UNC Gillings celebrates the legacy of Emeritus Professor and Chair Dr. Peggy Leatt

November 6, 2019

Dr. Peggy Leatt (Contributed photo)

Dr. Peggy Leatt

Emeritus Professor and Chair Peggy Leatt, PhD, visionary leader and innovative scholar in health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, passed away on November 3 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Peggy was born in Skipton, North Yorkshire, England. She qualified as a State Registered Nurse and started her patient care career at Leeds General Infirmary. She moved to Geneva where she was an occupational health nurse for the physicists and staff of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. After Peggy emigrated to Canada, she was a staff nurse first at the Ottawa Civic Hospital and then at University Hospital in Edmonton, where she rose to surgical nursing supervisor. At the University of Alberta, she obtained her BScN, MHSA and PhD in sociology.

Recruited by the University of Toronto in 1980, she served as chair of the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) from 1988 to 1998. In 1998, she become the second CEO of the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission and was responsible for the creation of reports that synthesized and translated reams of evidence that continue to describe what the Ontario health system should look like. In 2002, Peggy moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill) where she was chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) between 2003 and 2013 and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs in the Gillings School between 2005 and 2010.  Under Peggy’s leadership, several of the HPM academic programs were redesigned to strengthen the curricula and pedagogy. Despite challenges from a shrinking budget, HPM thrived under Peggy’s leadership and further enhanced its already outstanding national reputation.

Peggy retired from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013 and spent her time tending her garden, cooking and designing her and George’s retirement home.

Peggy was a leader in health management education. She was the first woman to chair the Board of the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) and the first Canadian to chair the Board of the Accrediting Commission on Education for Health Services Administration Commission [ACEHSA, now the Commission on Accreditation of Health Management Education (CAHME)] – two international leadership roles in improving health care education. Her time as Board Chair and years of committee work for AUPHA and CAHME were marked by extraordinary change and increased professionalization of health policy and management. The Blue Ribbon Taskforce on Accreditation that she chaired for the National Center for Healthcare Leadership and ACEHSA produced a landmark report that influenced the direction of accreditation of programs in health policy and management.

Peggy was a respected and visionary chair of two leading departments of health policy and management. At the University of Toronto, HPME was quickly transformed into a highly competitive health administration department that would win top accreditation honors. Early on, Peggy understood that mid- and late- career professionals could truly benefit from leadership and health administration training. She pushed for the development of a modular Master of Science (MSc) program at IHPME, so that health care professionals could pursue graduate studies while employed. At the time, the concept of making graduate studies accessible to working professionals was less common and considered truly innovative.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, she increased department funding more than fourfold and redesigned the executive master’s and DrPH program curricula. Under her direction, the department made major strides in the areas of cancer outcomes, dental health, mental health and rural health. Throughout her career, she took great interest in ensuring that health sciences were approached as a professional field of study, and she was also instrumental in introducing the PhD program at IHPME. Peggy had a gift for recognizing potential and developing leaders. During her tenure, she hired many of the current faculty at HPM at UNC-Chapel Hill and IHPME at the University of Toronto.

Throughout her career, Peggy was a constant advocate, mentor and friend to many women in academia. During her two decades as a departmental Chair at two universities, she hired dozens of female faculty members, mentored them, helped them to be promoted and was relentless in advancing their careers in the presence of many challenges and barriers. Many of these women sought her counsel long after she had left her administrative positions because of the richness of her advice and constancy as a friend. She once said that she was frequently underestimated because she was a short, slight, and soft-spoken woman and mother; however, her commitment to reducing the very real barriers facing women helped to develop future generations of women academics and leaders.

Peggy was a scholar, researcher and a teacher. Over the course of her long career, she taught thousands of students and was widely regarded as an exceptional teacher and innovative scholar. She invested much of her energy in improving HPM education and the student experience, particularly for minority students. She authored hundreds of peer-reviewed articles, authored several books, was Principal Investigator on grants totaling millions of dollars and was the founding editor of two Longwoods journals — Healthcare Quarterly and Healthcare Papers.

Finally, and most importantly, Peggy was a devoted mother to Sarah Pink and a partner to George Pink for almost 40 years. Peggy worked very hard, but she was always there for her family no matter what.

Peggy was a truly exceptional person – a leader, scholar, friend, mother and spouse. A celebration of her life will take place in the new year.

Those who wish to recognize Peggy should feel free to contribute to the The Peggy Leatt & George Pink Endowed Fellowship in Health Policy & Management (444794). This award is for students who enhance the diversity of the student population and/or have experience working with organizations or projects related to inclusive communities. You may make a gift online or send a check to Rachel Canada, Stewardship and Donor Relations Coordinator, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, 135 Dauer Drive, Rosenau 124, Chapel Hill, NC 27599.

Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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