Spotlight: The Health Systems Leadership and Innovation (HSLI) Program Aims to Prepare Current and Future Leaders in Healthcare

May 14, 2024

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As the healthcare landscape evolves, the demand for adaptive clinical leaders with a strong grasp of healthcare systems continues to grow. The Master’s of Science in Health Systems Leadership and Innovation (HSLI) program helps current and emerging clinical leaders apply innovation theory, practice, and research methods to impact systems performance and enact positive change in all aspects of healthcare systems, both in Canada and around the world.

The HSLI program evolved from the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) initiative co-created by the Undergraduate Medical Education program in the Faculty of Medicine. Introduced in 2016 by its inaugural program director Dr. Geoff Anderson, professor at IHPME, the MSc HSLI recently went through a name change, from System Leadership and Innovation to its current moniker, Health Systems Leadership and Innovation. The program was originally tailored for medical students, however, it has evolved over time to appeal to a growing number of physicians, including those already holding leadership roles. “This program prepares current AND future leaders in healthcare,” says Dr. Savithiri Ratnapalan, a professor at IHPME and current director of the HSLI program.

Dr. Ratnapalan goes on to note that while almost all physicians assume clinical leadership roles when they complete their training, there is still a critical need for them to understand how systems work and how to improve them using collaborative and coordinated efforts across all levels. 

“As such, the focus is not on individual leadership development or administration in healthcare but on appreciating the complexity of healthcare systems and understanding collective adaptive leadership in complex systems,” says Dr. Ratnapalan.

According to Dr. Ratnapalan, when it comes to medical school and residency programs, which predominantly focus on clinical care, there is a lack of education on health systems, policy, strategy, or change management. The HSLI program prepares physicians to recognize systems issues and work collaboratively with other leaders to find innovative solutions and improve healthcare delivery models. This training is particularly crucial at a time when healthcare systems, both in Canada and globally, continue to face challenges that affect cost, access, quality, workforce, technology, and policy.  

Students in the HSLI program can expect to tackle real-world challenges such as addressing surgical wait times in community hospitals, assessing community needs for diabetes intervention in First Nations communities, evaluating food insecurity in children with chronic kidney disease, and improving the transfer of patients from hospital to primary care providers.

Currently, the MSc HSLI stands out as one of the few health systems leadership programs that draws students from multiple educational levels to come together and work collaboratively to discover innovative solutions to critical healthcare challenges.  

When asked what she looks forward to the most as the program’s director, Dr. Ratnapalan says simply, “growing the program with our faculty and having the privilege to mentor future health systems leaders.”

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Marielle Boutin
Email Address: ihpme.communications@​

Manages all IHPME-wide communications and marketing initiatives, including events and announcements.