‘This is an amazing opportunity’: In conversation with first female Dean of Health Sciences

Jane Philpott talks possibility of embedded counsellor in School of Nursing

Jane Philpott started her five-year term July 1.
Supplied by Jane Philpott

Ahead of the fall term, Dr. Jane Philpott, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), said she's committed to advancing discovery, harmony, and equity at Queen’s.

Philpott started her five-year term July 1, succeeding Dr. Richard Reznick who held the position for ten years. She's the first woman to hold the position of Dean of the FHS.

“This is an amazing opportunity to work in the Faculty of Health Sciences,” Philpott said in an interview with The Journal. “It’s a place where I can put to use all of the things that I have learned not only as a clinician and a teacher, but as a policy maker.”

In addition to her extensive work in medicine and global health, Philpott was elected as the Member of Parliament for Markham-Stouffville in 2015. She served on the federal cabinet as Minister of Health, Minister of Indigenous Services, President of the Treasury Board, and Minister of Digital Government.

“That breadth of experience, I think, brings an opportunity for new relationships and connections for the Faulty of Health Sciences and ideas that I’ve picked up from across the country,” Philpott said.

READ MORE: Health Science students return to clinical settings

In this role, Philpott will lead the School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the School of Rehabilitation Therapy. She intends to focus on three main goals: advancing research, integrating health systems, and being fair and inclusive.

By promoting discovery through research advancement, Philpott hopes to bring new partners to the University, expand resources, and share the discoveries made at Queen’s across the country.

Philpott also wants to further harmonize medicine by integrating health systems to build on the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization (SEAMO)’s model of cooperation across specialties. As part of her role as Dean of the FHS, Philpott also works as the Chief Executive Officer of SEAMO.

“We are training a range of health professionals, and the more they work together well […] the better we will be able to provide health care,” she said.

In an effort to advance equity in the FHS through fairness and inclusivity, Philpott acknowledged that certain groups, including Indigenous people and Black Canadians, are underrepresented in the health professions. She intends to adapt certain admissions and curriculum processes to ensure the FHS is providing fair access to its programming.

She will also form the Dean’s Action Table on Equity and ensure the faculty and student body are representative of Canada’s diversity. She's currently working with student representatives in the Black Medical Students Association to achieve this goal.

READ MORE: Nursing Society president pushing for embedded counsellor

Philpott said she will continue to work with faculty, staff, and students to ensure everyone in the FHS has access to mental health supports. She is in communication with the Director of the School of Nursing about the possibility of an embedded counsellor for nursing students, a need students brought to her attention.

“It’s certainly an ongoing challenge, and, of course, it’s probably even more accentuated in the context of COVID-19, where it’s no secret that these months of isolation and stress have had, in some cases, a significant impact on people’s mental wellness,” Philpott said, though she didn’t specify what new supports might become available to those in the FHS.

Regarding COVID-19 and remote learning, she said she’s been spending “a lot of [her] time” working with her colleagues to ensure the FHS is properly balancing students’ social and educational needs with their health needs.

“Our big mandate here is about education and about serving the needs of students […] I look forward to meeting them because that’s the very best part of my job,” Philpott said. “I really look forward to working with the fantastic local faculty and staff and students to respond to the most pressing challenges of our time.”

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