Partnerships Catalyze Change
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of a special issue of The Lancet focused on Canada’s global leadership on health. The issue was a reflection on Canada’s impact on health around the world, either by the examples we provide of best practices (or cautionary tales), or through our direct action in global health. The major takeaway was that while Canada can justifiably take pride in leadership on some topics, our general satisfaction with our health system blinds us to inadequate care among marginalized populations — especially Indigenous communities. It also results in complacency that limits innovation. We are too willing to say “it’s good enough” and too confident that the actions we take today are all we could or should do. As one paper put it, ours is “not as a system in crisis, but a system in stasis.”
The University of Toronto’s leadership on these topics was on full display in The Lancet. The issue included two commissioned papers, each led by a U of T faculty member. Professor Danielle Martin headed a talented team of collaborators that looked at the state of Canada’s health system, while Professor Stephanie Nixon led a team focused on Canada’s impact on the field of global health. It’s telling that when one of the world’s leading medical journals wants to talk about health in Canada, they turn to U of T. The issue was also edited by U of T Medicine alumna Dr. Jocalyn Clark, who earned her PhD here and who is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Clark did not simply turn to the familiar; she turned to individuals widely recognized as emerging leaders on health in Canada.
But each paper was also a great example of partnership and collaboration. The teams our faculty led had broad perspectives, drawn from across Canada, including French and English-speaking researchers. They challenged and supported each other, which led to honest and compelling papers. And importantly, this issue also engaged policymakers alongside academics — in commentaries from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his government’s global health agenda and Indigenous Services Minister Dr. Jane Philpott, who wrote about the delivery of health care to Indigenous communities. As an academic community we should seize opportunities to engage policymakers and institutional leaders whenever possible, with analysis that can inform their actions.
As Vice Dean, Partnerships, perhaps it’s no surprise that I view this issue of The Lancet through the lens of collaboration: U of T Medicine partnered with The Lancet and the Aga Khan Foundation of Canada to hold a launch event in Ottawa, which brought together researchers, government officials and NGO leaders to think critically about health care; our researchers collaborated with colleagues across the country to produce insightful reflections on Canada’s international leadership in health; and Canada’s leadership role, in turn, depends on a series of partnerships.
Meaningful partnerships are rooted in mutually beneficial relationships. And one of those benefits is to challenge each partner to be better, go further and try harder. That is the call inherent in this issue of The Lancet, and the formula that led to its production — a timely reminder that partnerships catalyze change.
Vice Dean, Partnerships
Associate Vice-Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions
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