Teaching Stories

Healthier Teaching with Scott Leatherdale

Scott Leatherdale

Scott Leatherdale, School of Public Health and Health Systems

Written by Fahd Munir, Special Projects (Teaching Stories), CTE. 

One of the first things students learn when attending Dr. Scott Leatherdale’s lectures is to embrace curiosity. Being curious, says Leatherdale, opens the door to enhanced critical thinking.

To foster this curiosity in students, Leatherdale avoids using a textbook and focuses instead on real-world health issues that can lead to “aha” moments for students. As graduate student Patty Hoyeck says, “Dr. Leatherdale motivates us by focusing on current issues in the health care system and having us consider and analyze them.” Graduate student Adam Cole adds, “Scott brings an excitement for learning to each of his lectures. His desire for academic excellence is evident in his lectures, which are consistently updated to reflect current changes in health programs, policy, and practice. This keeps students engaged.”

In his teaching practice, Leatherdale also draws on his experience working with the Ministry of Health. He informs his students, for example, that implementing health policies at any governmental level requires excellent interpersonal skills as well as a healthy work-life balance. Again drawing on his real-world experiences, he advises students to see failures as something to build upon, and to develop a robust and resilient attitude. As Patty Hoyeck affirms, “He focuses on developing our skills as well as our confidence in them.”

Leatherdale understands that being passionately involved in one’s work is a key to success. In his own life, this attitude is reflected in his work as a Chair in Applied Health Research for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and as an advisor to Public Health Ontario (PHO). That passionate commitment is also why Leatherdale devotes personal time to attending AHS socials, is the reason he is involved in various campus committees, and is why he always prioritises time with his family and friends.

Leatherdale likewise urges his students to get the most out of their time at the University of Waterloo by becoming actively involved and engaged in campus life. Even in the classroom, Leatherdale strives to foster deep involvement by asking thought-provoking questions that require critical thinking and active responses. All of this nurtures a powerful connection between instructor and students. As graduate student Rachel Laxer says, “He is such a supportive supervisor and mentor. He provides all of his students with exciting opportunities to advance our future careers.”

Scott Leatherdale's profile in the School of Public Health and Health Systems

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CTE has developed more than 100 Teaching Tips. Each one is a succinct document that conveys useful ideas and practical methods for effective teaching. Some of the Teaching Tips that are relevant to the strategies mentioned in this Teaching Story include the following: