Public Health Leadership: Building a Graduate Program and a Culture

By Ken Zakariasen.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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
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 graduate students from all disciplines during
orientation that features leadership analysis exercises, team building 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, and leadership mini-courses/executive education courses have also
been implemented. 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

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 16, Issue 9, pp.375-386. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.231MB).

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.


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