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Dr. Alice Aiken: Leading Through Service
Alice Aiken, an Ottawa native, first came to Halifax as a naval officer in the Canadian Forces and later earned a degree in Physical Therapy at Dalhousie. She returned to her city, and her alma mater, in 2016 as dean of the Faculty of Health Professions, with the goal of establishing Dalhousie as a leader in regional and national health care reform.
It may be a lofty goal, but Dr. Aiken believes the Faculty of Health Professions and the province of Nova Scotia are ideally positioned to achieve it.
“(Dalhousie has) a unique Faculty of Health Professions in Canada, because it really encompasses all of the health professions except Medicine and Dentistry – but you get to work closely with them,” says Dr. Aiken of the diverse disciplines united under Dalhousie’s Health Professions banner. “This is an extraordinarily skilled and highly functioning Faculty that is going to lead health care into the future.
“The whole reason I did a PhD was my interest in systems change and systems reform in health care. And Nova Scotia is really leading the country in that. This is a really exciting time in Nova Scotia and this is a Faculty that can inform the government on the way forward and make an impact in that regard.”
Dr. Aiken herself has made an impact in a variety of fields throughout her career. In addition to her military service, she has served as a professor and associate director of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy and head of the Physiotherapy program in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s University.
Dr. Aiken is also a co-founder and, until assuming her role at Dalhousie, the scientific director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research. She also served patients as a physiotherapist in private practice for 12 years.
“My life has been about service,” says Dr. Aiken of the theme that unites her professional endeavours. The concept of service, she says, also drives her approach to leadership.
“I was an officer in the military and received a lot of formal education in leadership,” says Dr. Aiken. “But I believe in the power of the team. It’s about the team and the mission, it’s not about the individual. And I really believe that a leader is there to serve.”
To that end, Dr. Aiken says that supporting the satisfaction and success of faculty members and students is one of her key objectives – and a necessary component of the Faculty of Health Professions achieving its potential as a national health care leader.
“We’ll be successful if the rest of Canada is looking at Nova Scotia and this Faculty and how we did health reform right.”