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New Leadership Offerings Give HSPH Students Hands-on Practice.

Article / Review by on January 4, 2012 – 10:53 pmNo Comments

New Leadership Offerings Give HSPH Students Hands-on Practice

It’s one thing to understand the public health implications of scientific evidence.

It’s quite another to use that information to successfully implement real public health improvements.

HSPH student Shaniece Criss participated in the group dynamics workshop
HSPH student Shaniece Criss participated in the group dynamics workshop

The challenge of leaping from theory to practice has prompted the creation of new programming, offered through the Harvard School of Public Health’s Center for Public Health Leadership, that will form the backbone of an interdisciplinary leadership concentration. The new program will be fully introduced in fall 2012.

The new offerings include a seminar in which students can assess their leadership styles; an advanced leadership seminar series featuring experts who study leadership as a discipline; a new course on leadership in teams; and a day-long workshop with the intriguing title “The Secret Lives of Groups,” which gives participants outside-the-box opportunities to learn about group dynamics.

Also new this fall are opportunities for students to help administer “FastTrack” programs in public health settings. FastTrack is a rapid-cycle method of organizational improvement typically used in businesses.

“There are three main approaches to teaching leadership,” said John McDonough, director of the Center for Public Health Leadership and professor of the practice of public health at HSPH. “One way is to teach theory. Another way is to expose students to leaders. And the third way is to help students figure out their inner journey, to ask them, ‘What is it in you that strengthens you and gives you the capacity to be a leader? And what holds you back?’”

The new programming is aimed squarely at the “inner journey.” The goal, said McDonough, is to create “a robust avenue for students who want to take that journey.”

Students give the new programming a big thumbs-up.

Unconventional Workshop

HSPH student Shaniece Criss, who’s working toward a doctor of science in society, human development, and health, said participating in the group dynamics workshop gave her a chance to try some novel activities. The unconventional workshop, held in mid-October, brought together 30 HSPH students and 30 Harvard Kennedy School students for a full day—with literally no agenda.

Consultants encouraged the participants to focus on things such as who took leadership roles in the groups and why; which voices got listened to and which didn’t; and what propels the work of groups, and what slows it down.

Participants were also encouraged to evaluate their own leadership styles.

Even with no agenda, Criss said, some participants emerged as leaders while others hung back. The consultant helping to run her group gave minimal direction but would sometimes interject a comment, such as “Notice who’s taking the lead” or “Why are some people in the group being listened to more than others?”

The day often felt uncomfortable, Criss acknowledged. But she said the group prompted her to think about things she wouldn’t normally think about—like why she may or may not have felt the need to speak at a particular time, or why certain people were not speaking.

Another group workshop participant, HSPH student Angela Crane, said she learned she doesn’t always have to be the extrovert in a group to be an effective leader. “It made me realize it’s the quality of what you say that’s important, not the quantity,” said Crane, who’s working toward a master’s degree in public health in society, human development, and health.

Teamwork Required

Caitlin Taylor Reiche, a master’s student in health policy and management at HSPH, is involved with FastTrack projects at both the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Mass General Hospital in Boston. Both projects require people from different departments within each organization to agree on strategies to change certain systems or procedures—within just 90 days.

For the Dana-Farber project, Reiche is working on ways to reduce the current four- to six-month wait for treatment at Dana-Farber for African American patients from a local health center with suspected malignancies. At Mass General, she is working to improve assessment and treatment for hepatitis C patients at the hospital’s Charlestown, Mass. clinic.

Reiche, who worked for a large management consulting firm last summer, said, “I thought management consultants did things quickly. But this is really quick.” Thanks to the hands-on experience with FastTrack, Reiche is confident she can incorporate elements of the strategy in her future work.

In the new course on leadership in teams, students learn ways to work effectively in teams, set agendas, and resolve disputes. Then, focusing on a particular public health issue, they meet with actual community representatives—say, from the Boston Public Health Commission or from the city’s public schools or from parent groups—to learn about different perspectives on the problem. Then the students regroup, representing the viewpoints of their respective stakeholders, and try to fashion a solution. The class is taught by a team that includes McDonough; Roderick King, public health leadership fellow at HSPH and instructor in social medicine at Harvard Medical School; William Bean, HSPH instructor; and Michael McCormack, director of practice in the HSPH Office for Educational Programs.

Nancy Turnbull, senior lecturer on health policy and associate dean for educational programs, said the class, the workshop, the self-assessment seminar, the leadership seminar—all are crucial to advance the cause of public health.

“HSPH’s educational mission is to train leaders who can help make the world healthier,” she said. “Training in the science and skills of leadership is an essential part of that education.”

By Karen Feldscher
Harvard School of Public Health


About Harvard Medical School (HMS)

Driving Change. Building Momentum. Making History. 

“Since 1872, Harvard Medical School has been the incubator of bold ideas—a place where extraordinary people advance education, science and health care with unrelenting passion.

Whether training tomorrow’s doctors and scientists, decoding the fundamental nature of life, advancing patient care or improving health delivery systems around the world, we are never at rest. Allied with some of the world’s best hospitals, research institutes and a University synonymous with excellence, the School’s mission remains as ambitious as it is honorable: to alleviate human suffering caused by disease.”

More at Harvard Medical School & Harvard Medical School. Generations of Leaders.

Harvard Medical School. Harvard Medical School (HMS) logo



About Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH)

Harvard School of Public Health is dedicated to advancing the public’s health through learning, discovery and communication. More than 400 faculty members are engaged in teaching and training the 1,000-plus student body in a broad spectrum of disciplines crucial to the health and well being of individuals and populations around the world. Programs and projects range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights.

More at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) & Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). History. Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Logo 540 ok



About Harvard University.

Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States. The University, which is based in Cambridge and Boston, Massachusetts, has an enrollment of over 20,000 degree candidates, including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Harvard has more than 360,000 alumni around the world.

Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally. Harvard faculty are engaged with teaching and research to push the boundaries of human knowledge. For students who are excited to investigate the biggest issues of the 21st century, Harvard offers an unparalleled student experience and a generous financial aid program, with over $160 million awarded to more than 60% of our undergraduate students. The University has twelve degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, offering a truly global education.

‘Universities nurture the hopes of the world: in solving challenges that cross borders; in unlocking and harnessing new knowledge; in building cultural and political understanding; and in modeling environments that promote dialogue and debate… The ideal and breadth of liberal education that embraces the humanities and arts as well as the social and natural sciences is at the core of Harvard’s philosophy. ’/ Drew Gilpin Faust

More About Harvard University & About Harvard University. Information.


*  The above story is adapted from materials provided by Harvard University

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