Welcome to the new academic year

A message from Dermot Kelleher, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and Vice-President, Health, UBC.

Students walking under autumn leaves on campus

The cycle of life: Every year — as the leaves turn brown and start to fall, and as we mentally prepare for winter — we embrace the rejuvenation of our institution, welcoming new and familiar faces to the Faculty of Medicine. It’s one of the joys of the start of the school year, and this September there are more new faces than ever before.

In late August, we welcomed the largest-ever MD class, with 306 students arriving far and wide from around B.C. and Canada. We also welcomed back our largest cohort of new and returning students across the health professions, with important implications for better health in B.C. and beyond.

Many of our learners share their thoughts in the Back to School feature on our website. It is wonderful to read their stories, particularly how they are motivated by a real desire to serve and support people in need and also by their appreciation of the culture of the environments in which they learn and will deliver care — and their love of British Columbia!

First-year resident and MSc student Dr. G.B. Olarewaju describes the Faculty’s “commitment to improving access and equity for marginalized folks” as an important reason he chose to stay at UBC for his postgraduate residency in Public Health and Preventative Medicine. Other learners highlight the Faculty’s culture of innovation in research, commitment to patient-centred care, and the supportive and collaborative learning environment fostered by their preceptors, fellow students and residents as vital factors for choosing UBC.

These thoughts clearly remind us of two critical commitments within the Faculty’s strategic plan: our contract with society, and our contract with ourselves, towards the creation of safe, respectful and equitable learning environments. These two commitments are fundamental to our inclusive academic excellence and are helping to transform the Faculty of Medicine into one of the top medical schools in the world. We cannot lose sight of the importance of our culture and values in this mission. They are integral to all that we do.

Our community’s response to the Okanagan wildfires in August is just the most recent example of our culture in action. The fires illustrated how vulnerable we can be to climate change, which has so dramatically impacted us here in B.C. in recent years. It was inspiring to witness how quickly and selflessly so many of our faculty, staff, and learners responded with words of compassion and offers of support, even as many of you were yourselves directly affected by the fires.

Of course, the wildfires are also a reminder of the continued urgency of our work as we strive to future-proof health in a changing climate — beginning, of course, with the most vulnerable populations. You will find some powerful examples of this work in the latest issue of Pathways, the Faculty of Medicine magazine. Each and every story is a potent reminder of how much more there is to do to safeguard our collective health in this changing world.

Speaking of inclusive excellence, I would also like to highlight the ingenuity and hard work that has gone into creating Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH) here at UBC. Earlier this year, UBC was designated as one of Canada’s five bio-innovation hubs, bringing together a coalition of partners to accelerate the development and manufacturing of lifesaving medicines for B.C. and Canada — with the ultimate goal of establishing a seamless therapeutic development pipeline that will enable Canada to respond to future pandemics and other health challenges quickly, equitably and effectively.

I’m pleased to share that, thanks in no small part to the herculean efforts of our researchers, learners, staff and partners, CIEBH submitted a suite of 17 major proposals to the Government of Canada to fund this important work. We’ll find out the results of the funding competition in early 2024 — we promise to keep you posted.

Ultimately, our culture begins with our sense of who we are, our purpose, our mission, and our collective belief in our core values. As we enter the 2023/24 school year, I’m proud of the extraordinary things we continue to accomplish as a community of scientists, educators, learners and staff, and I’m inspired by all of the new and returning faces whom I know will continue to transform the Faculty of Medicine for the better — and in doing so, transform health for everyone in B.C. and beyond.

Best wishes in the year ahead!

This message was sent to all faculty, staff and learners in the Faculty of Medicine.