December 20, 2021: A Year End Message from the Department Chair

December 20, 2021: A year-end message from Dr. Anita Palepu, Head, Department of Medicine, UBC

My dear colleagues and friends,

I reread the message I sent at the end of 2020 and reflected on how difficult that year was and how we shared cautious optimism with the promise of vaccines and a better understanding of COVID. Alas, variants of concern such as Delta hit hard in 2021 and now, we must face Omicron. The summer’s heat dome and the recent floods on top of the pandemic inflicted massive suffering to many communities we serve, forcing us to see climate change at our doorstep. Nature can destroy in a matter of seconds, but nothing was more crushing than the reality of the residential school tragedy that came to the surface in British Columbia and throughout Canada. It makes our commitment to action the Truth and Reconciliation recommendation even stronger. Closer to home, some of our colleagues have recently experienced deep personal losses, and we will continue to stand by them.

The UBC Department of Medicine has continued its responsibilities and maintained its committees virtually as it enabled better engagement. However, we do miss seeing one another and recognizing achievements in person. Despite the many challenges and losses, there have been many accomplishments within our 18 divisions that deserve celebration. Also, working with my immediate team and many of you, there have been some tangible accomplishments that I wish to highlight. We have successfully delivered the Experimental Medicine Graduate Program Senate approved Special Topics: course Data Science and Health (MEDI 504), in collaboration with the UBC Department of Statistics. We were also awarded the UBC VPRI Grants to Catalyze Research Clusters Emerging Cluster – Data Science and Health. This has been an exciting research collaboration across the Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Applied Science, and the Faculty of Science. We have made great progress in the 4 initiatives: data assets, data access, data analytics and data literacy. We also submitted a CFI proposal. We were awarded three faculty renewal positions in Data Science, Translational Medicine and Virtual Health. As a Department, the most important accomplishments on a day-to-day basis are our continued excellence in teaching, research, and clinical endeavours.

I reflect on the core value that underpins my leadership, which is gratitude. I am most grateful for your perseverance in these difficult times, your support for one another, your empathy and care for our patients, your dedicated mentoring of our students and trainees, and your commitment to the core principles of equity, diversity and inclusiveness.

In 2020, I had hoped to visit our distributed sites and reach out to you when we develop our Departmental Strategic Plan. We will renew this commitment in 2022. To that end, we have tentatively set aside dates to visit the Northern, Southern, Island programs as well as Vancouver-Fraser, and I am looking forward to it. The Faculty of Medicine has refreshed its strategic plan, and we will build on this. I hope that the site visits can happen so that I can personally connect with the incredible faculty broadly throughout this province. We realize that everyone is exhausted during the pandemic. But together, we will rebuild and reimagine over the next couple of years, establishing the foundation to fully implement our shared vision in the years to come.

I don’t want to close without sharing with you the optimism and hope that I am desperately holding onto. The new year always feels like a fresh start. We need to be firm in our resolve and committed to the effort to keep each other safe and to look out for one another. It seems there could be a finish line in sight and we’ve come so far, so let’s not give up now. Like 2020, 2021 is certainly one that will go down in the books as another remarkable year. I thank you for all you have done to fortify the strength of our incredible community and wish you a peaceful and joyous beginning to 2022.

Anita Palepu, MD, MPH, FRCPC, MACP
Professor and Eric W. Hamber Chair
Head, Department of Medicine
University of British Columbia