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Cumming School of Medicine looks ahead at the next 50 years

Founding faculty and current students celebrate medical school's 50th anniversary
April 26, 2017
From left: Alvin Libin, donor; Jon Meddings, dean, Cumming School of Medicine; Geoff Cumming, donor; and Bill Cochrane, founding dean of the University of Calgary medical school. Photos by Adrian Shellard, for the Cumming School of Medicine

From left: Alvin Libin, donor; Jon Meddings, dean, Cumming School of Medicine; Geoff Cumming, donor; and Bill Cochrane, founding dean of the University of Calgary medical school. Photos by Adrian Shellard, for the Cumming School of Medicine 

Diana Law, staff member, enjoys the selfie station with Medicine Rex.

Diana Law, staff member, enjoys the selfie station with Medicine Rex. 

About 500 smiling people, some with canes and others with piercings, came to celebrate the past, present and future of the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) at the Foothills Campus last week. Guests enjoyed red macaroons marked with a gold "50th" for the school’s 50th anniversary and posed for pictures with Dinos mascot Rex, who was wearing a white lab coat over his jersey for the occasion.

Before the official program — which included a moving tribute to the founding dean, Dr. Bill Cochrane, who attended with his family, and a panel discussion about medicine through the decades — guests thumbed through old textbooks and photos set out near the wall lined with pictures of faculty that have won distinguished awards.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants, there are some great people here,” says the current dean, Dr. Jon Meddings, as guests (including philanthropist, business leader and school namesake Geoff Cumming) filled the atrium.

'The microbiome is going to be our signature piece' 

Past the party, outside the north end of the HRIC atrium, giant white cranes are building the Western Canadian Microbiome Centre. “Understanding the microbiome is the key to unlocking the mystery of all these chronic diseases and we’re going to do it,” says Meddings. “I don’t think we’ll recognize medicine 10 years from now compared to what we do now. It will be radically different. The future is precision medicine and the microbiome is going to be our signature piece of that.”

Students like Subhanwita Sarkar are helping spur that rapid change in medicine. The PhD student is studying to find novel therapeutics for oral cancer and she’s excited to be part of the field. “Personalized medicine is what we’re looking at,” she says. “We will examine patient genes and then find therapies tailored to each individual and that’s what we are looking at in the next 50 years.”

Future brings cutting-edge medical education research

There are big changes coming to how the school teaches medicine, too. “We will see more emphasis on competency-based education, more focus on things like simulation activities and cutting-edge medical education research,” says Dr. Maureen Topps, associate dean, Postgraduate Medical Education. “We are seen as a young medical school and we still retain that youth and spirit which is going to set us in good stead to really look ahead and continue to be innovative.”

Igor Stukalin is a fourth-year student completing his Bachelor of Health Sciences degree at CSM. “We are really fortunate to be here,” he says. “We get the opportunity to work with phenomenal researchers and world-renowned clinicians.” After he completes his undergraduate degree, Stukalin hopes to study medicine and continue oncology research at CSM, some 50 years after the school first opened its doors.

 “They’ve got different tools, they’ve got different education and different approaches from what I had when I was a kid,” says Dr. Bob Church, the first head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and one of many founding faculty members who came to celebrate at the event. “Diagnostics and treatment have been added to the classical empathy that we have expected from our students over the years.”

Read more about the Cumming School of Medicine's 50th Anniversary.

   

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