Rationale for the training program:

Current Master programs at the partner universities train highly qualified personnel for the healthcare sector, including McGill’s MD-MBA, UBC’s executive MBA and Ottawa’s MSc in Health Systems. Graduate students also have the opportunity to work on real life projects in healthcare through the existing research centers. The ability of each partner university to provide formal research training to doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows in healthcare, however, is limited. By taking advantage of a cohort of students/fellows across Canada, the team members are able to pool their expertise in offering advanced courses and intensive research workshops. The CREATE program constitutes an integrative platform for offering interdisciplinary and practical research training to doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows that cannot be obtained from any one of the seven partner universities. The collective research expertise of the team covers the entire healthcare spectrum, many of the prevalent diseases ,as well as, information systems, communication technologies and operations management methodologies.

Program structure:

The CREATE program comprises (i) a core knowledge base and skill set that would be common to all trainees, and (ii) a major collaborative research project that would be different for each trainee.

The program aims at fostering the following competencies for the trainees: understanding complexity of a healthcare process, system thinking, analytical skills, working in a healthcare team and communication skills. By the end of their training, the students/fellows will have the knowledge and skills necessary for making a smooth transition into academia, health sector or governmental agencies.

At the  core of the common program are the doctoral-level courses and summer schools co-taught by the team members who are from different fields of engineering and management with complementary expertise in healthcare. Another key feature of the program is the ability of the trainees to visit any of the partner universities or supporting healthcare organizations for up to six months. This will undoubtedly enrich the research and/or practical content of their major project. A wide array of collaborators will support the team in offering a truly multi-disciplinary, collaborative and relevant research training program. 

Program Core:

CREATE Program Structure

 Year 1 -Fundamentals of Healthcare Processes
-Methodologies for Healthcare Management
-Summer School I
    (13 weeks on-line, 2 hr/w)
    (13 weeks on-line, 2 hr/w)
    (5 days on-site, 26 hrs)
     Year 2 -Healthcare Research
    -Summer School II
      (13 weeks on-line, 2 hr/w)
      (2.5 days on-site, 13 hrs)
       Years 2, 3, 4 -Research Workshop
      -Professional Skills Workshops
        (2 days on-site)
        (each 1 day on-site)

        Program Electives:

        Years 2 or 3 -Offsite Research Experience
        -Research training at a partner University or a practical internship
        at a supporting healthcare organization
          (up to six months)

          For doctoral students, the common program has core and elective components that are depicted in the Table above. These are embedded in the trainees’ Ph.D. curriculum at his/her own university. In particular, the necessary approvals are obtained at the partner universities to award three course credits for the on-line courses and summer schools during years 1 and 2. Although the workshops and off-site research experiences are crucial for the purposes of our CREATE program, they will not translate into doctoral course credits. Nonetheless, the doctoral students are able to take additional courses at a partner university during their visit.

          The stream of core courses aims at providing the trainees with (i) a comprehensive understanding of the healthcare delivery processes, (ii) a solid methodology foundation for solving the problems that arise in designing and managing such processes, and (iii) the ability to push the frontiers of state of the art in healthcare research. The Fundamentals of Healthcare Processes and the Methodologies for Healthcare Management courses offered in Year 1 are mainly in lecture format so as to build a strong foundation. The first course covers the major processes of the healthcare spectrum (i.e., preventive, emergency, acute, primary and chronic care) in the context of the prevalent diseases (e.g., cancer, stroke, asthma, HIV, cardiac). This course also fosters a systematic approach to healthcare problems so that the students can appreciate the complexity of the challenges at the policy level. The second course focuses on optimization, simulation and meta-heuristic techniques for tackling dynamic and complex problems highlighting healthcare applications. This course also covers the recent advances in information and communication technologies as the main levers of process efficiency. The Healthcare Research course in Year 2 builds on the first two courses and aims at exposing to the most recent research contributions to the healthcare literature. To maximize student participation, this course will be in seminar format where the students are expected to take turns in leading the discussion on a different topic at each session. The topics include: emergency services, operating room scheduling, nurse scheduling, etc. The doctoral students will be expected to have a good idea about the main theme of their thesis by the end of this third course. 

          As depicted in Table 1, these courses are delivered in a web-enabled environment during the academic year, when the trainees are at their universities. The summer schools at the end of each academic year brings the associated trainee cohorts together at one of the partner universities and this will enable intensive face-to-face learning in wrapping up the course work. Each of the on-line courses will be co-taught by two researchers, who will also be in charge of the associated portion of the summer school that year. This allows each researcher, who takes part in core teaching, to receive half course-credit at their own university. 

          The main research training experience of the post-doctoral fellows is through major research projects. The level of their involvement in the common program will depend on their background and expertise. If their doctoral work is related to healthcare, then the post-doctoral fellows will be contributors to the doctoral courses as guest speakers. Otherwise, they might be asked by their supervisor to enroll in one or more of the doctoral courses. A common requirement from all post-doctoral fellows would be to present their project at the annual research workshops of the CREATE program. 

          An important element of the common program is the off-site research experience opportunities to facilitate the mobility of the trainees so as to foster their collaboration with the researchers, collaborators and other trainees, as appropriate. Both the Ph.D. students and the post-doctoral fellows are able to visit a partner university or a supporting healthcare organization for up to six months. It is important that these research visits are designed to contribute to their major research project. For example, an internship opportunity with the stroke team at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center (in Toronto) would be a valuable experience for a doctoral student at McGill specializing on stroke care. Such an internship would normally be arranged by our collaborator at Sunnybrook, Dr. Schwartz. Research visits to partner universities are used to exploit the synergy between the specialties of two researchers on the team in improving the collaborative training experience. For example, the expertise of UBC’s Prof. Puterman on stochastic models nicely complements the expertise of McGill’s Prof. Verter on the care processes for stroke. The relevance of the off-site research experience to the trainee’s major research project is ensured by his/her supervisor. 

          Professional skills are among the key competencies both the Ph.D. students and the post-doctoral fellows must develop so as to launch successful careers in academia, industry or government. To this end, our CREATE program incorporates a workshop series recently launched by McGill’s Graduate and Post-doctoral Studies. These short workshops are designed for improving communication, writing, presentation, team-work, time management, project management and teaching skills of research students across the University. 

          The program in HOIM is innovative in three ways:

          • Brings together engineering, management, and clinical perspectives by building on the expertise of partner universities and supporting healthcare organizations
          • Fosters system thinking by emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach
          • Targets a selected group of trainees who will be future leaders
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