Dr. Petra Hauf is the Vice-President Saint John at the University of New Brunswick (UNB). This article originally appeared in the Telegraph-Journal on August 12 and subsequently appeared on UNB’s Newsroom on August 15, 2023. Read the UNB version here.

In an article that appeared in the May 26 Telegraph Journal, columnist Ken McGeorge spoke to the challenges of recruiting and retaining professional healthcare staff. He stressed that a supportive workplace culture and effective management are key. Among the ways New Brunswick can develop these essential elements, he cited UNB’s Integrated Health Initiative (IHI) as a “great program” that he hoped “can become a focal point for initial and continuing learning in the administration and leadership of health and long-term care services.”

Several years in the planning, based on our Saint John campus, the Integrated Health Initiative is already beginning to realize its ambitious vision to transform the health sector and become a centre of excellence in health for New Brunswick and Canada.

IHI is:

  • An interdisciplinary approach; bringing together biomedical sciences, social sciences and business education, and the relevant strengths of faculty and staff on both the Saint John and Fredericton campuses.
  • A focus on reforming health care for the people of New Brunswick and Canada.
  • Engaging partners, including Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, Horizon Health Network, the Saint John Regional Hospital and New Brunswick Community College, in meaningful collaborations.
  • Educating bold thinkers to drive excellence and innovation, to implement ground-breaking solutions and to lead systemic reforms.
  • Clustering researchers in teams that make cutting-edge discoveries in technology, systems and policies while addressing issues of public concern.
  • Providing students with the opportunities to spearhead new developments in the health sector.

We have established our undergraduate Bachelor of Health program and enrolled some 200 students over the past three years. Our first graduates are already in the field.

Our online Certificate in Nursing Leadership and Management, launched last year, is providing the kind of valuable training Ken McGeorge recommended for nursing staff from Horizon Health and beyond.

The appointment of Dr. Ziba Vaghri as the Chair in Child Rights for Child Health two years ago is but the first of five research clusters that will address such issues as ageing in the community, equitable access to digital health care, management in health, and public health and health policy.

Of equal importance to the IHI are the social determinants of health – factors such as poverty, housing, immigration, nutrition, literacy and education – that can impact a person’s or an entire family’s well-being. We are expanding our Promise Partnership K-12 mentoring and tutoring program and strengthening our Urban and Community Studies Institute to address these very issues.

We know technology and new models of delivery are playing a bigger and bigger role in the health sector, so we are creating an Innovation Hub as part of IHI. We are giving our faculty, staff, students and practitioners the support and the tools they need to transform data into ideas and ideas into new processes, products and services for a healthier population.

We reached a milestone on Aug. 9 with the ground-breaking for the new Health and Social Innovation Centre. This 65,000-square-foot, purpose-built, state-of-the-art facility will be the home of the Integrated Health Initiative. Demonstrating their belief in the importance of the IHI mission, the Government of Canada and the Province of New Brunswick are partnering with us, having committed $27.2 million to this $53.5-million project. We are seeking philanthropic support from the community through a fundraising campaign chaired by Saint John businessman and UNB alumnus Larry Hachey.

Our goals are audacious and we know we can’t achieve them alone.

We and all health partners at Tucker Park and beyond are working together to help change attitudes toward health research. We are creating networks and structures across the traditional silos that will facilitate practitioner involvement in health research, that will promote collaborative projects and joint funding applications, and that will ultimately reward good questions with the resources needed to find good answers.

This is the spirit behind the Integrated Health Initiative and many other collective efforts of health players in the arena.

Our province is made up of urban and rural communities; and many important Indigenous, anglophone, francophone, and newcomer populations. At the same time, we are tight-knit, and we can be nimble. It is the perfect environment to develop and pilot new ideas; to build new regulatory and policy frameworks; and to scale what works best across the region and even the country.

Together, we have what it takes to be a Centre of Excellence in Health and Health Innovation. And with this continued collaboration, I have no doubt we will succeed.