Health Services Research

Area of Research

Continuing professional development focuses on the ways in which health professionals learn and develop throughout their lifetime.  Professor Austin’s interests focus on both students and practitioners, and implications for regulators, employers, and educators.   He has unique expertise in the area of integration of internationally educated health care professionals in the domestic workforce, and on competency assessment. 

Research Challenge

No matter how much funding goes into healthcare, the quality of service ultimately depends on the people – the professionals – who actually work in the field and who deliver care to patients.  Recognizing that, as human beings, professionals have their own psycho-social and educational needs is essential.  Finding ways of fully engaging the health care workforce, to allow them to “fire on all pistons” is crucial to ensure best possible care and outcomes.  Investing in both professional and personal development to support health care workers means understanding their diverse and unique needs.  This is particularly important for internationally educated health professionals who face multiple such challenges.

Proposed Solution

Professor Austin draws upon methods and theories from psychology, sociology, education and professional regulation to address these issues.  Building networks involving practitioners, regulators, educators, employers, professional associations and governments, Austin’s work focuses on multisectoral collaboration to define and address the professional and personal needs of the healthcare workforce in a proactive manner, to support best possible health care delivery and outcomes.  His work uses a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods to define problems, measure progress, and evaluate solutions.

Impact to date

Professor Austin is the only U of T Faculty member to ever have received both the President’s Research Impact Award (for societal significance of his work) and the President’s Teaching Excellence Award (for sustained contributions as a teacher).  In 2017, he was installed as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences for his contributions in support of the health workforce.  He is an international leader in the area of bridging education for internationally educated professionals, and is regularly commissioned by health professions’ regulatory bodies in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia to study competency-related issues. He has delivered over 150 keynote presentations at international conferences.  In 2019 he was selected to deliver the Herbert Platter Lecture at the Federation of State Medical Boards (US) meeting. In addition, he has been named undergraduate Professor of the Year by students on 16 separate occasions.


  • Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada Bristol Myers Squibb Excellence in Pharmacy Education award
  • Association of Faculties of Pharmacy of Canada Astra-Zeneca Young Researcher Award
  • Government of Ontario’s Leadership in Faculty Teaching (LIFT) award
  • American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) Lyman Award for the best scholarly work in pharmacy education
  • UofT President’s Research Impact Award
  • U of T President’s Teaching Excellence Award
  • Faculty of Pharmacy’s Teacher of the Year award (16 times).
  • Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences



Keywords: professional development, personal development, health workforce, educated health professionals, professional identity, professional practice, patient care