Dr. Renate Ilse currently serves as vice president of clinical programs at The Ottawa Hospital, where she provides operational leadership for a $300 million portfolio that includes medicine, critical care, pharmacy, endoscopy, post-acute care, and regional programs in dialysis, stroke care, geriatric care, and paramedic training.

She earned her Doctor of Health Administration (DHA) at Capella University in 2014.

In the following conversation, Ilse shares her experiences as a health care leader with a personal commitment to lifelong learning.


Q. Why did you decide to pursue your DHA?

A. I was keeping a promise to myself. My goal wasn’t to transform my career or change my life, but I had promised myself I’d get a doctorate once my kids were grown, and that’s what I did.


Q. What drew you to Capella?

A. While I do have some research interests, mostly I wanted a program that would be practical and help me more effectively deal with the issues and challenges involved in running a hospital today. Capella’s DHA program is focused on applying research to solve problems and develop better leaders. Learning genuinely excites me, and Capella gave me the opportunity to take my love for learning to a new level.


Q. How was your experience at Capella?

A. I loved it. I could pursue my interests, and the coursework was at the forefront of the industry. I was surprised by how relevant the material was to the challenges I’ve encountered in my professional life, and that kept me motivated to explore all of the additional readings and applied problems.

My dissertation work focused on physician engagement, which is hugely relevant today. I had a lot of fun completing this work, and it gave me the chance to have great discussions with many physicians and gain a deeper understanding of the key ways physician engagement affects the success of a hospital.


Q. You’re presenting at the National Health Leadership Conference in Ottawa in June. Can you share what you’ll be discussing?

A. My presentation ties in with my Capella dissertation work on physician engagement. I’ll be sharing factors that influence physician engagement by frontline managers and talking about strategies that can enable managers to drive collaboration with physician partners.

I’ve been exploring this topic for so long, and I’m dying to talk about this research.


Q. Has your doctorate impacted your career?

A. Because my main goal with this degree was to fulfill a promise to myself, I had no particular expectations for career advancement. However, even though I already had years of solid work experience as well as an MBA from one of Canada’s leading universities, I was surprised by the effect of adding “Dr.” to my resume. Several new career and speaking opportunities have come my way since completing my program—including a new position as vice president of clinical programs at The Ottawa Hospital.


Q. Do you have any advice for someone who is considering or beginning a DHA program?

A. Enjoy the experience! The degree I earned has been helpful to my career, but what’s more helpful is the person I’ve become with this new knowledge. How much you learn is largely up to you, so keep moving forward to meet your goals, and take advantage of every opportunity you find.


Q. What’s next for you?

A. Right now I’m focused on delivering on expectations set out at my new job. I’m applying what I’ve learned in my education and using my new knowledge and skills to be a more effective thinker and leader.


Dr. Ilse will be presenting her research at the Canadian National Health Leadership Conference. Learn more about the process of publishing and presenting doctoral research.


Explore Capella’s Doctor of Health Administration program.

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