By Judy Aitken
Posted February 5, 2008
"We have a short but rich history," says Dr. Tom Feasby, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.
"You represent that history and you are the reason we are here today - creating the future of health," he told the founders who attended a reception in their honour on January 23.
Prior to accepting their first class of 32 medical students in 1970, approximately 40 founding faculty members spent three years establishing the medical school. 27 attended the reception last week.
Dr. Bill Cochrane, founding Dean of the UC Faculty of Medicine says, "Although the University of Calgary will not consider the medical school 40 years old until 2010, it is important to recognize the background work that was done between 1967 and 1970."
Challenging the traditional model
During the late 60's, Cochrane and a few of his colleagues felt a need to change the direction of medical education. They worked toward developing a less traditional model for a medical school - one with a three-year curriculum. Changes in the curriculum included teaching "systems" rather than specific disciplines (for example, teaching the cardio pulmonary system rather than anatomy), early patient exposure and emphasizing family practice. New recruits had to "buy-in" to this new program or philosophy.
"In 1969, Calgary was ‘off the beaten track,"" says Cochrane. "It was not as easy to recruit faculty then as it is now."
The founders left tenured positions and funded research all over North America to be part of establishing Calgary's medical school. The Faculty moved five times before arriving in their permanent location, the Health Sciences Centre. They had no long-term budget and Cochrane says that in the beginning, there was a certain amount of ambivalence towards establishing a medical school in Calgary.
Medical students grateful for the legacy
Meira Louis, a second-year medical student and president of the Calgary Medical Students Association, was on-hand at the reception to thank the founders on behalf of the students.
"You've left us with an amazing legacy. We are grateful for the medical school that you established."
Louis noted that a sense of honouring the past is an important aspect of the medical school culture. She cited the naming of each new class of medical students after an animal by the previous class as an example of a tradition that was established in 1975 and is still going strong.
A thriving medical school
Dean Feasby noted that the UCalgary Faculty of Medicine has grown considerably since it was founded, currently accepting 135 students and 17 international ones, five times as many medical students as in 1970.
"We have six educational programs now serving approximately 2000 students," he told the founders at the reception. "The medical school that you created is thriving and we are ambitious to reach higher goals."
"We stand on your shoulders to see the future."
About the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary
The U of C's Faculty of Medicine is a national leader in health research with an international reputation for excellence and innovation in health care research, education and delivery. Through its educational programs, the Faculty of Medicine trains the physicians and scientists who will lead the next generation of health practitioners. Through its clinical work, continuing medical education programs, and close relationship with the Calgary Health Region, the Faculty of Medicine moves new treatments and diagnostic techniques from the laboratory bench to the hospital bedside efficiently and effectively, improving patient care.
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