President’s Town Hall: Topics include budget update, rankings, clinical teaching and research intensity
Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2021
On Thursday, February 11, University of Ottawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont hosted a virtual town hall at the Faculty of Medicine, inviting faculty members, staff and learners to ask any questions they wished in an open Q & A session.
He was joined by Jill Scott, provost and vice-president, Academic Affairs; Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, Research; Sanni Yaya, vice-president, International and Francophonie; Jacline Nyman, vice-president, External Relations; along with several other leadership members from central campus and the Faculty of Medicine.
To begin, Mr. Frémont extended a huge thanks to everyone for their commitment to their work during the pandemic, when many are contributing on the front lines of patient care; maintaining teaching and research projects; or ensuring the delivery of critical services.
“You have done outstanding work in the last 11 months despite the drastic changes brought on by COVID-19,” said Mr. Frémont. “I know that this has been a challenging time, particularly with many of your additional responsibilities at the hospitals and finding ways to continue research. You have given 200% and on behalf of the University, I would like to extend our appreciation.”
Mr. Frémont added that equity, diversity and inclusion continue to be major priorities for the University and the Faculty of Medicine, and ongoing efforts will be made to ensure greater representation from minorities and underrepresented groups.
In addition, the Q & A session touched upon the following key topics: budget; university rankings; clinical and research resources; physical space and facilities; and strategic planning for an ambitious future for the Faculty of Medicine.
Budget: managing new challenges during COVID-19
Mr. Frémont announced that the budget landscape continues to be challenging, as there was a shortfall of approximately $40 million over the past year due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, he said a key priority is to remain steadfast in supporting the ambitions of the Faculty of Medicine and its strategic plan that includes for example clinical programs, new research themes and innovations in areas such as new academic programs, artificial intelligence (AI), enrichment of Francophonie and international partnerships.
“In consideration of current budget circumstances, it is still extremely important to prioritize centrally in coordination with the deans of all faculties. The goal is to make the University of Ottawa more competitive, and to support the academic priorities of all faculties,” said Mr. Frémont.
Rankings in medicine and medical sciences
The Faculty of Medicine has recently set an ambitious goal of achieving a ranking among the top 50 universities worldwide for medical sciences and research by our 80th anniversary in 2025. Many attendees asked how the University plans to support this goal and compete as an institution on international rankings. In response, Mr. Frémont and Dr. Charbonneau assured the audience that the University will invest available resources into a proactive strategy to enhance our global reputation.
“Research is the engine for rankings,” added Dr. Charbonneau. “It constitutes nearly 66% of the weight of most ranking metrics and we will definitely be investing in a big way in supporting clinical and academic research intensity to help drive that momentum.”
Physical space and facilities
One of the most significant ways the University is planning to deliver on its priority for Medicine is through space expansion at the Alta Vista campus where Roger Guindon Hall (RGN) is located. Already under discussion is the creation of a new research building to house future programs such as a school of pharmacy, Indigenous health research, and innovations in artificial intelligence.
“We will be renovating RGN and also contributing significant funding to the Faculty of Medicine’s facilities,” said Dr. Charbonneau. “We will make the campus more research intensive as well, with plans to build a new advanced medical research centre.”
Clinical and academic resources
Many members of the Faculty of Medicine stressed the importance of protecting full-time professorial and staffing positions to ensure we remain competitive with other medical programs nationally and internationally. Several questions were posed to uO leadership about how these positions can be retained and also increased in the face of budget constraints and restructuring.
Both Mr. Frémont and Dr. Scott emphasized that the University will do its best to make this a priority. Dr. Scott shared some good news that, overall, the University increased APUO faculty positions by 40% over the past year. There are also plans to continue to increase the number of faculty positions over the next three years. Considering the strengths and contributions of the Faculty of Medicine, the University recognizes its uniqueness and will collaborate to meet mutual goals, she said.
To close this session, Dr. Bernard Jasmin, the dean of Medicine, thanked Mr. Frémont and the University leadership team for their presentation to the Faculty.
“The number of questions asked and the breadth of topics discussed today reflect the richness of our faculty and diversity of all our projects, which includes our clinical affiliates,” said Dr. Jasmin. “There’s a clear enthusiasm at our faculty to work even closer with the central administration at the University to achieve our goals collaboratively.”