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DLSPH Open: Interdisciplinary Research Teams

December 9/2019

Dear Colleagues,

One of the most important components of our Academic Plan is to create and nurture clusters of experts that will tackle critical challenges in public health and health systems in partnership with colleagues across the School, University and health systems, locally and globally. Ultimately, we hope these Interdisciplinary Research Teams spur culture change — a paradigm shift both within the University and externally — by looking at problems in a completely different way to have the greatest impact.

Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown

This fall, we reviewed several strong proposals submitted by faculty members and identified leadership for our first slate of School-wide interdisciplinary research teams.

  1. Using Data Sciences, Artificial Intelligence and Emerging Technologies in Informatics and Analytics to Improve Population Health and Health Systems Performance, led by Professor Laura Rosella.
  2. Building Sustainable and Equitable Health Systems through Integration and Engagement at the Organizational, Local and Jurisdictional Level, led by Professor Walter Wodchis.
  3. Global Public Health and Health Systems Improvement through Implementation and Improvement Science, led by Professors Erica Di Ruggiero and Xiaolin Wei.

The team leads will provide leadership in moving these clusters forward, engaging faculty members passionate about these research areas and coming up with bold ideas and creative ways of doing things for a greater impact toward improving public health and health systems.

For the next three months, each team will determine what big question(s) they wish to address, clearly define the challenge, identify what expertise is needed, and consolidate the group of scholars to tackle it. In March 2020, each team will report back on successes, challenges, and strategies, and I expect collaborations across teams will emerge as well.

DLSPH will support these teams over the next three years through various mechanisms including seed grants, graduate student and post-doctoral support. In addition, the DLSPH Office of Research (with the recruitment of an additional Research Grant Development Officer) will provide dedicated support to facilitate collaborative planning and major funding applications, and provide support to foster team efficiency and effective communication across disciplines, as needed.

Each team will also develop integrated educational opportunities for DLSPH students and post-docs to ensure that insights gained from this work will be used to help train the next generation of public health and health system leaders.

One of DLSPH’s distinctive attributes is that we are a place in which new methods and theories can be developed. Some of the challenges we know today, and some are unknown. Having a solid methodological and theoretical foundation will not only position us to nimbly respond to paradigm shifts, but also to compete for the next generation of funding.

There are a number of new funding opportunities coming up, both within and outside of the University, including the Tri Council’s New Frontiers in Research Fund, as well as the Vice-President, Research & Innovation’s Institutional Strategic Initiatives. By creating these Interdisciplinary Research Teams, we are helping to ensure that our faculty are well-positioned to take advantage of these emerging opportunities.

Building creativity is difficult and this is not a “one-and-done” initiative. Our plan is to stage the expansion of the Interdisciplinary Research Teams. We will fully support the first three teams to solid ground and then phase in additional teams for the remaining interdisciplinary clusters. It is critical to get this right and do it well.

The other interdisciplinary themes identified in the Academic Plan are:

  1. Responding to Climate Change, Environmental Health Challenges, Ecological Determinants of Health and Indigenous Health
  1. Implementation and Improvement Science to Support Public Health and Health Systems Improvement
  1. Reducing the burden of preventable disease and improving wellness

These are critical areas in which the School has significant qualitative and quantitative research expertise and we are committed to supporting clusters of experts to explore these themes. We will be working to build these teams over the next year.

I’d like to thank all faculty members who engaged in submitting proposals and congratulate the first four selected faculty leaders. I’d also like to thank Professor France Gagnon, Associate Dean of Research, for her leadership of this initiative.

I look forward to supporting your efforts to push traditional boundaries and generate new insights into how we can train the next generation of public health and health systems leaders across the University, and contribute to improved population health today and for years to come.


Steini Brown
Professor and Dean
Dalla Lana School of Public Health