The landmark initiative is one of the most transformative in the university’s history
Concordia’s Board of Governors has approved the creation of a new School of Health at the university, furthering the transformative health research already underway across all faculties. This bold initiative helps Concordia stand out as a next-generation university, offering integrated opportunities for health-related learning, discovery, innovation and engagement.
Years of research and stakeholder consultation culminated in the Board’s June 16 approval of the framework for a new, interdisciplinary School of Health, first conceived in 2015 as a key recommendation linked to the university’s Double our Research strategic direction.
“We know that institutions without medical schools can make critical contributions to the fields of health, and the Board’s approval brings us one step closer to mobilizing this long-standing vision for Concordia,” says Concordia President Graham Carr.
“The School of Health is an opportunity to make a profound and distinctive contribution in addressing important needs of society through our research, our teaching and training, and our ability to collaborate with external partners. Making a difference and having an impact is what motivates us all every day. This proposal lays the groundwork that will allow us to define and deliver an exciting new mission for health at Concordia.”
Six transdisciplinary clusters under three hubs
The school aims to train the next generation of researchers working at the intersections of disciplines on a range of health-related topics, and represents an important manifestation of Concordia’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It will also allow the university to deepen its relationships with external organizations and partners in the health sector.
Of Concordia’s 25 university-recognized research units, nine are in health or health-related fields, and the proposed School of Health will build on, leverage and enhance the university’s existing base of high-quality and wide-ranging research expertise.
This includes innovative health work in both emerging and established areas by researchers across multiple fields, including scientists, engineers, artists, designers and social scientists, as well as business and humanities researchers.
The new school emerges out of six transdisciplinary clusters identified after extensive consultations: Biomedical Fundamentals, Preventive Health, Health and Technology, Health Policy and Governance, Health and Wellbeing, and Health Interventions.
The clusters will be housed under three transversal hubs that are designed to promote and enhance collaboration across multiple fields. They include a Community Health Hub, Clinical Research and Prevention Hub, and Biomedical Science and Engineering Research Hub. The school will be flexible, adaptive and organic and will enable researchers to collaborate across disciplines.
The school’s goal is to be a leader in community health, core fundamental health sciences and medical technology development. With its structure now approved, the proposal provides a framework for the next stages. This includes the crucial step of developing the school’s mission and vision and appointing interim scientific directors to help guide the process.
Paula Wood-Adams, interim vice-president of research and graduate studies, has been co-leading the initiative with Anne Whitelaw, interim provost and vice-president, academic. Wood-Adams says input from the Concordia community will be invaluable as the university works to focus its substantial expertise in diverse health-related research under one umbrella.
“Research is collaborative, and so too is this process. To really have an impact we are looking to the research community to play an active role in helping shape the mission and vision of the school, and the direction of the hubs,” she says.
“The school will position Concordia to be internationally competitive in the critical and ever-expanding field of health. By coming together, we can help define the future of health practice, policy and research in Quebec and beyond.”
Leveraging existing resources in health research
Defining the mission and vision will also lay the groundwork for the search for a new dean to lead the School of Health. The dean will report to the provost and the vice-president of research and graduate studies, and will leverage Concordia’s diverse expertise and research capabilities, building on the university’s strong history in the health field. This includes building on the staff expertise and infrastructure capacity of the PERFORM Centre and its state-of-the-art research facilities.
With the School of Health aiming to be a global reference point for next-generation approaches to health research and training focused on enhancing the quality of human life and the innovative design of healthy communities, Whitelaw says finding the right person to lead the initiative is both a challenge and an opportunity.
“The Board’s approval is an important milestone that was achieved thanks to the hard work of many, but the work is not done yet,” she notes.
“The search for the right leader to help shape this transformative new initiative now begins. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the process that builds the vision and mission of the School of Health.”
The strong support of the university’s academic leadership team, including the president, provost, vice-president of research and graduate studies, all faculty deans, the dean of graduate studies and the university librarian, is an important impetus behind the School of Health, which has the potential to become one of the most groundbreaking initiatives Concordia has undertaken in its history.