Peggy Leatt: Innovative Leadership at IHPME

July 8, 2016

Peggy LeattThis fall, IHPME will be introducing the Peggy Leatt Knowledge and Impact Award – named in honour of the former chair. This award, which was made possible through the support of several donors and Longwoods Publishing, will recognize one recipient, annually, for achievements in developing transformative evidence on ways and means to improve healthcare and health systems. In anticipation of the upcoming ceremony, IHPME reflects on Leatt’s contributions to the university and across the Canadian health system.

The most important lesson that Peggy Leatt imparted on her students and colleagues was the need for innovative thinking and leadership. Leatt – an effective educator, researcher and leader – came to the Department of Health Administration at U of T, almost forty years ago, with a vision for advancing leadership in health policy and administration in Canada.

Under Leatt’s leadership – she was recruited as a professor in 1980 and went on to serve as chair from 1988 to 1998 – IHPME was quickly transformed into a highly competitive health administration department that would win top accreditation honours.

Early on, Leatt understood that mid- and late- career professionals could truly benefit from leadership and health administration training. She pushed for the development of a modular MSc program at IHPME, so that healthcare professionals could pursue graduate studies while employed. At the time, the concept of making graduate studies accessible to working professionals was less common and considered truly innovative.

Additionally, Leatt – who took great interest in ensuring that health sciences was approached as a professional field of study — was also instrumental in introducing the PhD program at IHPME.

“Peggy built the institute, as we know it today, on the foundation that health management is a science and it should be grounded in research and evidence,” says Rhonda Cockerill, Associate Director at IHPME. “From the very beginning, she had a vision for the department and the types of programs that were needed to develop strong leaders in healthcare.”

Leatt had a gift for recognizing potential and developing leaders. During her tenure at IHPME, she hired many of IHPME’s current faculty members.

“She was a fantastic mentor and teacher who changed so many student lives. Peggy nurtured people on the individual level and served as a role model for all of us,” says Tina Smith, Program Director of IHPME’s Health Adminstration Program. Leatt, who has degrees in nursing, health administration and sociology, worked tirelessly to bring a truly inter-disciplinary approach to solving critical health system problems.

“Peggy has always had a strategic view of what the critical issues are and how to best position the institute – and the whole field – to address them,” explains Ross Baker, Program Director of IHPME’s Quality Improvement and Patient Safety Program. “She pushed the institute to broaden their focus and approach problems from a systems perspective.”

In addition to her academic leadership at IHPME, she was the first woman to chair the Association of University Programs in Health Administration Board and the first Canadian Chair of the commission on Accreditation of Health Management Education Board – two international leadership roles in improving healthcare education. Leatt was also the founding editor of two Longwoods journals — Healthcare Quarterly and HealthcarePapers.

In 1998, she become the second CEO of the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission and was responsible for the creation of reports that synthesized and translated reams of evidence that continue to describe what our health system should look like. In 2002, Leatt became professor, and later chair, of the Department of Health Policy and Administration at the University of North Carolina, while continuing various leadership responsibilities in Canada.

“Peggy is a true and persuasive leader,” adds Tina Smith. “She’s consistently been able to reach the right people and mobilize them to make meaningful change.”