Changing the Future of Health Care for New Brunswick

Students walking

The University of New Brunswick Receives $27.2M for Health & Social Innovation Centre 

Petra Headshot

The University of New Brunswick’s Integrated Health Initiative (IHI) is a shift in the way we develop talent through the creation of bold solutions that will truly transform health care for people in New Brunswick. Developed from a thoughtful and meaningful evaluation of our assets, alongside an assessment of gaps in the health care system, the IHI helps to forge the path to effective, efficient, and sustainable health care.

The initiative will attract more than the 500 students who come and study, and it is also building capacity for the health, research, and technology workforce in the Saint John region and beyond. It’s developing the existing health care and management talent pipeline, and it’s keeping those 500 students here to build a life and call New Brunswick home.

The UNB Saint John campus in Tucker Park is home to a collaborative network of health sciences. A short five-minute drive from the region’s uptown core, you will find the Saint John Regional Hospital, Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, NBCC Allied Health, and UNB’s unique Bachelor of Health program, which is the foundation of the IHI.

“From the get-go, part of the mandate for our specialized Bachelor of Health was to develop a program that is preparing students for jobs that are out there right now, and jobs that we don’t know yet exist,” explains Dr. Petra Hauf, Vice-President Saint John at the University of New Brunswick. “This encompasses problem solving skills, critical thinking, adaptability and flexibility. These students will be the future strategists, decision-makers, and leaders in the health sector.”

Attracting faculty and researchers is key for the expansion of this work, and the IHI is strategic in the recruitment approach to ensure results. Dr. Hauf emphasizes that the IHI’s five new research areas have been developed in close collaboration with health practitioners and researchers in the community, to avoid duplication and complement current work.

“We have the New Brunswick Heart Centre here, so we’re not going to recruit more cardiovascular researchers,” she explained.

Instead, the IHI will work to harness the power of the university’s research to drive innovation further, push society forward, and create a more prosperous and equitable future for all.

By approaching research with a goal to remove barriers, the IHI will create a significant centre of excellence that is person focused and effectively solving issues. The five IHI Research Chairs are: Child Rights in Child Health, Aging in the Community, Digital Transformation of Healthcare, Public Health and Health Policy, and Management in Health.

“With health policy or public policy, if you want to achieve major societal change, you have to change systems and one way to change systems is to change policies,” Dr. Hauf said.

It is clear to see that UNB’s IHI has a solid foundation and is ready to build and create sustainable solutions.

It’s more than producing health care workers to fill jobs – it’s creating skilled professionals to meet the needs of the health care sector as a whole. And to keep talent, there needs to be opportunity.

That opportunity is obtainable through the IHI’s Innovation Incubator, which will be housed in the Health and Social Innovation Centre. The Centre was brought to life in December of 2022 with a $27.2-million commitment from the Federal Government of Canada and the Province of New Brunswick.

IHI Announcement

Dr. Petra Hauf at the funding announcement for IHI’s Health and Social Innovation Centre

“Our Agency is pleased to have worked along side our partners at the University of New Brunswick, the Province of New Brunswick, and the Government of Canada to ensure this catalytic project, which will be instrumental in transforming health education and research for New Brunswick and beyond, got the green light,” explained, Paulette Hicks, CEO of Envision Saint John: The Regional Growth Agency. “From our first day, Envision Saint John identified the IHI as a priority opportunity and has worked in collaboration with our partners to steward the project strategy to drive this over the finish line.”

Dr. Hauf shares how the Health and Social Innovation Centre will flip traditional teaching to ensure impactful results.

“If you’re teaching a program in a different way, you also have to support the professors to learn to teach in a different way,” explained Dr. Hauf.

“It’s more active learning with many different classrooms that support the active learning environment. We don’t need big lecture halls for this program; we need classrooms that foster collaboration and problem solving to prepare students for their future work.”

The Innovation Incubator will allow students, researchers, and businesses to come together to discuss new ideas, inspire each other, and to ignite learning that will drive solutions.

The transition from education to application becomes seamless through the IHI’s partnership with the Health and Technology District Saint John – an innovative academic public and private sector collaboration.

Through this private sector investment, relevant industry and entrepreneurial companies will occupy the district and create jobs for graduates within the IHI, which will contribute not only to New Brunswick’s systemic health care reform, but also to the Saint John region’s economic growth.

“There will be tremendous synergies between the Health & Technology District Saint John and the interdisciplinary health program – providing our students with opportunities to connect early on with the leaders in the health sector, and in turn create a talent pipeline ready to take on the challenges in health of today, and of tomorrow,” Dr. Hauf said.

Together, UNB’s IHI in partnership with the Health and Technology District Saint John will change the future of health care in our province – it will achieve results that will be felt by every New Brunswicker.

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