New Health Sciences Degree

By Eric Fung

The University of Calgary will enhance its research university status when the first students enter the Bachelor of Health Sciences program in Sept. 2003, if approved by the Board of Governors at its June 21 meeting.

"We are meeting the demand for highly trained health researchers," said the Faculty of Medicine Assistant Dean Dr. Benedikt Hallgrimsson. "They are lacking not only in Alberta, but all across Canada."

The four-year BHSc (Honours) will prepare students specifically for careers in health research in its three majors: Biomedical Science, Health and Society, and Bioinformatics. Admission to the program will be based on grades and limited to 25 students per major per year. Because of the anticipated high calibre of students, the regular degree will only be offered to graduating students who do not meet Honours requirements.

"MacMaster [University’s program] is the only real comparison," Hallgrimsson said, emphasizing the program’s unique nature. "It features a program similar to the Biomedical Science major. The U of C’s program is much larger in its breath, with the Health and Society and Bioinformatics majors."

All three majors as well as the minor in Health and Society will feature small classes in new inquiry-based learning courses. The program will also incorporate interdisciplinary work between the faculties of Medicine, Science, Social Sciences, and Humanities, among others.

"We’re really trying to provide high-quality instruction," said Hallgrimsson. "The programs emphasize scientific literacy and cultural backgrounds to provide a well-rounded aspect to health education."

Planning for the program began in October 2001, when President Harvey Weingarten suggested the creation of an undergraduate-level health program. Developed with collaboration between faculties and students, the degrees explicitly address recommendations of projects like Enhancing Undergraduate Learners’ Experience in a Research University and Raising Our Sights, the U of C’s academic plan.

"The bottom line is that health care is one of the most rapidly growing areas," Hallgrimsson explained. "We are in the process of shifting from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy, towards health and biotechnology and informatics. If Canada wants to be a leader in these areas, we need people to do the job, and that’s what we’re preparing here."


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