During its Forum and Annual General Meeting last night, new fellows were inducted to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). The Academy welcome 49 new fellows; among them, 11 are from McGill University, including Dean of the Faculty of Dentistry, Dr. Elham Emami (read more in the Faculty of Medicine's Med e-News). The Academy’s General Meeting also signals the beginning of Faculty of Dentistry professor and former Dean Dr. Paul J. Allison’s tenure as elected president of the Academy.
The Canadian Academy of Health Sciences was founded in 2004 as one of three national academic that comprise the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA). The two other CCA academies are the Royal Society of Canada, to which Dentistry associate member Dr. Marta Cerruti was also recently inducted as a fellow, and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. The CAHS brings together not only the best and brightest minds from every discipline in health science, but also scholars with a demonstrable commitment to making a positive impact on the urgent health concerns of all Canadians. By providing independently researched, objective, and evidence-based analyses to government and public groups, the CAHS aims to recommend strategic, actionable solutions.
Together, Dr. Allison’s leadership role and Dean Emami’s induction as fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences signal the excellence of Dentistry faculty members. As Dr. Allison notes, “There are 5 criteria for nominating fellows, including the quality of their research, scholarly activities, and demonstrated leadership in their field, but what makes the CAHS unique is that it also values fellows that have shown a sustained commitment to community groups. We want people who will get involved and want to move things forward.”
Over the years, Dr. Allison has worn many hats in the Academy: he has been a fellow since 2011, chair to a panel on Improving Access to Oral Health Care, discipline representative for dentistry and regional representative for Quebec, as well as the chair of the fellowship committee.
Importantly, Dr. Allison's new role signals a historic shift in the leadership composition of the Academy. "I am the first non-physician to become president of the Academy," Dr. Allison notes. The inclusion of members from dentistry in the Academy's fellowship and leadership in, in addition to the increasing number of interdisciplinary researchers, demonstrates the growing trend of dentistry moving from the dental chair to the core of health sciences, as well as the important role of interdisciplinarity in both organizations such as the Academy and the interventions they make.
“The interdisciplinary nature of the Academy is by virtue of the fact that it has people from a broad range of disciplines – from fundamental researchers who are not health care professionals, through the whole range of health care professionals, and all the way to clinicians and people involved in government and policy. I believe very strongly that we need interdisciplinary approaches to the health and health care problems of Canadians today. The issues we’re facing are very complex, and there’s no one discipline that has the capacity to resolve them on its own.”
Moving forward, the main challenge for the Academy, Dr. Allison notes, “remains getting recognition from decision makers to see our potential to help in these issues.” As president, Dr. Allison plans to continue improving upon the Academy’s strengths – its diverse group of fellows, its interdisciplinarity, and commitment to solving the health problems of Canadians – while advocating for new ways of engaging the Academy’s fellowship at every level of governance, including Federal, Provincial, and local.