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Vol 39  No 9
Feb. 1, 2007


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Celebration of new education and conferencing services

by Sharon Gray

Memorial University has a long history of leadership in distance education and health care technology. Now a new division in the Faculty of Medicine merges professional development with education and conferencing services for internal and external clients.

The official launch of Professional Development and Conferencing Services (PDCS) took place Jan. 25. John Abbott, deputy minister of Health and Community Services, spoke about the many initiatives between the university and the provincial government in improving health-care services in Newfoundland and Labrador. “Our partnership has recently resulted in a physician recruitment web site and we plan to continue to invest in improving the recruitment and retention of doctors in the province.”

Paul Dube, executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Technology Industries (NATI) commented on the importance of research and development in an increasingly competitive global environment. “We need to be proactive and strong partnerships like PDCS are an important part of that process.”

Fran Kirby, director of PDCS, explained that the organization is a new division of the Faculty of Medicine resulting from the merger of the Office of Professional Development and the Telehealth and Educational Technologies Resource Agency (TETRA). “We support the continuing professional development mission of the Faculty of Medicine by providing innovative onsite and distance learning opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador’s health care professionals, MUN faculty and MUN students. By providing opportunities for health care professionals to update and enhance their skills, we positively impact health outcomes in the province.”

An important example of PDCS’ initiative to provide high-quality medical education and flexible learning opportunities is the MDcme.ca web portal. PDCS championed the formation of an eLearning Consortium consisting of 14 Canadian medical schools whose mandate is to provide quality online learning opportunities for health professionals. Current MDcme.ca offerings cover 11 therapeutic areas with over 30 courses.

A new user of PDCS is the Law Courts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Video conferencing has been used successfully in seven courthouse locations over the past 16 months, with locations at Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Stephenville, Corner Brook, Clarenville, Grand Bank and St. John’s. Terri Yeske, marketing manager for PDCS, said video conferencing enables the court to process cases on a more timely basis. “It is especially beneficial to expert witnesses – usually medical specialists and forensic lab specialists – who can testify from their home community and not have to travel. It is also used by RCMP officers who transfer from one location to another and can testify from their new location, interpreters from outside province in hard-to-find languages, who can testify via video, and RCMP crime lab experts because there is no crime lab in the province.”

Video conferencing saves money by reducing travel costs. “Cases can proceed at a faster pace when travel arrangements do not need to be taken into consideration, lawyers can do oral arguments in front of a judge in another community over video, and a judge can sentence accused over video with the accused’s lawyer present, for example, in St. John’s and the other parties in Happy Valley-Goose Bay,” she said.

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