Changes needed at U of S College of Medicine says analyst

Health policy analyst Steven Lewis says that the restructuring of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine is the first step but much more needs to be done.

Steven Lewis says restructuring first step, but more is needed

A Saskatoon-based health policy analyst says a major restructuring of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine is needed because the quality of the students' education is suffering. 

The college is on probation mainly because there is concern for the teaching program, Steven Lewis said, adding that the way the medical school is structured is the major cause of the problem.

"Parts of it are frankly incomprehensible, but there are some structural problems with the college of medicine that are quite unique here," he told CBC News. 

​ Up to 2/3 of the full-time clinical faculty, who are paid by the university, spend from zero to five per cent of their time teaching, he said. There are a few core faculty members who teach and do research, but most are in the community working as doctors, he said. 

"So you have a few people, a relatively small number of clinicians who actively do research, you have a certain number who spend quite a bit of time teaching, but otherwise, the teaching is pretty much voluntary," he said, adding that some end up teaching anywhere from five to 20 hours per year.

Lewis said another aspect that makes the college's makeup unique is that the medical professors are part of the faculty association, so it makes it one of only two medical schools in the country that are unionized. 

Instead of having those odd hybrids who are called professors and the university owns them, in a formal sense, they should probably be owned by the region.- Steven Lewis, health policy analyst

"I think this has been a long developing problem in that nobody seems to have really been minding the store on the teaching side," he said. 

If they were to start over, Lewis said that they would most likely model the college on other medical schools in Canada. They would have a smaller faculty, and those doctors who are practicing, would get stipends instead of a salary paid by the university and they would be paid by the province or the health region.

"Instead of having those odd hybrids who are called professors and the university owns them, in a formal sense, they should probably be owned by the region," he said. 

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