Flexibility and Support for Graduate Students

Sep 27, 2017

Professor Allan KaplanProfessor Allan Kaplan As universities adapt to changes in education and society, so too must the Faculty of Medicine. In Graduate and Life Sciences Education (GLSE), that means offering more choices, more support and more flexibility for our students as they work toward a range of careers, not only in academia, but increasingly in the private and public sectors.

Many employers value the critical thinking, data analysis, communications and other skills that graduate training provides. And many graduate students are interested in exploring opportunities to broaden their skillset and open doors to future careers. 

To those ends, GLSE now offers several new professional and course-based master’s programs, including the Translational Research Program, Applied Clinical Pharmacology and Applied Immunology. A program in Medical Genomics will be offered in 2018 pending Ministry approval. We are also awaiting approval of a new diploma in Health Sciences Research for MD Program students, and the Faculty is developing a professional master’s program in Medical Physiology.

Alongside these new programs, we have established with the support of the SGS Innovation Fund a new series of faculty development workshops to educate our faculty on the importance of graduate professional skills development. This will enable faculty members to teach the new skills our students seek. These workshops optimize supervisory mentorship in student research progress and professional development, with the additional goal of reducing times to degree completion. Speakers are academic professors or industry professionals, and feedback suggests faculty found the sessions very helpful. Also with support from the SGS Innovation Fund, we are offering specific workshops for faculty developing and implementing Individual Development Plans (IDPs).

We also secured funding from SGS for a part-time faculty position to provide individual career mentoring for students beginning this fall. Dr. Nana Lee will fill this role, drawing on her experience as a biochemistry PhD student, postdoctoral fellow, biotech scientist and author of a book with Professor Reinhart Reithmeier on careers after graduate school. This role will complement our existing resources for faculty and extensive student resources for career development.

Finally, we established a new leave of absence stipendiary program to financially assist master’s and doctoral students taking a leave of absence due to physical or mental health issues. This support has been helpful for a number of students, including John Choi, a Physiology student who recently shared his story publicly. We expect this stipendiary support will have a positive effect on student well-being and reduce time to degree completion, as students receive useful interventions and return to the University invigorated and ready to work. In addition, SGS has now developed a fund to support students taking a leave for parental reasons and has also arranged for students to retain their benefits while on leave.

Looking ahead, GLSE is working to develop an online system of supervisor evaluations, similar to what is used for Post MD clinical trainees. As a quality assurance initiative, the goal is to ensure the highest standards of graduate supervision across the Faculty.

This is an exciting time for education in graduate and life sciences. While the challenges are many, the opportunities are extraordinary: for faculty to learn, develop new resources and teach; and for students to explore new pathways and gain new skills for a rich array of real-world careers.

Allan Kaplan
Vice Dean, Graduate and Academic Affairs
Faculty of Medicine
 

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