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Who are the CAHSPR Trainees?

CAHSPR trainees, including undergraduate students, master and doctoral graduate students, and post-doctoral fellows, make up a vibrant community within the CAHSPR membership. Bringing together students from interdisciplinary programs in urban and rural academic centres coast-to-coast, trainees represent the majority (61%) of CAHSPR members. By leveraging complementary research interests and skills in all areas of health services and policy research, CAHSPR trainees play an important role in the knowledge generation and advancement of better health for Canadians. In 2008, five years after the creation of CAHSPR, a coalition of students came together to formalize the contributions of trainees to the success of CAHSPR, as the CAHSPR Student Working Group.

The Student Working Group (SWG) is a pan-Canadian, student-run, voluntary group, which connects trainees from various disciplines, academic programs, research interests, and regions across the country. By means of a co-design and shared-decision making approach, the SWG’s mission is to enhance and facilitate trainees’ involvement in the annual CAHSPR conference and in the health services and policy research (HSPR) community. The SWG is led by two co-chairs who also participate as voting members of the Board of Directors and the Conference Planning Committee of CAHSPR. Recognizing the opportunities for trainees and decision-makers to mutually benefit from collaborative relationships, the SWG actively works to achieve its mission by:

  • Encouraging and facilitating networking opportunities between trainees and other members of the health services and policy research (HSPR) community (e.g., researchers, administrators, policymakers, funding organizations, etc.);
  • Identifying and disseminating news and information of interest to trainees, including providing information on key issues in HSPR, HSPR-related conferences, awards with a special focus on career-related opportunities;
  • Advancing the mission of the SWG and CAHSPR by increasing trainee presence and involvement at CAHSPR events; and
  • Promoting and implementing educational sessions and opportunities that help trainees develop the skills and competencies needed to thrive as members of the HSPR community.

How is CAHSPR’s SWG contributing to advancing the quality, relevance, and application of research on health services and health policy?

In recent years, both the governance and scope of the SWG has evolved remarkably. Traditionally, the SWG has focused primarily on student events during the CAHSPR Annual Conference, which are typically organized into three areas: 1) academic, 2) networking, and 3) communications. The academic section of the SWG consists of engaging with stakeholders within the HSPR community to co-design, plan and execute activities related to training and professional skills development during the CAHSPR conference, such as a Student Pre-Conference Primer (e.g. Wondering what career paths are waiting for you in the field of health services and policies? Get answers from the CAHSPR Leadership!, May 2019), a Student Pre-Conference Workshop (e.g. Working Collaboratively within the Health System: Becoming an Effective Research Partner, May 2019, which led to a publication),  and a SWG-led panel presentation (e.g. Big data, big opportunities: exploring careers in population data science, May 2018). For the past two years, both the Pre-Conference Primer and Pre-Conference Workshop saw full capacity with over 100 registrations! More recently, we were delighted to welcome a patient-partner as a participant to last year’s Pre-Conference Workshop as a part of our efforts to meaningfully value and engage health system users in our work.

The networking section connects with stakeholders from the HSPR community to co-design, organize and implement social, networking and/or mentorship events throughout the CAHSPR season and particularly during the CAHSPR conference. Over the past two years, the events and activities developed by the networking group has grown immensely! Examples of these activities include Networking Breakfast and Lunch Tables, Trainee Meet & Eat dinners, Health Sites Visits, Poster Walks, Poster Conference Battles; these are supported by various HSPR organizations and individuals, such as CIHR IHSPR, senior researchers, health authorities, and many others. The networking events are developed creatively to offer the best possible interactive opportunities for CAHSPR trainees to develop meaningful professional and social relationships.

The communication section identifies and promotes opportunities to engage trainees through social media platforms (e.g. Twitter Spotlight for Student Conference Presentations, May 2019), and creates educational/learning opportunities for trainees (e.g. From Op-Eds to Tweeting: Communication Skills Workshop for Health Services Researchers, Webinar May 2019). The skilled SWG communication members stay active and up-to-date with various information sharing platforms to ensure that trainees are well-connected with other CAHSPR members!

The CAHSPR SWG recently undertook strategic planning towards a more robust role and impact of the SWG throughout the year, with the aim of cultivating a more dynamic trainee-capacity-building agenda for health services and policy research in Canada.

Moving forward: How may CAHSPR’s SWG adapt to the evolving figure of new health services and policy research trainees’ generations?

The rise of federal funding programs and institutional spaces towards embedded research to bridge the gap between health research, policy and practice in producing better health in Canada is of key importance to CAHSPR SWG (Cassidy et al., 2019; Hunter, 2019; McKee, 2019). The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Health System Impact Fellowship is a vibrant manifestation of federal efforts to modernize doctoral and post-doctoral programs to “better prepare PhD graduates for stronger career readiness and greater impact in a wider variety of sectors and roles, within and beyond the academy” (McMahon & Tamblyn, 2019, p. 623). The CAHSPR SWG is seeking productive ways to adapt our mission, agenda, membership and governance towards the evolving vision for health services and policy embedded research in Canada. Based on a participatory shared-decision making process including all members of the SWG as equal actors, the group is exploring three internal redesign experiments to participate in pushing an innovative health services and policy research academic training agenda:

  • Revisiting its sectorial-based (vertical) governance structure towards an activity-based (horizontal) governance that bridges academic, networking and communication functions to disrupt the traditional research silos into more comprehensive and powerful actions.
  • Strategically and democratically pairing members with different, yet complementary, backgrounds, expertise and interests in co-leading activities of the SWG, in order to operationalize the embedding of various sources of knowledge, disciplines and functions within the traditional academic scope.
  • Fostering a more comprehensive membership that goes beyond research-focused trainees, to include trainees embedded in clinical, managerial, community-leading and policy academic programs. Given their primary and unique expertise, we are also exploring strategies to engage with health system users (e.g. patients, community leaders, citizen representatives, etc.).

We are excited to see what we will learn from our redesign initiatives, and the CAHSPR SWG invites you to reach out at to contribute to our discussions around how we may play a more active role in achieving a truly integrated and inclusive approach for research, practice and policy in the pan-Canadian health services and policy landscape.


Cassidy, C. E., Burgess, S., & Graham, I. D. (2019). It’s All About the IKT Approach : Three Perspectives on an Embedded Research Fellowship: Comment on” CIHR Health System Impact Fellows: Reflections on ‘Driving Change’Within the Health System”. International journal of health policy and management, 8(7), 455.

Hunter, D. J. (2019). Meeting the Challenge of the” Know-Do” Gap : Comment on” CIHR Health System Impact Fellows: Reflections on ‘Driving Change’Within the Health System”. International journal of health policy and management, 8(8), 498.

McKee, M. (2019). Bridging the Gap Between Research and Policy and Practice : Comment on” CIHR Health System Impact Fellows: Reflections on ‘Driving Change’Within the Health System”. International journal of health policy and management, 8(9), 557.

McMahon, M., & Tamblyn, R. (2019). The Health System Impact Fellowship : Perspectives From the Program Leads: Comment on” CIHR Health System Impact Fellows: Reflections on ‘Driving Change’Within the Health System”. International journal of health policy and management, 8(10), 623.

Élizabeth Côté-Boileau & Stephanie Garies

2018-2020 CAHSPR SWG Group Co-Chairs