TransformUS

College of Dentistry Initial Response to the TransformUS Reports, December 9, 2013

Faced with a looming deficit of $44.5M by 2015-16, the UofS Senior Leadership made a daunting decision not to follow the easier path of making across-the-board cuts, which would have left the institution leaner. Instead they selected an inclusive, thorough review, called TransformUS, which encompassed nearly 900 units on campus, to provide the basis to make selective decisions that would leave the University both leaner and stronger.

Today, the University released the Task Force reports. Although they represent a critical stage in this comprehensive review, please note that these reports constitute only one element of the process. They represent recommendations to the President and Senior Leadership of the University. Over the coming weeks and months, further conversations and analyses will take place that will determine the outcomes of these recommendations and identify where cost control measures can be optimally realized. Our feedback and advice will be factored into the decisions that become the eventual implementation plan.

As Acting Dean, I assure all staff, students, alumni and friends of the College that we are taking these assessments very seriously and that we will respond actively and accordingly. On behalf of the College, I will be meeting with President Busch-Vishniac on January 8 and with Provost Fairbairn on February 28 to present your perspectives. In the meantime, please access and read these reports in preparation to participate in developing and documenting our most productive and defensible responses.

The reports, which include an assessment of our three academic programs and eight support services, are now available online: http://words.usask.ca/transformus/reports/. The recommendations will be reviewed with faculty, staff and students as soon as sessions can be arranged. An email to each of you should already be in your Inbox.

A few of the recommendations are of particular concern. But we will avail ourselves of the opportunity to overcome them. We believe that they can be effectively addressed by providing additional information that was not possible during the documentation process and by stepping back from the individual support service or academic program to gain an appreciation of the bigger picture. Ensuring our operations are not compromised by this process over the weeks to come will be a priority. It is important that our employees, our profession and our community are confident in our ability to continue to operate a highly efficient, competent and professional College during this process.

We believe the rankings of our academic programs that suggest we are performing adequately is an underestimation given the calibre of our program and our graduates and the value of their clinical service to the community during their program and to the oral health care of the province upon their graduation. We readily acknowledge a need for enhanced research activity and are already addressing this issue. However, we must find a balance that will not compromise the quality of the clinicians we train.

A few important facts we will be emphasizing over the coming weeks include:

  • We are one of only 10 dental schools in Canada, and currently have the lowest operating budget – both overall and per student;
  • The new University financial model (TABBS) indicates that Dentistry is significantly underfunded. Imagine what we could accomplish with additional resources;
  • Demand for our program and current resources allow us to offer a position to only 1 of every 15 qualified candidates;
  • Faculty practice is not a perk but an integral element of the College:
    • Ensures current practices are taught in the classroom and the clinic,
    • Exposes students to clinical cases they would not otherwise experience,
    • Assures the effectiveness of specialist faculty because they are active clinicians
    • Provides the majority of clinical teaching material for lectures and seminars;
  • About 60% of the College’s annual operating budget is already recovered through tuition (currently among the highest tuitions on campus and in Canada) and other revenue generation such as clinic billings;
  • The College’s academic programming must meet the high standards of CDAC (national accreditation body), the NDEB (national board examiners) and the ACFD (national competencies for beginning dental practitioners). The College is accredited through 2017, with annual reporting;
  • Fewer than 50 FTE faculty and staff (plus substantial mentoring by volunteer local dentists) currently support the entire academic and clinical functions of the College for our 112 students. We are under-staffed relative to other dental programs and cannot function acceptably without these dedicated employees;
  • We financially support and efficiently operate an outpatient dental teaching hospital nearly 40 hours a week and our students attend classes, clinics and examinations for more than 10 months of the year;
  • We provide a RUH-based General Dentist Residency (GPR) program which serves special needs patients, hospital-bound patients, the elderly in Long Term Care homes and dental emergency patients 24 hours a day. In addition, we provide dental care to inner city school children in our on-campus clinic and oral health care to inner city residents at the Saskatoon West Dental clinic.

In the scope of the University-wide review, the College of Dentistry believes that TransformUS will offer opportunities and ideas to help increase collaboration, to find efficiencies and to improve priority initiatives. We recognize our strengths and weaknesses and will move forward to enhance our overall program. We will work within the process, with an uncompromising commitment to service, research and teaching while continuing to graduate competent dentists for our province (more than 80% of Saskatchewan dentists are UofS graduates).

The following comments are from Gerry Uswak, Dean of Dentistry, currently on Administrative Leave who remains involved and invested in the TransformUS process: “ ...the reports of TransformUS have provided us with an opportunity to review and reinvent ourselves, not just from a financial standpoint, but to critically evaluate ourselves, our mission and our outcomes to ultimately develop a model that enhances the education we provide to our graduates, as well as our research productivity. We have all wanted to reinvent the College but the everyday world kept getting in the way. There was insufficient incentive to change. Now we have that incentive. Now more than ever we should dare to be great. The status quo is not an option.”

Please do not hesitate to call me and/or visit the College if you would like more information or wish to provide feedback.

Dr. Ken Sutherland
Acting Dean, Dentistry