Nov. 18, 2020

Precision health program ushers in new era of health care innovation

Transdisciplinary program will embrace innovation and lead the future of health
Precision health program ushers in new era of health care innovation

The new precision health program at the University of Calgary will bring together future health-care leaders, entrepreneurs, and educators with the goal of improving patient care.

“The precision health program expands our offering of modular credentials and graduate education with experiential learning,” says Dr. Ed McCauley, UCalgary president and vice-chancellor. “The focus on precision medicine and precision health ignites exciting new areas of discovery. Program participants will be job-ready, and the community will benefit from health-care professionals who hold a patient-centred mindset and experience in using advanced technologies.”

The blended online delivery will ensure that the program is accessible to professionals across Canada, the U.S. and the world. Students can choose from four specializations that were designed to enhance their potential as health-care leaders in the areas of precision medicine, quality and safety, health professional education, and innovation and entrepreneurship. 

“This new era of precision health brings in opportunities to customize care for individuals and populations,” says Dr. Beverly Adams, MD, senior associate dean of education in the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). “This program was built around the concept of co-production of care, which is when the patient and health-care provider decide collaboratively how best to meet a patient’s needs.”

The precision health program is the first of its kind, not only because it brings together doctors, nurses, and social workers with thought leaders from other disciplines, but also because it is “stackable,” meaning that students who complete the one-year graduate certificate can earn credit toward the graduate diploma. A master’s degree in precision health, which the certificate and diploma would stack into, has also been developed and is awaiting approval from the ministry of advanced education.

“We are living through a revolution in health,” says Dr. Jon Meddings, CSM dean. “Precision imaging and treatment, and precision public health, are coming faster than you may think. We are moving toward the personalization of medicine, focusing on the patient as an individual, rather than one-size-fits-all medicine.”

UCalgary Campus

A new era of health care 

Today, technology is the driving force behind improvements in health care, and this rapid rate of change is hard to keep up with. The ability to understand artificial intelligence (AI) and gene editing technologies, as well as the ethical implications of big data and patient consent are new competencies for those working in health care. 

“The precision health program is designed to support health-care professionals in a rapidly changing world,” says Dr. Dave Anderson, PhD, academic director of the precision health program and an instructor in the program. “From integrating modern tools of genomics and molecular biology, to leadership in health-care quality and safety, health education, and innovation and entrepreneurship, the elements of this program are all designed to ensure that the benefits of precision health are fully realized for patients and professionals across our health-care system.”

Thousands of genetic trials are currently underway for treating cancer, as well as hereditary and neurological diseases. “Bringing together entrepreneurs with health, safety and genomics experts will promote continuous improvement and ongoing advancements in the field,” says Dr. Oleksiy Osiyevskyy, PhD, who is leading the entrepreneurship and innovation stream. 

AI technologies allow researchers, physicians and health-care workers to comb through vast amounts of health data to pinpoint customized treatments that work best for each individual patient. 

These new technologies are currently being applied in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine. 

An innovative approach to the curriculum

“We’re providing an exciting, innovative and accessible curriculum that is available only at the Cumming School of Medicine,” says Adams, who led the program design and development. “The program will give learners a strong advantage, readying them for the future of health care.”

The program’s connections to community, health care and industry partners will strengthen the participants’ networks while offering new opportunities for professional development. 

The program is aligned with the University of Calgary’s Unstoppable: Growth through Focus strategic plan, which aims to create Canada’s most entrepreneurial university by expanding transdisciplinary graduate education that is geared toward professionals.

“We are offering experiential learning opportunities dealing with current clinical problems,” says Adams. “The result will be better health care for patients.”

Admissions to the program are now open for instruction commencing in September 2021. Find more information

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