Mourning the loss of former IHPME Chair and a leader in health management education – Dr. Peggy Leatt

November 4, 2019

The Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, and Dalla Lana School of Public Health community are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Peggy Leatt, former chair of the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation and a much-valued educator. Dr. Leatt had a tremendous impact on the Institute, helping to shape the curriculum and graduate programs into highly competitive degree offerings with accreditation, while advocating for innovative thinking and leadership in health management education.

Dr. Peggy LeattProfile of Peggy Leatt

Obituary by George Pink

Peggy was born in Skipton, North Yorkshire, England.  She qualified as a State Registered Nurse and started her patient care career at Leeds General Infirmary.  She moved to Geneva where she was an occupational health nurse for the physicists and staff of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.  After Peggy emigrated to Canada, she was a staff nurse, first at the Ottawa Civic Hospital and then at University Hospital in Edmonton where she rose to surgical nursing supervisor.  At the University of Alberta, she obtained her BScN, MHSA, and PhD in sociology.

Recruited by the University of Toronto in 1980, she served as chair of the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) from 1988-98.  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 the Ontario health system should look like. In 2002, Peggy moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) where she was chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) between 2003-13 and Associate Dean, Academic Affairs in the Gillings School of Global Public Health between 2005-10.  Peggy retired from UNC-CH in 2013 and spent her time tending her garden, cooking, and designing her and George’s retirement home.

Peggy was a leader in health management education.  She was the first woman to chair the Board of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and the first Canadian to chair the Board of the Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration Commission [(ACEHSA now the Accreditation of Health Management Education (CAHME)] – two international leadership roles in improving healthcare education.  Her time as Board Chair and years of committee work for AUPHA and CAHME were marked by extraordinary change and increased professionalization of health policy and management.  The Blue Ribbon Taskforce on Accreditation that she chaired for the National Center for Healthcare Leadership and ACEHSA produced a landmark report that influenced the direction of accreditation of programs in health policy and management.

Peggy was a respected and visionary chair of two leading departments of health policy and management.  At UNC-CH, she increased department funding more than fourfold and redesigned the executive master’s program curriculum. Under her direction, the department made major strides in the areas of cancer outcomes, dental health, mental health and rural health.  At the University of Toronto, IHPME was quickly transformed into a highly competitive health administration department that would win top accreditation honors. Early on, Peggy understood that mid- and late- career professionals could truly benefit from leadership and health administration training. She pushed for the development of a modular Master of Health Science in Health Administration (MHSc) 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. She 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 had a gift for recognizing potential and developing leaders. During her tenure, she hired many of the current faculty at HPM at UNC-CH and IHPME at the University of Toronto.

Throughout her career, Peggy was a constant advocate, mentor, and friend to many women in academia.  During her two decades as a departmental Chair at two universities, she hired dozens of female faculty members, mentored them, helped them to be promoted, and was relentless in advancing their careers in the presence of many challenges and barriers.  Many of these women sought her counsel long after she had left her administrative positions because of the richness of her advice and constancy as a friend.  She once said that she was frequently underestimated because she was a short, slight, and soft-spoken woman and mother, and was committed to reducing the very real barriers facing women and helping to develop future generations of women academics and leaders.

Peggy was a scholar, researcher, and most important, a teacher.  Over the course of her long career, she taught thousands of students and was widely regarded as an exceptional teacher and innovative scholar. She invested much of her energy in improving HPM education and the student experience, particularly for minority students.  She authored hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, authored several books, was Principal Investigator on grants totaling millions of dollars and was the founding editor of two Longwoods journals — Healthcare Quarterly and Healthcare Papers.

Finally, and most important, Peggy was a devoted mother to Sarah and a partner to George for almost 40 years.  Peggy worked very hard, but she was always there for her family, no matter what.

Peggy was a truly exceptional person – a leader, scholar, friend, mother, and spouse.  A celebration of her life will take place in the new year.  People may recognize Peggy by making a contribution to the Peggy Leatt Knowledge and Impact Award: https://donate.utoronto.ca/give/show/202.