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McGill Reporter
May 13, 2004 - Volume 36 Number 16
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In focus

Christine Dolden: Jumping into the fire

When Christine Dolden was asked to apply for the job of administrative assistant in McGill's Faculty of Medicine, she'd been working only a few months at doing the same duties for a smaller unit. But the position had been vacant for six months, so they were eager to fill it.

Caption follows
Christine Dolden
Owen Egan

She got the job, but because there was no one to show her the ropes she was dizzied by all the work to catch up on. "I made mistakes, we all do," she says, laughing. "But fortunately, now, I make far fewer." Over time the position morphed into that of administrative officer, and she handles personnel matters for 16 divisions (from cardiology to experimental medicine) and a handful of laboratories. "So here I am 12 years later, and I never expected it. But it never got boring, so that's why I stayed," Dolden says.

She works for Dr. David Goltzman, who is both chair of McGill's Department of Medicine and the physician-in-chief of McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). His office oversees over 400 full-time academic staff, which includes scientists who run research labs, clinician scientists (MDs who also do research) and teacher MDs. As well, there are nearly 300 part-time academic staff, as well as myriad support staff. Because Dolden's concerns straddle MUHC administration as well as that of McGill's Faculty of Medicine, "everything we do here is dual. We report to both sets."

Dolden works closely with division directors when they want to recruit staff, since all appointment forms go through her fingers. Because the province has tight restrictions on how many specialists can work in Montreal, there are plenty of forms to fill out and rules to heed. Dolden spends much of her time helping others untangle the regulatory knots and interpret the rules. If a candidate isn't Canadian, she deals with immigration issues ("They like forms, too!").

When a department brings in new staff, she helps find office space and secretarial support. As well, she gets the paperwork together for recommendations for tenure or promotion to send to the Dean of Medicine (many thick, tidy piles of these are currently sitting on her cabinets). And with summer coming up, she's coordinating vacation schedules.

"It's quite diverse. That's what makes it fun - you never know what's next," she says. The challenge of keeping on top of ever-shifting rules keeps her busy, but she finds satisfaction in decoding the mysteries of the hiring process. "It doesn't matter how many rules and forms they create, we still manage to hire," she says.

Ten years ago she spent a lot of time on the phone tracking down information, but today's method of communication is electronic - she receives 60 to 80 emails a day. "The phone is still so much easier," she says. Dolden talks daily with Pam Chase, the immigration/manpower coordinator of the Faculty of Medicine.

"If Christine said it was safe to jump into a ball of fire, I'd go," says Chase. "I trust her implicitly." Chase says that Dolden's principles, high standards and the fact that she's "an extremely hard worker" inspire devotion among her colleagues. She was asked to be part of the MUNACA negotiating team earlier this year. "It sounds trite, but she consistently goes above and beyond the requirements of her work. My esteem of Christine is unbounded," added Chase. "And she's got a great sense of humour."

Dolden's diplomatic good nature helps her smooth out obstacles to having the right staff in the right place at the right time. She notes, "If we don't have a good match, it'll affect everyone." Dolden is a McGill grad in humanistic studies. After her degree, she worked in accounting at McGill, then left Montreal for Toronto. Fortunately for the Department of Medicine and the MUHC, opportunities didn't unfold as planned, so she returned to Montreal, which Dolden (a native Vancouverite) loves for its character, history and different cultural communities.

Dolden takes advantage of nearby countryside, too. Her two daughters, Katarina, 11, and Julia, 8, accompanied her to Mont Tremblant for Mother's Day. Another special event is coming up that she plans to bring her kids to. Dolden will be presented on May 18 with the Anne McCormick Award for Excellence in the Faculty of Medicine. "I'm thrilled. There are so many wonderful and talented support staff, so to be selected this year is such an honour," she says.

Running for research

A 4km run raises funds for cancer research at McGIll and the Université de Montréal
Owen Egan

Vice-Principal (Research) Louise Proulx and McGill Cancer Centre Director Michel Tremblay at the Defi Corporatif Canderel run (below), which takes place the first Friday of each May, starting from Dorchester Square. Now in its 15th year, the 4 km run raises money for cancer research at Universite de Montreal and McGill (a quarter million last year, $4 million to date). The team led by Vice-Principal Proulx won a trophy for best team participation of a non-profit organization (the Cancer Centre has a separate team). Participants were treated to music and food, and prizes were given away for best costumes. We hope the stalwart men in the gladiator outfits seen in the background of the photo didn't leave empty-handed.

Commemorative Montreal Children's Hospital stamp

Canada Post recently commemorated the Montreal Children's Hospital with a postage stamp.

For 100 years, countless sick children have had their boo-boos and bigger ailments tended to at the Montreal Children's Hospital. Canada Post decided to commemorate this milestone anniversary of the MCH with a postage stamp (above), which went on sale May 6 in Canada Post outlets across the country. "As an employer, Canada Post is very aware of the importance of accessible quality health care to a community and local businesses," said Anne Joynt, President and CEO of Canada Post. "As a parent, I'm elated that institutions like the Montreal Children's Hospital are there not only to offer care for our children, but for the family unit as a whole. I'm proud Canada Post is honouring this organization's commitment." MCH interim Executive Director Dr. Nicolas Steinmetz says, "Most health care professionals toil away in relative anonymity. They don't seek the spotlight; they don't look for accolades. Their drive is to provide the best care possible for each and every child they serve. So, it is quite an honour to have the hard work of everyone at the Children's recognized in such a public manner by Canada Post." For more info, see

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