Dean’s Message

As I write this, all of us who work and study in health care hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will subside and that 2022 will be a brighter and calmer year.

One way to maintain some balance in these uncertain times is by practising gratitude. In the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, we are immensely grateful for the relationships with our donors that allow us to provide programs we could not otherwise offer.

Thanks to generous support from a British charity with an esteemed name, The Tolkien Trust, we receive ongoing funding for the Alan Klass Memorial Program for Health Equity.

The program is named for the late surgeon and UM faculty member Alan Klass [BA/27, MD/32, LLD/73] to recognize and honour his pioneering advocacy of social justice in medicine, and to celebrate the kinship and common values he shared with his friend Prof. J.R.R. Tolkien, the world-famous author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

The friendship came about following the marriage of the Winnipeg-born daughter of Dr. Klass, Baillie Tolkien (née Klass) [BA/62], to Prof. Tolkien’s youngest son, Christopher, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 95. Baillie earned her master’s degree at Oxford University and worked for Prof. Tolkien in the 1960s. Baillie and her brother, Dr. Daniel Klass [BA/63, B.Sc.(Med.)/67], a former UM faculty member in medicine, maintain strong ties to UM.

The focus of the Rady Faculty’s Alan Klass Memorial Program for Health Equity is on health inequities and social responsibility.

The program supports scholarships for medical students to travel for service or experiential learning, as well as initiatives that strengthen relationships between the Rady Faculty and communities, including:

• the Winnipeg Interprofessional Student-run Health (WISH) Clinic, which includes the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre as an Indigenous learning site;
• the Biomedical Youth Program that fuels inner-city and Northern students’ passion for science;
• the CanU REACH after-school program that encourages underprivileged students to envision themselves in health careers.

The annual Alan Klass Memorial Address on the theme of social accountability is given by a guest speaker at the White Coat Ceremony for in-coming medical students.

With the support of The Tolkien Trust, Ongomiizwin, the Indigenous Institute of Health and Healing, has provided workshops to help Indigenous medical school applicants prepare for entrance interviews; held continuing professional development events on Indigenous health, white fragility and anti-racism; and developed the Rady Faculty’s Reconciliation Action Plan.

The Alan Klass Memorial Program for Health Humanities, also supported by The Tolkien Trust, builds skills to improve relationship-centred care and personal well-being. It has offered sessions for Rady staff, faculty, learners and trainees on topics such as mindfulness, visual storytelling, narrative medicine, improvisation and music.

What a rich gift The Tolkien Trust has given us by funding programs that plant seeds of equity, diversity, inclusion and empathy in health care, advance our commitment to social accountability and help us to care for ourselves, so we can better care for others.

Brian Postl

Vice-Provost (Health Sciences) & Dean,
Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Manitoba