From MaRS to Netherlands

A Canadian-Dutch health innovation exchange

Zayna Khayat

Innovation Sherpa

This week I started a secondment with the REshape Center for Innovation at Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, Netherlands. I come to the Netherlands “on loan” from Canada.   These are the common questions I have been asked about what I do, why I joined the REshape Center and what I’ll be working on …

How did you end up in health innovation?

Although my academic training is in the life sciences, I was not exposed to the complexities of healthcare until my first job as a consultant with the Boston Consulting Group. With the firm’s healthcare practice, I had the privilege of working on some tough health innovation challenges, and learned creative ways to solve complex problems. I used these experiences in a number of subsequent roles, culminating in me joining the team at MaRS in 2014.

What do you do in health innovation in Canada?

I have two formal roles. The first is with the Health System Innovation team at MaRS Discovery District, a global innovation hub based in Toronto. In this role our team works on “demand-side” innovation; that is, addressing key bottlenecks that are in the way of health innovations getting adopted at scale in Canada and globally. One notable program is EXCITE (Excellence in Clinical Innovation and Technology Evaluation), a collaboration between the health system, government, industry and academia, which is now being replicated globally, including potentially the Netherlands (see more below). My other role is as Adjunct Professor in Health Sector Strategy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management where I teach a course in Healthcare Innovation to the MBA students.

Why move to Europe now?

I have been doing important and fun work, helping smooth the path to adoption into the Canadian health system of proven health innovations. I decided to take a pause now for a few reasons.

First, my life plan called the shots. I always wanted to try living, working and raising my family in another country. We needed to make the move before our oldest child started high school. So 2017 was the year!

In parallel I felt a need to experience health innovation (and life in general) from a new perspective. It is too easy to get so caught up in the day to day that you lose edge and freshness in your thinking.  Although I stay on top of advancements in this space globally – it’s not the same as being immersed in a new context to tackle health innovation challenges in new ways. Although Canada offers some answers to intractable challenges in health and healthcare, we are inspired by key OECD peers, especially the British, Dutch and Scandinavian health systems.  These peers have a rich culture of innovation, and have made some fundamental design choices that we are decades from implementing in North America.

Which leads to the next question …

Why the Netherlands?

The Netherlands comes up regularly when innovative practices in redesign of care models are highlighted. Within the Netherlands, there is the REshape Center, which I see as being at the tip of the spear in exploring and shaping new ways to think about, organize and deliver care. I had the chance to meet Lucien Engelen, Director of the REshape Center when we invited him to give a keynote at a health innovation event in Toronto in 2015. We hit it off on many levels. It started as a partnership between our two organizations, from collaborating to being part of the kick-off of their new curriculum for (bio)medical students, and their Dutch Health Hackathon. Then we took it to the next level and arranged for me to visit on secondment in 2017.

What is your role at the REshape Center?

My interesting job title gives a clue to my role: Innovation Sherpa in Chief”. As the name suggests, Lucien asked me to help move forward a few priority initiatives of the REshape Center this year, drawing upon my experiences in Canada.  Currently I am working on a few initiatives:

  1. Health Innovation Curriculum – together with the innovation team within the Ministry of Health, Welfare & Sport, REshape is designing and delivering a new curriculum to build a competency for innovation among key senior leaders and emerging leaders across the Dutch health system. It’s a first, so challenges galore.
  2. EXCITE health technology assessment program – as noted above, the EXCITE program that I led in Canada addresses the many barriers to reimbursement and adoption for proven medical technology innovations.  A year ago MaRS spun out EXCITE International to take the platform to a global scale, initially with key US health systems and the UK. I’ll be working with the Medvalue tech evaluation team here to explore setting up an EXCITE affiliate in the Netherlands, which could put this country on the global map as an innovator in technology evaluation, science and adoption.
  3. Innovation Learning Network conference – in mid-October, the REshape Center will host the in-person meeting of the Innovation Learning Network (ILN), a community of practice of the in-house innovation teams of more than 40 leading health systems and organizations (primarily in North America), including Kaiser Permanente, Ascension Health and the Carolinas Health System. This will be the second time the ILN has convened in Europe, so we are working hard to make the program a not to miss event!
  4. Global Network of Health Innovation Centers (GNHIC)– the network is being set up to build capacity for adopting Exponential Technologies in healthcare.  With the initiative of the REshape Center, a group of leading health systems in the US, UK, Sweden, Canada, and Singapore got together at a recent Exponential Medicine conference at Singularity University and seeded the concept for a global network to develop and exchange methods and approaches for health systems to embrace exponential tech at scale. I will be spending this year taking the GNHIC from concept to reality, with a target of formally launching the network at the 2017 ExMed conference in San Diego in November.

REshape’s innovation projects. Last but not least, I will lend my expertise to the REshape Center team as they transition into their next phase of evolution. With the later stages of the innovation cycle being broadly adopted within the Radboudumc, the REshape Center is evolving to to move further upstream into the front end of the health innovation process.

The REshape Center’s assignment in this next phase will migrate to focus solely on condensing the path of Gartner’s Hype Cycle in the “0 to 1” phase. Lucien and his colleague Ronald Lolkema (director of Strategy) have been tasked by the board to build an Innovation Lab, to seamlessly take the ideas and prototypes from the “0 to 1” stage of REshape into the next level (Gartner stage 0.8-1.2), and after that, diffusion at scale (1 to 100).

Outside of these projects, I am also here to learn a lot from my REshape Center colleagues and the broader health ecosystem in the Netherlands, and to share some of my experiences and knowledge from Canada. Here are already some of the things I expect to learn from the NL to take back: #patientsincluded, foots-down approach, 0 to 1, etc


What have you observed about healthcare so far in your first week in Netherlands?

For one, I get a sense of a positive energy for innovation that I haven’t experienced in my travels to date. People seem to just ‘get it’, and want to do the right thing.  Here are two anecdotes from my first week in Netherlands:


  • On day 4 after our arrival, my 9-year-old daughter cut her finger really badly (while cutting Gouda cheese!). We brought her into the ED at Radboudumc. The doctor confirmed she did not need stitches and arranged for the nurse to clean and dress the wound. Just before he left the exam room he pulled out his iPhone 7 and took a picture of the wound “so that there is a record of it on EPIC, in case it gets infected”. Just. Like. That. Digital health should be that seamless, yet integrating that step into the workflow of docs would be a multi-month project in most health systems!
  • Afbeeldingsresultaat voor zorginnovatiewinkelLucien and I recently had a working session with a colleague from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport’s innovation team. We decided to meet in Utrecht and she picked the spot – a health innovation “pop up shop” in the mall at the Utrecht station (Zorginnovatiewinkel). The pop up shop is funded by the Ministry. It rotates cities across the Netherlands, showcasing health innovations and inviting the community to engage. The Utrecht shop was in the back of an Albert Heijn grocery store!  I love this approach to democratizing ideas about health innovation, especially with the leadership of government.


I am very interested in meeting people for coffee chats (or should I say, “cappuccino chats”?).

The REshape Center is hosting a meet and greet on Wednesday March 8 from 16:00 to 17:30 pm at our offices. I will give a short overview of some of fun projects I have worked on, and then we will go social. Hope to see you there!

Otherwise, most days I am hanging out at the REshape offices on campus at Radboudumc, at Reinier Postlaan 4, route 911 [go figure 9-1-1 for health innovation, yes ! 😉 ].  You can also see what I’m Tweeting about at .

Here are my coordinates:

Zayna Khayat, Ph.D.
Innovation Sherpa in Chief
Radboudumc REshape Center for Innovation
M +3124-36 68911/
Skype: zayna.khayat | Twitter:  @ZaynaKhayat @REshape