Dear Dal Community,
As we approach the last few steps toward finalizing Dalhousie’s next strategic plan (more on this soon), I have been giving a great deal of thought to Dalhousie’s responsibility to engage, connect with, and support our communities. As a civic university, we have an obligation to promote the economic development and social vitality of our region through our research, scholarship, and partnerships.
While our civic role is broad, given the current circumstances, public health and reducing health disparities have been top of mind for the past year. As the only U15 university in Atlantic Canada, we are uniquely equipped and positioned to collaborate to truly make an impact in the health outcomes of Nova Scotians. While there are many examples of how we do so, I will share a few timely initiatives below to illustrate my point.
First, my wife, Rani, and I recently had the opportunity to tour the Faculty of Dentistry’s Government Assisted Populations (GAP) Clinic. The GAP clinic serves Nova Scotia’s immigrant and refugee population, which has historically had less access to and faces barriers to accessing quality oral healthcare. We were deeply impressed with the caliber of work happening at the clinic to expand access to oral healthcare services for this vulnerable population, made possible by the Faculty’s efforts combined with generous support from the alumna, donor and dedicated volunteer Susan Keating-Bekkers.
Close to 500 patients have received treatment through the GAP Clinic, while providing more than 260 dental hygiene students and more than 160 dentistry students invaluable experience that will continue to serve them throughout their careers. This is just one of approximately 18 different outreach initiatives run by the Faculty of Dentistry.
Another timely example of Dalhousie’s community engagement to further the health of Nova Scotians involves our work to support the province’s early COVID-19 vaccination efforts. In December, with the quick cooperation of our Faculty of Medicine, under the leadership of associate dean of research Dr. Roger McLeod, we were able to store the first doses of the vaccine arriving in Nova Scotia in ultra-cold freezers in our Life Sciences Research Institute and help enable the first vaccine clinic in the province, which then served Nova Scotians for four months.
Similarly, in March, we loaned hundreds of tables and chairs, typically used this time of year for in-person exams, to Nova Scotia Public Health to set up a temporary vaccine clinic in Dartmouth. This relatively small act of coordination on our part helped Public Health roll out vaccines more quickly and cost effectively.
The examples above highlight just a tiny fraction of the ways we collaborate to bolster the health of Nova Scotians. Across our Faculties and campuses, we are also working to engage and strengthen our communities in a myriad of other ways. As we move ahead in our third century, we will embrace our obligation ever more to continue to innovate and partner strategically to drive positive change in our province, our region, and beyond.