Mandate of the CHSPRA Training Modernization Working Group

To modernize HSPR training programs to equip the next generation of leaders with the skills, competencies, and experiences for broader career readiness and maximum health system impact.

Training Modernization Working Group

Message from the co-chairs

“We have to rethink the way we train our PhDs and our postdoctoral fellows. We know that most PhD graduates now work outside traditional academic settings in public, private and not-for-profit organizations and many feel underprepared to make an impact in these organizations. This is a waste of talent, resources and opportunity.  The Pan-Canadian Training Modernization Initiative will change this and ensure that Canada’s HSPR PhD graduates are equipped with the rigorous training and the practical experience required to bring profound change to our health system.”

~ Dr. Stephen Bornstein, Director of the Newfoundland & Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research and Professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, & Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, Interim Dean, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

A pan-Canadian Training

Modernization Strategy

To achieve CHSPRA’s vision a Training Modernization Working Group, co-chaired by Dr. Stephen Bornstein (Memorial University of Newfoundland) and Dr. Adalsteinn Brown (University of Toronto) , was established  to develop a pan-Canadian strategy for HSPR training modernization. The working group engaged in extensive environmental scanning and community consultation, and in December 2015 released its Training Modernization Strategy. This bold and exciting strategy identifies seven key strategic directions to modernize university-based HSPR doctoral and post-doctoral training programs for optimized career readiness and greater impact.

To prioritize the strategic directions for initial implementation and to engage the HSPR community, CIHR-Institute of Health Services and Policy Research (IHSPR) hosted a Training Modernization Workshop in March 2016 that brought together close to 100 leaders from university training programs, public and private sector employer organizations, and federal and provincial health research funding agencies, as well as trainees. The first priority that workshop participants recommended for action was the development of experiential learning opportunities for post-doctoral fellows. The benefits of supporting experiential learning have been recognized by others within Canada and internationally, and organizations such as Mitacs, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health ResearchAlberta Innovates, the Nova Scotia Health Research FoundationAcademyHealth, and the European Union are among the early innovators that have developed competitive funding opportunities for experiential learning. Workshop participants recommended that CIHR-IHSPR and CHSPRA spearhead efforts to align Canada’s HSPR post-doctoral training enterprise with emerging global trends in experiential learning.

Modernizing Training in Health Services

and Policy Research

The Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance (CHSPRA) identified modernizing the health services and policy research (HSPR) training enterprise as a top priority for pan-Canadian collaborative action. CHSPRA recognized the disconnect between the prospective career trajectories of today’s PhD graduates - which are diverse and which often involve multiple sectors other than the university- and existing PhD training programs that remain predominantly geared towards academic careers. Within health services and policy, the potential contribution of well-prepared PhD graduates to inform health policy and system transformation is considerable.


The complexity and multitude of challenges facing governments and health system organizations require sophisticated research and analytic expertise, leadership skills, and change management experience to help design, implement, and evaluate evidence-informed solutions. PhD-trained individuals can play an essential role. CHSPRA’s vision for successful training modernization is a learning health system that harnesses the full talents of PhD-trained individuals for continuous health system improvement.

Objectives of the CHSPRA Training Modernization Working Group

1. To identify training and career pathways for trainees in health services and policy research or related fields - at least for a portion of their career - in non-academic environments such as government, non-governmental organizations, healthcare providers, and industry.


2. To provide recommendations on the elements that should be included in the research-oriented (MSc and PhD) graduate training programs for people considering these innovative career paths.


3. To provide recommendations on the approach for building these skills within the current research community as part of their research training or as mid-career training to play these new types of roles


4.To outline investments that should be made on funding for the advancement of the training agenda

The Training Modernisation Funding Initiative

To encourage experiential learning as a core element of HSPR training, CIHR-IHSPR and CHSPRA have launched a multi-pronged funding initiative:

  1. Start-Up Grants to foster the conditions and partnerships necessary for successful pan-Canadian training modernization while also building recognition and demand among health system and related organizations for the value that PhD-trained individuals bring to these organizations (launched August 2016).

  2. Health System Impact Fellowship awards to support multi-year experiential learning opportunities, professional development training, and national cohort participation for highly qualified individuals with a doctorate degree in HSPR (launched January 2017).

  3. Health System Impact Fellowships for doctoral trainees and post-doctoral fellows: This was the second launch of the HSI Fellowship program and it contained a stream for doctoral trainees and a stream for post-doctoral fellows (launched December 2017).

  4. Health System Impact Fellowships for doctoral trainees and post-doctoral fellows: This is the third and current launch of the HSI Fellowship program (launched December 2018):


December, 2014

CHSPRA Training Working-Group Terms-of-Reference

May, 2015

Challenges, Opportunities and Future Directions for Health Services and Policy Research Training in Canada: A White Paper

December, 2015

Training Modernization Strategy (Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance: Report from the Working Group on Training)