Garland takes helm of Health Sciences

Adela Talbot // Western News

Engineering professor Ana Luisa Trejos, Health Sciences professor Jayne Garland, along with Evan Friedman of Intronix Technologies, have received a Collaborative Health Research Projects grant to look into creating a wearable device that assists with the suppression of tremor in Parkinson’s patients.

Jayne Garland never really thought about Western’s motto – Veritas et Utilitas (truth and usefulness) – until her latest opportunity came along.

“That (motto) is perfect for Health Sciences. That is what we value.” she said. “We value knowledge, but we also value that knowledge being useful for the health of the people we want to serve.”

Garland, MClSc’85, returned to Western this month to start a five-and-a-half year term as Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. She replaces Jim Weese, a post he held since 2004. Prior to this move, she was at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where she served as professor and head of the Department of Physical Therapy – a post she took up after almost a decade at Western as director of the School of Physical Therapy.

Garland grew up in the Niagara Peninsula and attended Queen’s University, where she trained as a physiotherapist. She moved to Kitchener-Waterloo and worked clinically for a couple of years, after which she came to Western for her master’s degree. She followed that with a PhD in neuroscience at McMaster University and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Arizona. In 1989, she came to Western to work as an assistant professor, and in 2000, became Director of the School of Physical Therapy. She moved on to UBC in 2009.

She is best known for her study of the motor control of force production, particularly under conditions of muscle fatigue, and for applying her work in muscle fatigue to several clinical populations, including breast cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and end-stage renal disease.

“I work mostly with stroke patients and my interest is in how the brain controls muscles and movements. I was a gymnast when I was young; maybe I’ve always had a fascination for how the body moves,” Garland noted.

“I have a lot of basic interest in neural control, how the brain allows us to move so beautifully. And with stroke, it’s a nice model because they’ve had damage to their brain. When something goes wrong with the system, what happens? And what are the ways in which PTs (physical therapists) can help? What kind of exercises, what kind of treatment interventions can we do to help people recover their physical abilities after a stroke?”

As for new role as dean, Garland knows it will be something of a shift. But she’s ready, she said, and has some ideas on how to bolster the faculty and move forward in what are increasingly tentative times.

“I think the challenge Western and all the faculties are facing with the uncertainty of government funding is, how we maintain the quality of what we’re doing in times where we may not be growing. If you do the same thing over and over again, you shouldn’t expect different results. If we continue to only focus on what we’re doing now, we can’t expect things to change,” she explained.

The faculty’s current strength is undergraduate education and training health professionals at the entry level, Garland noted. But there is great potential for impact in a much broader sense, she added.

“We could be doing more in lifelong education. People care very much about maintaining their health in life. And that is what we’re all about. We have significant talent in that area. Maybe we need to think about how we can create opportunities to offer different types of educational opportunities. If we were to branch out and offer different types of educational offerings – maybe it’s a weekend workshop or different diplomas, whatever it is – it also has the benefit of enabling our research to have a direct impact, connection with community.”

More diverse programming would present an additional revenue streams in uncertain fiscal times, but it would also connect the faculty and its strengths with the community, enabling that ‘usefulness’ all the more, Garland continued.

“We’re not about creating great knowledge so it can sit in scholarly journals. Ultimately, we want it to have an impact out there, and maybe there is more we can be doing to reach practicing clinicians, to reach general society, in terms of how to augment their own self. If our mission is to seek the betterment of the human condition, this is what we need to focus on, how we take what we know what were good at and applying it in other areas,” she said.

“For now, I’m trying to understand how we prioritize. We have to manage our energy and our passion. It’s a resource, and if we spread it too thinly, we can deplete. We need to understand where our priorities are. I’m ready to hit the ground running.”