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

New Medical Dean makes a Positive Prognosis

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

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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