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Meet the SFU medical school project’s new interim dean team

February 13, 2023

As the first medical school to be built in western Canada in the last 50 years, it is not easy to find seasoned leaders with experience in building one.

But that’s exactly what SFU found in Drs. Roger and Sarah Strasser, as the university works on plans to support the province in educating more doctors and improving primary care in urban, rural, and remote communities in B.C.

Dr. Roger Strasser is consulting on the medical school project as interim dean. Roger has an international reputation for developing and refining new strategies to educate health professionals for rural communities. He has a keen sense of the partnerships needed to develop a medical school. In 2002, he led the successful creation of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), now NOSM University. NOSM U was the first new medical school to be established in Canada in the last 35 years. Similar to SFU, NOSM university has a social accountability mandate to improve the health of the people and communities it serves.

Dr. Sarah Strasser is interim vice-dean for the medical school and executive lead for accreditation. Sarah is a global leader in rural health and medical education and has held academic leadership roles in Australia, Canada, Guyana and New Zealand. She is internationally recognized for developing novel health professional training programs in medicine and inter-professional health, with a particular interest in Indigenous health, leadership, and innovation.

Sarah is a systems thinker who knows how inter-related components of a medical school, such as curriculum, space, faculty and staff, all come together to bring this type of school to life. She also has direct experience with medical school accreditation, which is valuable expertise for SFU as the medical school will require accreditation before it begins admitting students.

Both joined the medical school team in November 2022 and are working closely with the medical school project team, who are in the Cornerstone building on Burnaby campus.

When asked what drew him to the role, Roger shared that “I’m passionate about developing innovative medical education programs that are driven by social accountability and community engagement. It is very exciting to be involved in educating future physicians who will contribute to transforming primary care in this province.”

Sarah added: “Since we’ve been at SFU, we’ve been delighted to learn about the depth and breadth of research and education already underway at the university, in particular in population health, Indigenous health and the biomedical sciences.”

Both Roger and Sarah agree that a medical school opens many opportunities for the entire university - to expand research, education, and other academic activities in partnership with government, other academic institutions, health authorities, physicians, and industry partners, which all come with a successful medical school.

Roger and Sarah’s work is focused on guiding the university in the preparation of a business case for what a medical school would look like at SFU and the resources it will require.

Dr. Jon Meddings, a former Dean of the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, has also joined the medical school planning team to provide advice on curriculum planning.

Indigenous health leaders continue to guide SFU on First Nations, Inuit and Métis knowledge systems and perspectives.

Working groups are underway, comprised of SFU leaders, external medical education experts and partners. These groups are co-designing curriculum, space, workforce planning and research requirements for the new medical school.

A project board has been established to oversee the planning work for a final business case. Membership for the project board includes members from the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, the Ministry of Health and SFU.

Stay tuned for our next article about the working groups underway.

SFU is excited to work with the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, the Ministry of Health, UBC and the health authorities across the province, as part of the long-term solution to improve primary care for British Columbians.

  • Developing a medical school is a complex, multi-year undertaking.
  • Read more about the work underway by having a look at our website.
  • In March and April 2023, consider joining a community dialogue. We'll post detailed information, including timing of these sessions, when we have it on our website.