A Dean looks back on an illustrious career
A lot can change in half a century.
Fifty years ago, only 17 students graduated from what was then known as the School of Medical Rehabilitation.
Today, over 150 students graduate from the occupational therapy, physical therapy and respiratory therapy programs every year and there are approximately 3,000 alumni.
For the past eleven years –first as Director and then as Dean – Dr. Emily Etcheverry has presided over a period of tremendous growth, progress and change as the School of Medical Rehabilitation became a College within the Faculty of Health Sciences.
As Etcheverry steps down from her role as Dean and into a new phase of retirement, she takes time to reflect and considers the evolution of the School to a College of Rehabilitation Sciences to be one of the highlights of her tenure.
“It was always an aspiration of the school to become a faculty,” she says. “Achieving college status along with the other colleges within the Faculty of Health Sciences stands out as a highlight.”
The College’s position as a national leader in rehabilitation education is a distinction that Etcheverry is justifiable proud of.
“When I think about the College, I think about the dynamic evolution of the programs to a strong national standard that is very forward leading. I think people around the country look at us in a very positive way in respect to how we’ve done that,” she says. “I think our entry-to-practice programs are very high quality and students are given a very intense, high quality experience here. That’s always been the top thing for me.”
As Dean, Etcheverry points out that a key aspect of leadership is recognizing the importance of collaboration and seeking different viewpoints.
“The thing I like the most is being able to work with people to solve problems and make things happen,” she says. “There’s a lot of skill in bringing people together so when you tap into that the opportunities are endless because people have a lot to offer.”
To emphasize the importance of collaboration, Etcheverry points out that she was heavily involved with the development of the new Interdisciplinary Health Program, an initiative that fosters partnerships between different disciplines within the Faculty of Health Sciences, Arts and Science.
“The whole concept of what interprofessional teams offer in relation to health issues is important,” she says. “I think that is why the whole concept of interprofessionalism is such a fit for our professional groups.”
For the incoming Dean who will follow in her footsteps, Etcheverry says, “be collaborative. Learn well what you’ll be representing because you’ll find strength in knowing what you will represent as Dean of this college.”
As Etcheverry comes to the end of her career at the University of Manitoba, it seems fitting to note she received her Diploma in Occupational Therapy in 1971 and her Bachelor of Occupational Therapy in 1979 from the U of M. She also received her Master of Education in 1990 and her PhD in 1997.
Looking back, Etcheverry says she’s come full circle.
“I wanted to work in occupational therapy because it dealt with both physical and mental health issues. That was the big attraction to me because I thought people were both,” she says. “What you learn as an occupational therapist is very life affirming and it’s such a privilege to have had it as my background. You can work so many different places and the things you learn are good to know for yourself, but you can pass it on.”