Lab Canada

Report says medical education and research compromised by poor protections for clinical faculty

Ottawa, ON – The independence and integrity of medical education and research in Canada is at risk because too many clinical faculty do not enjoy the same employment rights and academic freedom as their non- clinical colleagues, concludes a report released today by a task force of medical experts established by the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT).

The report concludes that the freedom of clinical faculty to challenge prevailing orthodoxies or criticize decisions made in their institutions is increasingly vulnerable to pressure from outside interest groups, university administrators and corporate and government funders.

“Clinical faculty face a number of choke points where academic freedom can be infringed,” says James Turk, CAUT executive director.

The report warns that violations of the academic freedom of clinical faculty can jeopardize the integrity and independence of medical education and research in Canada, and prevent really groundbreaking advances in medical science.

“By protecting clinical faculty rights to engage in critical inquiry and controversial research, academic freedom encourages the environment needed to advance our knowledge in health sciences and to protect the health and well- being of Canadians,” says Turk.

To ensure that the academic freedom of clinical faculty is respected and enforced, the report makes the following recommendations:

– explicit protection of the academic freedom of clinical faculty must be included in all institutional mission statements and policy, affiliation agreements, and employment contracts;
– the employment security of clinical faculty must be better protected;
– clinical faculty must have better access to fair and independent dispute resolution procedures; and
– clinical faculty must have effective representative organizations to promote and protect their employment and academic rights.

The report was prepared by Dr Philip Welch, a medical geneticist and professor of pediatrics (retired) at Dalhousie University; Dr Carol Cass, chair of oncology at the University of Alberta and associate director of the Cross Cancer Institute; Dr Gordon Guyatt, professor of medicine at McMaster University; Dr Alan Jackson, professor of medicine at Queen’s University; and Dr Derryck Smith, head of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of British Columbia and head of psychiatry at the Children’s & Women’s Health Centre of British Columbia.