Sep 21, 2022

Returning to Campus and Renewing Our Community 

People walk on the path in front of the Naylor Building on the U of T St. George Campus on a sunny, warm day.

There is much to appreciate as we begin this new academic year on campus after more than two years of mainly learning and working remotely. First, there is the excitement of our students as they enter our classrooms. Then there are the animated conversations in the hallways. We are also seeing some colleagues in person for the first time in years, and some we are meeting for the first time in person because they joined Temerty Medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there is one thing that’s hard to enjoy: the long lines for coffee in the Medical Sciences Building. 

Over the last few years, it has been challenging to maintain our sense of community and enthusiasm for our vital work. Certainly, the pandemic has made it clear why health professions and health science research are crucial to our society. We have provided tremendous service to our neighbours and communities by delivering care to those in need, undertaking essential research into the COVID-19 virus, and utilizing our skills and resources to support the operation of schools, workplaces and healthcare facilities. Yet I know my energy waned while largely engaging the world through a computer versus how much it has been boosted as we all return to campus. 

While it’s important we once again learn and work together in person, we must do so safely and mindful of each other. While wearing masks is no longer mandated inside University of Toronto buildings, they remain strongly encouraged, especially in busy indoor spaces. Similarly, the University is encouraging all members of its community to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as they become eligible. Although students who are not fully vaccinated may enrol in classes with in-person components, we must be mindful that vaccination requirements may be reinstated with little notice. The University will continue to monitor public health conditions, and we will update you on any changes. For a suite of resources, including FAQs related to all aspects of the new academic year, please see the University’s UTogether guide. 

Some may think our approach is too lax, while others may believe it is too restrictive. Debate is a hallmark of any academic environment. It's important to question assumptions and reevaluate decisions in an evidence-informed manner. But in doing so, we must demonstrate respect and empathy for one another. We must also recognize that while some are just returning, others have been on campus and in clinical environments throughout this pandemic. And I know that each of us must continue to support our family and friends. So let's demonstrate understanding and compassion as we adjust to the present circumstances. 

Returning to campus is an opportunity to renew our sense of community and camaraderie. COVID-19 is not gone; we must continue to address its immediate and long-term consequences. At the same time, new challenges are emerging. To ensure we remain resilient and responsive to those needs, we must be kind to ourselves and others. Our individual skills strengthen our collective impact, just as our collective resources help each of us achieve our full potential.  

To those who have just joined the Temerty Medicine community: welcome. To those who are returning: welcome back. Working together, we will not only address the challenges before us today but those that may lie ahead. 

Trevor Young 
Dean, Temerty Faculty of Medicine 
Vice Provost, Relations with Health Care Institutions