It’s not easy to hand something that has been your “baby” for 11 years over to a new person to raise, but Carol Herbert feels it is time to start a new chapter in the institution and her career.
Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Dean Carol Herbert steps down at the end of June but will continue to teach and conduct research. Herbert will also serve as a visiting professor at her alma mater, the University of British Columbia.
As dean, Herbert has shepherded the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry through rocky changes and positive growth periods. On June 30, she will hand over the reins to Dr. Michael Strong.
“While I am stepping down as dean, I am not retiring. I probably never will,” she says.
“I believe strongly in terms. You do your best work over a period of time. There is a point when fresh ideas and fresh energy is needed.”
But don’t look for Herbert to head back to clinical practice.
Although she plans to take a step back from any administrative roles, she wants to reflect and write about her leadership experiences. She will continue teaching and conducting research as a member of Western’s departments of Family Medicine and Pathology, as well as explore how Western can make its mark in health policy.
Over the next year, Herbert will return to the west coast to serve as a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health.
Travelling and spending time with family and friends will be a priority.
Herbert was 19 years old when she started medical school. Attracted by the opportunity to marry her passion for the sciences and arts and humanities, she decided to become a family physician because it would allow her to make a difference in the world.
“I’ve been an advocate since I was a kid,” she says, noting making a difference has been the benchmark guiding her actions and decisions as dean.
“When I think about why I did what I’ve done and what I do next, it’s about making a difference.”
When she first considered moving up the ladder from being a family medicine researcher and professor at University of British Columbia, there were few female role models in leadership positions in medicine. Of those she admired, she emulated qualities that matched her personality and fostered a leadership style that promoted collaboration, diversity and constructive criticism.
The role as dean presented an opportunity to make changes on a grander scale, impacting public policy, health, medical education and research.
“Coming from a generalist background, I’ve had previous experience working in situations of complexity with multiple partners in research, practice and educational settings. It was good preparation for the kind of enterprise we’ve built here.”
Making sure the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry has a strong voice within the university community has not been an easy task, particularly when managing two professional schools with distinctly different needs.
Bringing the two disciplines together under one roof requires a leader who is goal-oriented, but flexible, she explains.
“I’m an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary person,” she says. “You look for strengths, ask questions of where people are, where they can go … rather than looking for weaknesses. Transformation occurs as a secondary effect.”
From the beginning, Herbert prioritized the balance of research and education, goals set at a time when the faculty was facing economic challenges.
Helping to alleviate some financial pressure and support scholarships for students was a $26-million gift from philanthropist Seymour Schulich in 2004. The donation sparked debate over the renaming of the faculty in his honour – a move Herbert strongly supported. Although it may be perceived by some as a thorny issue, the name change is cited as one of her most memorable achievements.
Another move that brought its share of growing pains was the integration of Robarts Research Institute into the Schulich fold, which she maintains was the right decision.
“The potential for ongoing leadership and partnership from the scientists with the Robarts group and within the school (Schulich), and across the university, is a testament to why this was a good idea.”
One of the most notable events in the school’s history was the establishment of the Windsor campus. Schulich’s network of 40 communities and the satellite campus allow the school to maintain a robust clinical experience for students and meet its regional responsibilities.
“All of these achievements stretched us, they brought tremendous benefit to us, but they increased the complexity of the environment,” she adds.
Aside from increasing physical space, Schulich has seen the medical school and graduate student enrolment grow beyond twice its size; the expansion of the overseas dental program and the introduction of an undergraduate medical sciences program under Herbert’s leadership. She also fostered the development of the Centre for Education, Research & Innovation and the Office of Global Health.
“It’s bittersweet to leave the deanery, but I’m satisfied with my achievements as a leader,” she says. “With a lot of help from my friends, I think I’ve made a mark.”
A ceremony honouring Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry Dean Carol Herbert will be held Tuesday, June 8, 4-7 p.m. in the Great Hall. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 86237.