Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry honours innovative teaching and research

(Edmonton)Teaching, research and professorial collegiality were celebrated during the latest installment of the Inaugural Professorial Lectures held April 11 in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

Faculty members, learners and staff heard professors Adrian Wagg and Michael Hendzel talk about their current research and how it relates to our health and future well-being.

As well, excellence in teaching was celebrated as Scott North, winner of a 3M National Teaching Fellowship, was recognized by his colleagues and former students. A professor in the Department of Oncology, North has brought an innovative teaching approach to the faculty. He creates simulated clinical situations in which actors represent patients�thus giving students the opportunity to conduct physical examinations and to rehearse dealing with the difficult decisions associated with an oncology practice. He also invites alternative medicine practitioners and terminal cancer patients and their families to talk to the students about the healing and grieving process.

“Dr. North is an exceptionally good teacher. He has made a significant difference to our undergraduate programs and our students are better informed, more compassionate and safer practitioners because of his efforts,” said Fraser Brenneis, vice-dean of education. “We are very proud to acknowledge Dr. North as the fourth member of this faculty to win a 3M award.”

Inaugural Professorial Lectures are a Commonwealth academic tradition. This series was instituted by the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry to celebrate and introduce the work of its members who are promoted to full professor and/or recently recruited to the faculty.

During the first lecture, Wagg addressed the rarely discussed but very frequent problem of urinary incontinence in the elderly. Wagg talked about his research and how this condition can be treated to improve quality of life. Often considered an off-limits topic, many elders suffer in silence by accepting incontinence as part of the aging process. But research has shown that with proper medical attention, medication and quality nursing care, elders can manage their incontinence better. This can lead to fewer side effects and better health outcomes.

Lifestyle factors such as smoking and limited physical activity, diets with a high glycemic index, intake of carbonated drinks, and conditions such as diabetes and obesity are associated with the development of urinary incontinence later in life.

From the “unknown world of wee,” as Wagg called his topic, the second lecture, by Hendzel, moved to the unknown world of the cell nucleus. Despite all the information that we have about DNA, we still know very little about how genes are controlled in our bodies, Hendzel said.

Understanding how four metres of DNA is packaged in 3-D space to fit into a nucleus only five micrometers in diameter is critical to understanding how our genes are controlled. New technologies are making it possible to determine this 3-D organization and how this controls our genes.

Researching this topic is particularly important if we are to learn why changes in nuclear structures and genome organization are characteristic of cancer and how we might reverse these changes as a means of treating cancer, Hendzel said.