The University of Saskatchewan's medical school has been taken off probation after making changes to its undergraduate curriculum and its leadership ranks.
"Certainly, accreditation is a lot of work and requires resources to do it," said Preston Smith, the dean of medicine. "There is no doubt in my mind that finding out that we were not keeping up was an enormous benefit in the long run. The changes I have seen are substantial."
The two bodies that have jointly regulated medical education for decades announced on Friday that the university's medical school is no longer on probation.
The decision should remove any questions about the school's reputation, Dr. Smith said.
"Accreditation is a minimum standard, our goal is excellence in medical education."
Dr. Smith became dean in June, 2014, eight months after the school was put on probation by the U.S. Liaison Committee for Medical Education and the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools. At the time, the college fell short on 13 of 132 required standards.
Among other problems, some faculty were unclear on the objectives of the program, and students on rotation in hospitals said they did not have enough supervision from physicians for patients in labour. The medical school was also reorganizing its senior ranks.
Those issues and others have been addressed, said Dr. Smith, who came to Saskatchewan after serving as senior associate dean in Dalhousie University's faculty of medicine.
"Our residents do a significant amount of teaching in the wards for medical students. So we've created a mandatory curriculum that helps them to be better teachers, and a system to actually track that. We can show you – of the 437 residents we have – when each of them took the course," he said.
Being able to demonstrate clearly to the accreditation bodies how the school trains the next generation of doctors is crucial. In June, McGill University's medical school was placed on probation, and observers said a lack of administrative resources was partly to blame. Saskatchewan has created a dean of quality who works on continuously improving the curriculum, as well as an accreditation specialist.
"The school prided itself on training good doctors … There was maybe frustration that they were not putting their resources in the right places to prove that they were training good doctors," Dr. Smith said.
The decision to take Saskatchewan off probation is one of the last to be made under the current accreditation system, in which Canadian and U.S. bodies jointly assess schools' medical education. A new system now in place gives the Canadian accreditation body more say in whether to place a school on probation. Dr. Smith said the change is important not just for medical education in Canada, but for health care here.
"We can put a greater emphasis on some things that are priorities for the Canadian health-care system, like making sure that medical school is serving the needs of the entire population, that it's reaching out to the marginalized population," he said.
"Those are values that I think are Canadian and they need to be reflected in our medical education system."