U of A poised to transform health care
The official opening of Edmonton Clinic Health Academy, celebrated this past Wednesday, marks the culmination of years of planning and the dedicated efforts of many. My thanks to Jane Drummond, vice-provost, Health Sciences Council, and the many staff and faculty involved for their hard work and commitment to ECHA. In particular, let me congratulate and thank all of the staff in the offices of the Health Sciences Council, the university architect, and planning and project delivery (Facilities and Operations), whose leadership efforts were instrumental in bringing the project in under budget and on time.
The vision of ECHA is to make the University of Alberta a global leader in inter-professional learning and scholarship. To that end, we have relocated students and faculty from buildings across campus and brought them together to promote both co-ordinated and accidental encounters among disciplines, professions and cultures, and to turn our promise of inter-professional teaching into a reality.
As Martin Ferguson-Pell, dean of Rehabilitation Medicine and chair of the Health Sciences Council, told the audience at the opening, the Discovery Mall within ECHA has been designed to enable faculty and trainees to form collaborative teams to tackle the many challenges we face in health care. We have created unique specialist laboratories, such as the Smart Condo and the Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory, for researchers and clinicians interested in developing teams to tackle new approaches to patient care. We have constructed patient simulators and clinical learning labs equipped with audiovisual control rooms to enable lab sessions to be recorded and student skills critiqued.
With the building now in place, our attention will turn to fulfilling the more ephemeral, but more important, elements of our new vision of health education and research. I expect that the tasks that lie ahead will continue to spark stimulating discussions around the rethinking of disciplinary practices. Challenging yet intellectually interesting work is still to be done in terms of developing more interdisciplinary and inter-professional courses and curricula that include students throughout the health sciences; fostering, enabling and supporting collaborative teaching and research projects; and removing barriers in the system that inadvertently prevent or cripple the pursuit of interdisciplinary work both inside and outside the classroom.
In addition to changes within our academic community, we are developing strategies and avenues to engage with experienced clinicians, health-care administrators and policy-makers outside the academy in new and diverse ways. We now have the capacity to create a forum where their thinking—and ours—can be challenged by new ideas. In future, they can bring problems to the academy—and the academy to them—and solutions can be developed in partnership with our talented professors and trainees.
And, finally, we are now in the enviable and exciting position of becoming leaders in a global movement towards interdisciplinary and inter-professional education and practice. How can we embrace this role to the greatest effect? How can we most productively reach out to international partners and share newfound methods and expertise? I look forward to working with you on these questions and more, as we move into the next stage of providing excellence in health education and research at the U of A.