Shift Program

Shift Program is a three month virtual, experiential, project-based program which introduces conceptual and practical approaches to design thinking for health leadership. Shift Program explores how changing perspectives in how we work and address challenges can enhance leadership capabilities and improve the user experience. Live virtual workshops combined with small group projects will inspire you to build your confidence to test new ideas and imagine possible futures. Connect and network with leaders across the health sector to think and act from a human-centred perspective.

The online program combines:

  • 6 live workshops scheduled over 3 months guide you through the stages of a design process
  • Workshops are interactive and help build close connections between participants and faculty
  • Small group work focused on a current health leadership related challenge 
  • Flexible learning between live sessions through activities, readings, videos and assessments completed where, when, and how you prefer to work
  • Project milestones and activities that encourage you to practice and apply your learning in real time 
  • Small group design consults 

Request an information package

Shift Program Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of Shift, you will:

  • Appreciate your own innovation capabilities and understand how to form design project teams with a well-balanced mix of problem-solving styles
  • Become adept at using design thinking research tools to generate relevant qualitative and ethnographic data
  • Examine trends and signs of change across sectors and consider their implications for health care
  • Discover how to synthesize qualitative insights about users’ experiences, gathered through stakeholder interviews and other forms of primary and secondary research, into a scoped and defined problem frame
  • Amplify your creativity and generate future scenarios and interventions to a challenge
  • Design and iterate prototypes to address users’ needs and generate rich dialogues about the future of health

Upon completion of Shift Program, you will have created:

  • A network of trusted peers, mentors and colleagues 
  • A community of diverse health leaders who appreciate the value and application of the design process to address complex health challenges

Upon completion of Shift Program you will receive a certificate of completion from McMaster University.

Who is Shift for?

With a health context focus, Shift Program attracts many participants from the medicine, health sciences, health policy and government interested in understanding how to apply design approaches in health leadership. The diversity of perspectives, experiences, and expertise lends itself to a dynamic interdisciplinary and applied learning environment.

  • Health professionals, administrators and educators interested in up-skilling their creative problem-solving, scenario development and collaboration game
  • Health entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs looking to lead change in the health sector
  • University faculty engaged in health-related teaching and research
  • Graduate students, post-doctoral students, medical residents and young professionals exploring opportunities for innovation in health care

Program Schematic

Live classroom sessions occur twice a month. These sessions are supplemented with offline readings, case studies, and other activities. 

Shift Program introduces design thinking methodology. Design thinking focuses on designing for people’s needs by using a human-centered methodology to effectively define challenges people face, collect meaningful qualitative data, iterate alternative design options, and build and iterate prototypes.


Familiarize yourself with the program 2-3 weeks prior to the first live virtual session with: 

  • Technological orientation
  • Preliminary readings and videos
  • Small group project(s)

Live Virtual Sessions

  • Six live three-hour sessions on weekday afternoons
  • Apply learning to your project and leadership in facilitated small-group conversations
  • Practice new skills 
  • Leave with project-based assignments to integrate learnings 

Program Schedule

Introduction to Design Thinking

      • Experience a taste of one loop through the design thinking process. Meet your team and get introduced to the challenge.

Mapping Stories and Trends

      • Jump into engaging with users and stakeholders to elicit stories. Scan the horizon for emerging trends and signals of change.

Defining Opportunities

      • Synthesize data to generate human-level insights and learn to define opportunities.

Imagining New Health Futures

      • Engage in radical acts of creativity to generate new scenarios, situations, and “stuff” to address opportunities.

Test and Learn

      • Bring your ideas to stakeholders to generate conversation, questions, and new ideas. Iterate to reframe, reimagine, or revise your ideas towards something concrete and impactful.

Showcase and Reflection

      • Tell the story of how your ideas address the challenge. Reflect on your experience through the design thinking and futures process.

Weekly Work Between Live Sessions

  • Team project work
  • Virtual team meetings
  • Co-design your Shift Program experience for optimal learning 


  • Get plugged into our HLA alumni network and suite of other offerings including events and engagement opportunities

Shift Program Team

As a Health Leadership Academy program, Shift Program draws on expertise from both the McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences and the DeGroote School of Business. Shift Program faculty are drawn from a variety of disciplines and industries. 

Sean Park

Sean Park, PhD

Amanda Calzolaio, MMI

Laura Smith

Laura Smith, PhD






Shift Events

Want to learn more about Shift? Watch our information session to hear from Shift Program administrators and faculty. Watch our latest Shift Information Session here.

Learn more about design thinking and health leadership, and what it means to design for health in a human-centred way.

Watch our “Design Thinking and Foresight in Health Care Leadership” workshop video featuring Sean Park, PhD, Assistant Professor, Medicine at McMaster University and Nicole Knibb, MDes, Senior Education Officer at the McMaster Museum of Art. This interactive workshop allowed participants to experience a taste of design thinking and strategic foresight.


Application Process

A selection committee of HLA staff and/or faculty will choose well-rounded applicants with demonstrated interested in design thinking and its application to health. The application process consists of an online application, and a personal interview.

We accept applications and review candidates during an admission window (see Important Dates and Deadlines) for details). Applicants will be contacted within 5 business days of their application submission. Interviews are scheduled and the selection committee decision communicated as soon as possible. 

Program Pricing

  • Professional Rate: $3,995 + HST
  • Student* Rate: $1,995 + HST

*Currently enrolled in a graduate program at any institution.  

The Health Leadership Academy has a limited number of Exceptional Leadership Scholarship Awards available for Shift Program participants. Scholarships are distributed based on work experience, academic merit and an application process. Please contact us at to learn more about the application process. 

For applicants who are seeking financial assistance, please consider contacting your respective graduate program supervisor and/or employer.  You may also contact us at to discuss and explore other avenues of support. 

Important Dates and Deadlines

  • Applications are currently closed.


Looking to explore design thinking and its application to health? Come talk to us! 

Contact us at

Read the Shift Frequently Asked Questions.