Message from interim scientific director

Dr. Christine Friedenreich's July 2020 message to the O'Brien Institute community regarding updates on Institute governance, and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion portfolio

Dear Institute members, affiliates and broader community.

July 1, 2020, is the half-way point in my role as the Interim Scientific Director of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and so it is timely for me to provide the membership with an update on the activities that I have done in this role during the first four months.

My focus during this interim period has been to update and evaluate several aspects of the governance of the Institute. A major accomplishment was several changes that we were able to make to the Strategic Advisory Board (SAB). Besides updating and ratifying the Terms of Reference for the SAB, we also updated, expanded and diversified the members of our Board. I am very pleased to share with you our new Board members:

  • Chair – Gail O’Brien has graciously accepted to be our new Board chair and we thank Chris Seasons for his four years of service in this capacity;
  • Alberta Health – we welcomed Bart Johnson, Executive Director for Research and Innovation to the Board;
  • Alberta Health Services – we thanked Drs. Francois Belanger and Kathryn Todd (both VPs) for their many years of service and welcomed Dr Laura McDougall, Senior Medical Officer for Population, Public and Indigenous Health to the Board;
  • City of Calgary – we welcomed Katie Black, General Manager for Community Services to our Board. She is the first member of the senior leadership team of the City of Calgary to serve on our Board.
  • Office of the Vice-President Research – we welcomed Dr Penny Pexman to our Board and thank Dr Marcello Tonelli for agreeing to remain on the Board as an alternate;
  • Cumming School of Medicine – we thanked Dr Tom Feasby for his eight years on our Board and appreciate that Dr Jon Meddings will remain on the Board with Dr Gerald Zamponi as his designate;
  • Executive Committee Member – Dr Aleem Bharwani has agreed to represent the O’Brien Institute members on our Board;
  • Community members – we thanked Jack Davis and Kevin Hall for their years of service and we welcomed several new members to the Board including:
    • William (Bill) DeJong – Council, Dentons LLP
    • Bonnie DuPont – former Chair, Board of Governors, University of Calgary
    • Julie George – former Chair of the Board, Canadian Federation of Women
    • Candice Goudie – Executive Director, Calgary Flames Foundation
    • Alice Reimer – Site Lead, Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies
  • On-going members on our Board include the following individuals:
    • Lauchlan Currie – CEO and Director, ARC Financial Corp.
    • Gary Jacques – Design engineer, Peloton Resources
    • Webster MacDonald – Partner Emeritus, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
    • Mary Moran – President and CEO, Calgary Economic Development
    • David O’Brien – Naming Donor
    • Chris Seasons – Vice Chair and Director, Investment Committee, ARC Financial Corp.
    • John Sproule – Senior Policy Director, Institute of Health Economics
    • Shirley Turnbull – incoming Chair of our Community Philanthropy committee

Our first meeting of the SAB with these new members was held on June 8, 2020 with considerable engagement and discussion by our Board members. We have created three new sub-committees of the SAB that will focus on:

  • Community philanthropy – this committee will be working with Sharon deBoer-Fyie of the Fund Development Office in the CSM
  • Public health – this committee will include SAB members and O’Brien Institute members to identify and advance topics in public health
  • Health services research – this committee will also have a combination of SAB and O’Brien Institute members to work on health services research topics.

We will provide more details on these sub-committees and opportunities to be involved as we develop the Terms of Reference for them.

Besides working on the SAB refresh, I have been working with Lynn McIntyre (Interim Associate Scientific Director) and Jamie Day (Administrative Director) to review the structure of our Executive Committee and will be meeting with this committee on July 9 to discuss some changes and renewed focus for that part of our Institute. We will be revising the structure and creating some new portfolios including one focused on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

Likewise, we have begun meeting with all of the research groups, units and centres that are affiliated with the O’Brien Institute to learn and listen about their needs and future directions.

With respect to future directions, we are also planning to create a strategic plan for the O’Brien Institute and will be seeking input from our membership on the directions and focus for the Institute in the next five years.

With senior leaders of the CSM, we have been involved in defining two new opportunities for Canada Research Chairs in Digital Health for Precision Public Health (Tier I Chair) and in Indigenous Health (Tier II).

Hence, these past four months have been very busy and productive and we are working diligently to position the Institute for continued success when our new Scientific Director begins in this role on November 1, 2020. A separate announcement will be forthcoming soon from the CSM, so, stayed tuned.

Should you have any topics pertaining to the Institute that you would like to discuss with me, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am here to learn from the membership and have already appreciated the contact that I have had with many of you.

Thank you,

Christine Friedenreich, PhD, FCAHS, FRSC

Interim Scientific Director