Sep 11, 2023

Chair's Column: Looking Back, Moving Forward

We concluded the past academic year with our resident and fellow graduation ceremonies. These were joyous and moving events. This year’s graduates were fondly referred to as the “COVID grads” – residents and fellows who had completed their training amid the chaos of the pandemic. Their families were there to cheer them on, and as per the picture above, it was truly a family affair. Congrats to our graduates, as well as their friends and families, once again. You have done what no other group of trainees has ever had to do, and you have done it magnificently! 

As we once again find ourselves at the end of a too-short Canadian summer, I hope you’ve had the chance to enjoy some well-earned relaxation. I know many of you had an opportunity to catch up with family and friends over the summer months, and for many, this was the first such opportunity since the onset of the global pandemic in March 2020. 

A new academic year is now upon us with our hospitals and clinics buzzing with activity. Meanwhile, new residents, fellows and faculty members are acquainting themselves with their new work environment, and the roles and responsibilities that come with it. Grant deadlines are approaching and the department’s external review is less than a month away (October 2-4, 2023), followed in fairly rapid succession by the re-review of our IM residency training program by the Royal College in November. All to say, there is much to do and change ahead. 

Dean Trevor Young has now completed his term and will start his new post as Provost in January. The search for his successor is underway and I thank those who shared their input with the selection committee through the survey. Additionally, we are witnessing transformative changes to the U of T campus, including the elimination of car traffic around King’s College Circle. I encourage you to go for a walk and see what has emerged. 

Personally, I am in my 10th and final year as Chair. Following the external review, the search for my successor will also begin.

While the past few years have been challenging, preparation for the upcoming external review has served to underscore how remarkable this department truly is. In the face of COVID-19, you continue to excel in your academic and clinical pursuits, to embrace – and champion – diversity and inclusivity, and to lead in your respective disciplines locally, nationally and internationally.   

Since the department’s last review in 2018, we have appointed 554 new faculty members (229 full-time, 71 part-time and 254 adjunct), conducted 199 CFAR reviews and have sent 185 candidates to the decanal committee for senior promotion. Our CFAR and Senior Promotions committees have worked tirelessly to adapt their processes and procedures to make things better for you. As evidence of their success, the “pass” rate at CFAR review is 99%, and at the decanal committee – a perfect 100%. 

We’ve moved the bar for promotion on the basis of sustained excellence in teaching and for our female faculty members. While 25% of female faculty were at the rank of full professor in 2018, the proportion is now 30%. The proportion of senior promotions based on sustained excellence in teaching has increased from 14% (2014-18) to 20% (2019-23) and the proportion of candidates for senior promotion that are CTs has increased from 16% to 25%. There is clearly much more to do, but we appear to be on the right track. 

Led by faculty and learners, innovative training opportunities and pathways for entry have been established to increase the diversity of our learners, and ultimately, the physicians they will become. While the numbers are small, we are finally seeing the impact of these programs. We’ve effectively pushed back on the Royal College regarding implementation of CBD (not the concept of CBD, but the associated costs and unintended consequence on residents and faculty). Change is afoot.    

Despite the pandemic, our researchers were awarded on average $274M in grant support per annum from 2018-22, up from $185M per annum from 2012-17. Over 87% of our publications have been cited, with an average number of citations per publication of 28 – a 270% increase since 2012-17. Your productivity accounts for 38% of the scholarly output from the University of Toronto in the health sciences. The recent ranking by the Lancet of U of T as third globally for research in the health sciences can be clearly linked to this department. 

In addition, mountains have been moved by our GIM division, PICs and hospital colleagues to build capacity for clinical care and respond to concerns regarding learner workload. This includes the CTU redesign, and creation and funding of resident independent in-patient units, hospitalist training programs, hospital medicine teams, a new position description (Academic Clinician) and $2M from the DoM to address the administrative workload on learners across the CTUs.   

We have much to be proud of. Over the next few months, my Chair’s Columns will provide you bite-size summaries of the work that’s been done. While there will always be more to be done, what we have accomplished thus far is far from nothing.

Leadership transition is beneficial. As I’ve alluded to above, it allows us to take stock of what we’ve accomplished and what still needs to be tackled. It brings fresh perspective, different viewpoints and new ideas to the fore to address the challenges we face, and harness the opportunities presented. I am incredibly confident that this department will continue to achieve the impossible, so let’s get to it.