Executive Dean update

Dear Colleagues,

By any measure 2020 has been an unusual and exceptionally challenging year and as we come to the end of the year – tired and exhausted as I know everyone is - it is easy to count mere survival as an accomplishment in itself.  True as that may be given the COVID-related disruptions to everyday life and pretty much every facet of the business of the University and the Faculty, it is also true, upon reflection, that much more has been collectively achieved over the past 12 months than simply the preservation of business-as-usual.  I believe the Faculty finishes 2020 in a better position that it is started and this is entirely a reflection of the extraordinary efforts of the community of people we are so fortunate to have within HaBS.

In a year with many highlights it is difficult to top the nature and scale of the whole-of-faculty response to the COVID challenge.  The extraordinarily rapid and adaptive response to moving teaching to a primarily on-line environment ensured not only continuity of learning experiences for students but also provides many of the materials, systems and experiences to position us well for more blended and hybrid models of teaching and learning into the future.  Finding new ways to provide clinical skills training and placement experiences in a pandemic-effected environment not only assisted our students in their continued progression to graduation but also helped further strengthen relationships with many of our key stakeholders and health sector partners.  Recognition of the importance of the expertise that resides within the Faculty was also enhanced by many and varied contributions to the public health response to COVID – think, for example, of the contributions of the Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences led by Professor Kevin Thomas and Jochen Mueller to the wastewater monitoring of COVID remnant shedding, of the contributions of Prof James Ward (Poche Centre for Indigenous Health) who helped shape the COVID—19 response nationally through membership of the Communicable Diseases Network of Australia and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander COVID-19 Taskforce, and of the contributions of Professor Jolanda Jetten and colleagues from the School of Psychology who helped us all better understand the psychological impacts of the crisis on the disruption to our usual, and vital, networks of social connectedness. 

Some of these high profile contributions as well as those of the Faculty’s many unsung heroes have been recently recognised at the annual UQ Awards for Excellence and the HaBS Staff awards but these are but the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the exceptional efforts of an army of people who repeatedly go ‘above and beyond’ in supporting the Faculty and University’s core endeavours in teaching and learning, in research and research training, and in enriching the communities in which we are embedded. I would like to thank you all for your tremendous efforts in driving our Faculty’s strength, success and international standing over the past year.

I also wish to take this opportunity to recognise, acknowledge, and sincerely thank those staff who have made the decision to leave paid employment at UQ at the end of this year.  The VSS process/opportunity will see the departure of a number of long-serving academic and professional staff who have made enduring contributions to their School, the Faculty and the University.  While their day-to-day presence will be missed, I am delighted that many will remain connected to the University through various honorary and adjunct roles and that their knowledge, skills and energy will not be lost.

While 2021 will also undoubtedly be a year that presents its own particular challenges, and considerable uncertainty still surrounds the full return to campus of all students and most especially those from overseas, the Faculty is nevertheless in a good position. I believe we have every reason to look forward to next year with optimism.  We have a number of new staff set to join us in the New Year and I am particularly delighted that, as a consequence of the EoI process run in the second half of this year, we will have nine new Indigenous academics beginning their careers in the Faculty in 2021.

In closing, I hope you all enjoy well-deserved rest, relaxation and quality time with family and friends over the end of year break and come back refreshed for a great 2021.

I invite you to click through the sections below to look through some of the many highlights of 2020.  I hasten to add that the list is by no means exhaustive and the associated articles are but examples of the many great things happening in HaBS.

Best wishes,

Professor Bruce Abernethy
Executive Dean, Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences

Bruce Abernethy