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When Review correspondent Nanci Corrigan sat down recently for a conversation with Dr. Richard Reznick, the Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, she quickly discovered he’s anything but your typical academic administrator.
Q. First of all, welcome to Queen’s. How has the adjustment to Kingston and the campus been for you and your family?
A. Thanks. For me, the adjustment has been fairly easy. For my wife, a bit less easy. For our dog, very difficult.
Q. Prior to your arrival at Queen’s, you were Head of the Department of Surgery at the U of T. Queen’s, is one of the smaller medical schools in the province. That must be quite a change for you. Do you find it very different?
A. I’d say that the one of the largest differences is the issue of bench strength. Queen’s has a reasonably-sized medical school with faculty who are active in most areas, but what it doesn’t have is five or six faculty in each area, which means you must rely on the success of one person, rather than the success of many.
Q. Do you think being a smaller medical school offers any particular advantages for Queen’s?
A. There’s no question that student satisfaction is higher and interaction between students and faculty members is more intense. The educational mission tends to be a little more paramount here than in a larger research-intensive university, and the connectivity between Queen’s faculty and alumni tends to be stronger than I’ve seen at other universities.
Q. You’ve been here for a little more than six months now. Have you had a chance to meet many of the faculty? Have you met many students? If so, what are your impressions so far?
A. Before I arrived, I sent out a letter to all faculty inviting them to meet with me. I’ve met with more than a hundred of them so far – for one-on-one chats. I’ve found them to be exceptionally dedicated individuals. They get it, what it means to be a faculty member. It’s important to them.
The largest student engagement activity to date has been with our undergrads. My wife and I are having them over for dinner in groups of 11 at a time, which is a wonderful way to get to know them. They are great evenings, with lively conversations.
Q. You have identified accreditation, research, and fundraising as immediate priorities. Can you elaborate on why you feel these are the most important priorities at this time?
A. The last undergrad accreditation review did not go all that well, and while we’ve managed to deal with some of the problems, there’s still much to do. It’s critical for a medical school to have fully accredited status. I’ve started regular weekly meetings focused solely on accreditation to ensure this happens.
In terms of research, it appears that we’re evolving towards a model where there will be research-intensive universities and non-research universities, with very few, if any, in the middle zone. I would argue that we are at risk of hovering in the middle zone. That’s OK for now, but it won’t be in a few years. Unless we fortify our research, we won’t be able to play in the big leagues.
Fundraising is probably one of the largest roles for a Dean, especially in a publicly funded system where we can’t wait for governments to come up with the funding for innovative initiatives.
Q. Given its size, do you believe Queen’s should be a research-intensive university?
A. Absolutely. I think it would be a big mistake to just be a teaching college, especially given that by some parameters, we’re already there. We’re currently number seven nationally in research intensity on a per-faculty basis.
Q. Given the shortage of family physicians in Canada, do you see a special role for the Faculty of Health Sciences in training family physicians and other health care professionals who will work in community-based programs and preventive health care?
A. We train a lot of family practitioners at Queen’s; it’s our largest residency program. Queen’s has responded to the call for more family doctors, and we’re doing at least our share, if not more. The real problem is physician shortages in very specific areas of the country.
Q. Where would you like to see the Faculty of Health Sciences in 2015, at the end of your (first) five-year term as Dean?
A. I don’t know yet. We’re just about to embark on a strategic planning process, which will help us enunciate our collective goals. Certainly, augmenting our research and fundraising will be important themes, as will a successful accreditation. I’m hoping that the exercise will also identify a couple of bold goals that can be real game-changers for us.
Q. I’ve read your blog on the School of Medicine website at http://meds.queensu.ca. Why did you start the blog and who is your audience?
A. I believe that one of the principal jobs of a leader is to bring people together in discussion and to keep the lines of communication open. My blog is part of that strategy. Sometimes the topics are fun, like talking about my dog. Other times it’s on a very serious topic like MS. To my surprise, the blog been much more popular than I ever thought it would be. It’s getting 3,000–4,000 hits per week. I’ve gotten some great feedback, and so I think the blog is serving its purpose.
Q. In a recent blog, you wrote about your dog’s challenges in moving here and your frustration with his behaviour. Did any of your readers have solutions?
A. They had quite a few – everything from prescriptions for more exercise to buying another dog!
NOTE: Since this interview, Dean Reznick has been obliged to take some time off on a medical leave. In the interim, Dr. Iain Young, Vice-Dean, is filling in as Acting Dean.