Funding Opportunity: CIHR Health System Impact Fellowship

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The Health System Impact (HSI) Fellowship (for doctoral trainees and post-doctoral fellows) provides highly-qualified doctoral trainees and post-doctoral fellows studying health services and policy research (HSPR), or related fields, a unique opportunity to apply their research and analytic talents to critical challenges in health care that are being addressed by health system and related organizations (e.g., public, private for-profit, not-for-profit, and Indigenous health organizations that are not universities) outside of the traditional scholarly setting, and to develop professional experience, new skills, and networks. 

The HSI Fellowship provides doctoral and post-doctoral awardees, both referred to as fellows, with a paid experiential learning opportunity within health system and related organizations where they will dedicate the majority of their time towards a program of work that advances the organization’s impact goals and contributes to improved health system performance. Fellows will be exposed to how the health system and related organizations work, how decisions are made, how research and analytic skills can contribute to an organization’s performance, and the organization’s role in contributing to improved health and health system performance. 

This is the second launch of the HSI Fellowship program and it now contains a stream for doctoral trainees and a stream for post-doctoral fellows:

  • Doctoral fellows receive a paid one-year experiential learning opportunity where they are embedded in their health system partner organization for at least 60% of their time focused on an impact-oriented project of direct relevance to their partner organization. The remaining time, if any (up to 40%), is protected to continue with their doctoral program commitments.
  • Post-doctoral fellows receive a paid two-year experiential learning opportunity where they are embedded in their health system partner organization for at least 70% of their time focused on their impact-oriented program of work. The remaining time, if any (up to 30%), is protected for academic research.

Examples of previously funded HSI Fellows, their host partner organizations, and programs of work can be found on CIHR’s website.

Flexibility in the time commitment will enable fellows to make meaningful contributions to an organization’s impact goal, become immersed in the culture and operations of the organization, and benefit from mentorship by executive leaders, while also protecting time to continue with doctoral program commitments or post-doctoral academic research and for training that enhances their skills in a core set of professional competencies. 

HSI Fellows’ experiential learning will also be enhanced through two unique training offerings:

  • Professional development training in a core set of enriched competencies (e.g., leadership, negotiation, project management, change management) designed to accelerate their professional growth and better prepare them to embark on a wider range of career paths with greater impact; and
  • Participation in a national cohort of HSI Fellows and leaders from academic and health system and related organizations.

The HSI Fellowship also aims to build demand and capacity among health system and related employer organizations for PhD talent, and in doing so aims to move Canada along the path towards learning health systems. Current evidence suggests that within such organizations, the engagement of employees in research is associated with improvements in healthcare performance (Boaz et al, 2015). The HSI Fellowship provides employers with direct access to a cohort of the country’s rising stars in health services and policy research (HSPR) and related fields. HSPR or related fields include, but are not limited to, population health, health economics, health policy, public health, epidemiology, gerontology, data science, etc.

Through their doctoral and post-doctoral studies, these individuals are developing expertise in cutting edge methods and analytics that can be readily harnessed to advance an organization’s goals and priorities, generate innovative solutions that are grounded in the best available evidence, and build in-house capacity for research. Organizations that host HSI Fellows will contribute to preparing a cadre of the country’s up-and-coming brightest minds for successful careers as leaders of evidence-informed health and health system improvement.

This funding opportunity includes targeted funds to support scholars who conduct research in the area of Indigenous health, responding to, and effectively implementing, the health-related Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action [ PDF (299 KB) - external link ]. There is an important need for Indigenous scholars and scholars who conduct research in the area of Indigenous health to strengthen the Indigenous voice throughout the healthcare system, and for research to support innovative solutions for Indigenous communities, bringing community health and wellness priorities, culturally safe, accessible, and effective care, to the fore. The HSI Fellowship presents an opportunity to help address these needs.

Overall, the HSI Fellowship blends research and professional competency development with practical, hands on experience that is complemented with unique mentorship, leadership, and enriched capacity strengthening opportunities. It welcomes a diversity of types of projects and programs of work - including applied research, policy analysis, quality improvement, intervention research, surveillance, priority setting and strategic planning, data management/stewardship, and more – as long as the work relates to critical challenges in health care that are being addressed by the organization and that the work contributes to achieving the health system organization’s impact goal. In doing so, the HSI Fellowship aims to prepare the next generation of health services and policy PhD trainees and post-doctoral fellows with the professional skills, competencies, experiences and networks to make meaningful and impactful contributions to our health system.