‘Considerable gender disparity’ among faculty of medicine leadership, external review says

The underrepresentation of women and other minority groups in the faculty of medicine leadership was highlighted in an external review of the faculty, recently sent to the Vancouver Senate.

In addition to gender disparity, the review team — made up of Dr. David Brenner from UC San Diego Health Sciences, Professor John Iredale from the University of Bristol, Dr. Margaret Steele from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Dr. L. Trevor Young from University of Toronto explored concerns such as graduate students’ mental health and the visibility of the Dean of Medicine, Dr. Dermot Kelleher.

According to the review, the faculty has done “considerable work” to implement equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in their admissions processes, with Indigenous students making up 4.5 per cent of the 2019/2020 entering class and currently 10.3 per cent of the faculty’s undergraduate students.

But the faculty still seems to be “behind” other UBC faculties regarding EDI, the report says. For instance, there are few women in the faculty’s senior leadership roles, despite endeavours to hire early career faculty.

In recognition of EDI pitfalls, the faculty appointed Dr. Maria Hubinette as assistant dean, EDI. The faculty’s report to the Senate states that Hubinette’s first priority is to “develop and implement a comprehensive EDI multi-year strategy.”

“The Faculty is developing a comprehensive data gathering, analysis and evaluation program to set metrics and monitor progress that will include all actions related to our Faculty wide commitment to develop a positive EDI and anti-racist culture,” said Katie White, executive director of communications, in a written statement to The Ubyssey.

White added that the framework of this program will likely be established this spring. It will also contain current and new metrics that will help measure learner mistreatment, which is “the focus of a great deal of attention across the Faculty,” according to the review.

“There is … a lack of dialogue between academic and clinical leaders about mistreatment. It was reported that tenured faculty members are seen as immune from the consequences of unprofessional behaviour,” reported the review.

The review also discussed concerns around graduate education.

“Graduate students had the perception that they pay tuition fees, but they do not see the benefits,” the external review reads. The reviewers noted issues with the health and wellness of graduate students, financial support and advocacy, among others.

The faculty of medicine is planning to launch the Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Wellbeing Strategy this summer in response to the review. The strategy’s initiatives include a new peer mentorship program, virtual coffee chats, collaborative wellbeing engagement student groups and a wellbeing newsletter.

Other than EDI and graduate wellbeing, the review advised stronger communication across the faculty. It suggested greater visibility on the part of the dean as “some [department heads] indicated that the dean is not visible enough.”

In response to this advice, the faculty held vision and value sessions in late 2019 and early 2020, where faculty, staff and students were able to interact with each other as well as with the dean and faculty leadership.

According to White, the sessions helped determine and reinforce the faculty’s five core values: respect, integrity, compassion, collaboration and equity.

Now, the faculty is engaging with its community members by refreshing its strategic plan with their feedback.

“Engagement with our students, staff, faculty and partners will allow us to reflect on our progress, consider our current context and help build on our vision and values for the years to come,” said White.