Public Health Leadership: Building a Graduate Program and a Culture

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The University of Alberta School of Public Health (SPH) decided in 2006 to initiate a graduate program in Public Health Leadership, primarily to prepare health professionals for leadership roles in healthcare systems. The new program offers the first graduate courses in the SPH that specifically focus on leadership.
The new graduate program in Public Health Leadership was designed to meet accreditation standards, requiring core courses in traditional public health sciences, e.g., epidemiology and biostatistics. The leadership core is three three-credit courses, covering basics of leadership, whole systems organizational change and advanced leadership: individual assessment and leadership strategies. These courses emphasize such topics as successful leadership practices, leadership case analysis, leading and analyzing organizational change, whole systems methodologies for change, emotional intelligence, and individual leadership strategies. The active-education teaching methodologies focus on leadership case development and analysis, class discussion/problem-solving, design and implementation of change interventions, and extensive writing guided by organization development-based inquiry.
Leadership is important in all organizations and disciplines. Accordingly, an additional emphasis is placed on leadership within the SPH beyond the leadership program and its graduate students. This involves a leadership workshop each year for new MPH students from all disciplines during orientation that features leadership analysis exercises, teambuilding and leadership data generation for collation and feedback to students. In addition, workshops on leadership are held for any public health student group that requests them, e.g., community medicine and occupational medicine residents who are also completing MPH degrees. Graduate students from other MPH streams are also encouraged to take one or more of the leadership courses. The intent of such additional activities is to inculcate a leadership focus into the culture of the organization, preparing students from all disciplines for future leadership roles.


Keywords: Public Health Leadership, Graduate Program, Leadership Culture, Leadership Practices and Strategies, Organizational Change, Active Learning
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Public Health Leadership


Dr. Ken Zakariasen

Professor, Stream Leader
Public Health Sciences
School of Public Health, University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Dr. Ken Zakariasen is a professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Public Health. He is the leader of the Public Health Leadership stream, a new graduate program designed to train future leaders in healthcare. Dr. Zakariasen has served as an academic in five universities including 14 years as a Dean of Faculties of Dentistry and Health Professions. He was the editor-in-chief of the Year Book of Dentistry for Elsevier Mosby. Dr. Zakariasen received his BA, DDS, MSc in Endodontics, and PhD in Epidemiology degrees from the University of Minnesota. He completed an Advanced Management Program Certificate from the Harvard Business School, and an MSc in Organization Development and Analysis, as well as a Certificate in Developing Leadership through Emotional Intelligence, from Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Zakariasen’s academic and consulting work is in the area of leadership and organization development, particularly in healthcare and universities. He also conducts research on increasing the effectiveness of health sciences educational experiences. In 2006, he teamed with two other University of Alberta professors to draft the University of Alberta’s 2007-2011 academic plan, Dare to Deliver.

Ref: L09P0204