Dalhousie medical school taking steps to address complaints of mistreatment

Dalhousie University expects its new office, which will handle student and resident complaints, to be up and running in the next few months. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC - image credit)
Dalhousie University expects its new office, which will handle student and resident complaints, to be up and running in the next few months. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC - image credit)

Dalhousie University's faculty of medicine is setting up a new office that will investigate complaints of mistreatment from students and residents.

The office of professionalism, which has been in the works for more than two years, is currently developing policies after being handed a mandate.

A report by the university's senate review committee, which was released in October, revealed that a number of medical residents have faced harassment, sexism, racism and bullying in their learning and working environment.

"It clearly identifies for us that there's work that needs to be done," said Dr. David Anderson, dean of the Halifax medical school.

Nick Pearce
Nick Pearce

The data included in the review is from a 2019-20 survey called Voice of the Resident.

It concluded that 21 per cent of residents who responded reported experiencing harassment, with 23 per cent of them reporting being bullied.

Discrimination based on gender and race was also identified.

"Health care is a challenging place to work and unfortunately circumstances do come up where individuals are not treated in an ideal manner," Anderson said.

Nonetheless, he said corrective action is being taken to address the issues.

"It's not OK to harass or bully or to discriminate in activities involving our learners," he said.

Work to set up the new office is already underway, Anderson noted, adding those running it will be independent of any evaluation or assessment of those who come forward.

Recommendations in report have been accepted

It is a new approach that should give medical students and residents more confidence to report their concerns, he said.

The office should be up and running within the next few months.

The faculty, its leadership and the dean earned a "very positive" assessment in the review, including for making strong commitments to policies promoting equity, diversity and inclusion.

Progress has also been made with respect to gender, the report said, with increased representation of women in leadership roles.

"Like any big complex organization there is always work that needs to be done," Anderson said.

All the recommendations in the report have been accepted.

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