York steps up medical school push

York University, eager to turn up the volume in its campaign for a new medical school, is hiring a veteran leader in health-care education to press its case with the Ontario government, wrote The Globe and Mail April 15.

Peter Walker, former dean of medicine at the University of Ottawa, will be named as a special adviser to York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri to lead the $150-million proposal. "This is a signal that we are very serious about this," said Shoukri, who has made a new medical school his top priority since he became leader of the University last summer.

Dr. Walker will spearhead the development of a business plan for the school, which he hopes will open its doors to 100 students by 2012. York is positioning its bid for a medical school as a chance to build from the ground up a more team-based and community-focused approach to training doctors – one that will mesh nicely with the province’s efforts to increase access to primary health care.

The proposal got a boost this spring when it gained the support of Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, but that endorsement did not, as some expected, translate into dollars in last month’s provincial budget.

The Liberal government has pledged to fund 100 new medical school spaces. A Ministry of Health spokesperson said Smitherman still supports the York proposal, but more work needs to be done before the province will decide on where the new spaces will be located.

Dr. Walker said he was attracted to the job at York because he believes the new school could accomplish things that are not possible with established programs. "There is a systems issue here in Ontario for health-service delivery that can’t just be met by the traditional approach," he said.

By working with hospitals and communities in nearby York Region and tapping professionals from a variety of disciplines – including social workers, nutritionists, even business experts – he envisions the school developing a new model for medical education that will be widely copied.

"This is going to do something that is going to change the system," Dr. Walker said. "I don’t think there is another university or another situation in expanding what already exists that has that opportunity and that potential."

Several existing Ontario medical schools are well down the path of establishing regional medical campuses, which they say will have an increased focus on community health care. Dr. Walker said the York proposal will not be more expensive that expanding an existing program. And Shoukri said York’s proposal should be seen as complementing existing schools. Given the limited dollars for health-care spending, some rivalry for the promised new spaces for medical students is bound to develop.

Shoukri said the fact the new school did not get financial support in the recent budget indicates more work needs to be done but he is confident funding will come. "I honestly believe that we have a proposal that will make it because we are presenting something that is needed," he said.

Premier, mayor tread carefully on China file

Under pressure from pro-Tibet activists before heading to China on a trade mission, Toronto Mayor David Miller made repeated statements that a York University professor in his delegation would be giving lectures on human rights, wrote The Globe and Mail April 15.

But yesterday, speaking in Beijing, Miller appeared to reverse himself. He said the lectures by Professor Emeritus Bernie Frolic, a leading expert in Chinese politics, were not part of the trip. "Professor Frolic, at a press conference in my office, announced that he would be lecturing about human rights while he was here," Miller said. "I can’t speak for him. He announced it – I didn’t."

Frolic, a political scientist and director of York’s Asia Business Management Program, is the author of several books on China and is the co-editor of the 2001 work Democracy, Human Rights and Civil Society in Asia. He declined requests for an interview with The Globe and Mail.

In a speech in Scarborough last week, Miller said of Frolic: "This mission will give me an opportunity to speak out on human rights and conditions in Tibet, where appropriate. And a member of our mission, York University professor Dr. Bernie Frolic, will be giving lectures on human rights at Chinese universities during the trip."

Cheuk Kwan, Chair of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China and an activist who acknowledges having "crossed swords" with the academic, claims he is "too soft" on human rights in China. "He’s what I call a China apologist, because he toes the Chinese line," he said.

Speaking to reporters in a conference call yesterday morning, Miller would not comment on such criticisms: "Those lectures aren’t part of our mission. I haven’t been to them or seen them. I don’t have any comment on that."

  • Breathlessly, the mayor described some of the business connections between Toronto and China that he saw yesterday in Beijing, during a lunch sponsored by Fasken Martineau, the Bay Street law firm, and during a York University alumni event, wrote the National Post April 15. I asked Mr. Miller how Toronto could benefit from Toronto-trained Chinese officials. "One of the alumni is a senior member of a senior financial firm," Miller said. "The Toronto Stock Exchange does important business in China – listing Chinese companies on the TSX. This is very, very important for the TSX strategically if Toronto is going to remain a financial services centre."
  • OMNI News also reported on Toronto Mayor David Miller’s visit with York alumni April 14. 

Fine Arts musician alumnus tells students to make their own work

Fenwick songwriter, producer, musician and York alumnus Mark Lalama (BFA’87) has performed with many other well-known musicians and artists, including Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, Amy Sky and Paul Anka, wrote the Welland Tribune April 15 .

He took the time Monday to talk about his industry to 125 senior music and writer’s craft students at Notre Dame College School. "Never do it for money or fame," he said of students trying to make a living from their creativity, "because you won’t last. You have to make your own work."

Loving, not judging

York University biblical scholar Barrie Wilson should not assume that all evangelicals condemn Judaism, wrote Andy Cornell in a letter to the National Post April 15. Clearly, all faiths have a right to exist – it’s part of God’s plan. I state this as an evangelical Christian. As followers of God, personified in Christ, we are commanded to love everyone, as God loves us. 

Subway plan gave Metro chair cold feet

We are nowhere near the traffic gridlock that will propel a mayor to propose, much less implement, huge fees for the right to drive into a downtown area in these parts, wrote columnist Royson James in the Toronto Star April 15.

Back in the 1990s, Alan Tonks, the last chair of Metro Council before amalgamation, had this great idea to charge each ratepayer about $20 to pay for three subway lines (Sheppard, Eglinton and the Spadina line to York University) and an RT extension to Malvern. Tonks got cold feet when the public started screaming.

On air

  • Sheila Embleton, York vice-president academic, spoke about the new joint-program agreement signed with China’s Fudan University on OMNI News South Asian edition April 14.
  • Gregory Klages , researcher in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about “Death on a Painted Lake”, a Web resource project about the mystery of artist Tom Thompson’s death, on Global TV News April 13.