do some teaching and clinical work. An amateur athlete
with a marathon or two to his credit, he also hopes to explore
some of the running routes in his new