College of Public Health Catalog 2013/2014

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Degree: Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health
USF Department code: DEA
Program (Major/College): PPH PH
Concentrations: Health Services Research (HPM)
COPH Department: Health Policy & Management

Ph.D. in Public Health with a Concentration in Health Services Research

Description: The PhD Program in the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM) prepares students for research careers in both academic and non-academic organizations.  Program of study is tailored to the interests and backgrounds of individual students.  All students who complete the HPM doctoral degree program must demonstrate proficiency in defined substantive areas and must develop stated competencies. 

In addition to the general Doctor of Philosophy degree competencies, graduates with a concentration in Health Services Research will:


  1. Know how to apply alternative theoretical and conceptual models relevant to health services research (HSR).
  2. Apply in-depth disciplinary knowledge and skills relevant to health services research, and pose innovative and important research questions, informed by systematic reviews of the literature, stakeholder needs, and relevant theoretical and conceptual models
  3. Use knowledge of the structures, performance, quality, policy, and societal context of health and health care to formulate solutions for health policy problems.
  4. Select appropriate interventional (experimental and quasi-experimental) study designs to address specific health services research questions, and use appropriate analytical methods to clarify associations between variables and to delineate causal inferences.
  5. Introduce how to collect primary health and health care data obtained by survey, qualitative, or mixed methods.
  6. Know how to assemble secondary data from existing public and private data sources.
  7. Use a conceptual model to specify study constructs for a health services research question and develop variables that reliably and validly measure these constructs.
  8. Implement research protocols with standardized procedures that assure reproducibility of the science.
  9. Assure the ethical and responsible conduct of research in the design, implementation, and dissemination of health services research.
  10. Effectively communicate the findings and implications of health services research through multiple modalities to technical and lay audiences.

Areas of Demonstrated Proficiency

At the time of the Qualifying Examination, students are expected to demonstrate proficiency in three substantive areas: 1) core disciplines of public health, 2) research methodology, and 3) a recognized specialty area in health policy or health management.

  1. Core Public Health Disciplines.  Students are expected to master the basic disciplines of public health, in addition to mastering more advanced work in the fields of epidemiology and biostatistics. 
  2. Research Methodology Students are expected to develop a working knowledge of the principal statistical approaches used in contemporary health services research.  
  3. HPM Specialty.  In view of the broad interdisciplinary nature of the HPM field, students are given considerable latitude in delineating the third area of study.  In general terms, students are expected to develop specialized knowledge in one or more substantive area of interest to HPM professionals.  Examples include health outcomes research, health care management, health policy analysis, medical care organization and financing.  All students are expected to augment their specialty work by acquiring suitable skills in the core disciplinary fields of HPM, particularly economics and decision sciences, health politics and law, and management and organizational behavior.  Students are expected to identify a problem area or topic of sufficient individual interest to lead to the design of a proposal for the dissertation research phase of the PhD program.

Degree Details

 Admission Process and Acceptance

Admissions Requirements for HPM Doctoral Students

Student Qualifications: The HPM faculty and Admissions Committee are committed to identifying and recruiting qualified applicants for the PhD program, particularly minority candidates and those who will contribute to the diversity of the student body.  Please also see Admission Requirements for Doctoral Degree Programs.

To be considered for admission to the PhD program, applicants must have:

A master's degree from an accredited university (exceptional applicants with a bachelor's degree may be considered for admission); GRE or GMAT score which was taken within five years preceding the application, and TOEFL score if international student applicant.

The minimum standards for graduate GPA or GRE, GMAT and TOEFL scores are summarized below. 

  • Graduate GPA: 3.0
  • Minimum Verbal GRE: 480 (152 on new ETS scale)
  • Minimum Quantitative GRE: 620 (149 on new ETS scale)
  • GMAT: 600

Application and Review Process: Doctoral program applicants should submit both a USF and SOPHAS application as instructed on the College’s Graduate Admission/Application Procedures page.  The completed application package will be forwarded to the College of Public Health Academic and Student Affairs office, and subsequently to the Chair of the HPM Admissions Committee. 

Only qualified applicants are considered for admission.  Applicants are regarded as qualified if they achieve the graduate GPA and test score standards.  In addition, exceptional applicants, with only a bachelor's degree and an undergraduate GPA exceeding 3.0, may be considered.

The HPM Admissions Committee evaluates doctoral program applicants regarding their academic performance, research interests and potential, professional experience, recommendations, and personal statements.  The Admissions Committee identifies those candidates who have demonstrated excellence in past academic and professional pursuits relevant to public health, health policy, or health services management, and subsequently assesses faculty willingness to serve as sponsors.

Faculty Sponsor: For admission, qualified applicants must have a faculty sponsor.  Doctoral student applications are circulated to faculty who can serve as faculty sponsors.  Faculty sponsors must be eligible to chair a Doctoral Supervisory Committee, and must document their willingness to work with an applicant.

In making decisions to sponsor students, faculty members assess applicants regarding their academic performance, professional experience, research interests and potential, recommendations, and personal statements.  On-campus or telephone interviews are required.  Faculty members only sponsor applicants who 1) demonstrate excellence in academic and professional performance, 2) articulate distinct research goals and interests that are consistent with the faculty member's work, and 3) provide evidence of maturity and self-direction based on accomplishments, interview findings and recommendations.  Applicants are not admitted if they are not qualified or do not have a faculty sponsor.

Admission Decision: Once an eligible faculty member agrees to sponsor an applicant, the Admissions Committee recommends a decision to the department chair. The department chair makes a recommendation regarding admission or denial.  This recommendation is sent to the College of Public Health academic coordinator, and subsequently to the Graduate Admissions Office. 

 Requirements for the HPM Doctoral Students

The purpose of this document is to provide information on the requirements of the Department of Health Policy and Management for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. A student accepted for doctoral studies in the Department of Health Policy and Management should also review the University Guidelines and College Academic and Student Affairs website guidelines for general guidance and for additional details regarding requirements. Additionally, the Department website has specific additional information that may be useful.

The requirements for doctoral students include the following sections:

  1. Letter of Understanding
  2. Advisor and Major Professor
  3. Doctoral Committee
  4. Enrollment Requirements
  5. Plan of Study
  6. Transfer Credit
  7. Teaching
  8. Comprehensive Qualifying Examination
  9. Dissertation
  10. Final Oral Examination
  11. Restrictions on Release of Publications
  12. Responsibilities of Students
  13. Forms and Guidance

Each of the sections are described below.

1.  Letter of Understanding

Upon admission to the doctoral program, each student is required to sign a letter of understanding regarding the stages of the doctoral program. The letter will be prepared and provided to the student by the chairperson of the Department. The letter should indicate that the student has received and read a copy of these guidelines and has read the relevant sections of the current Graduate Catalog and agrees to abide by them. In addition the letter should show that the student is familiar with the following specific requirements:

  • Clear understanding of required doctoral competencies;
  • Successful completion of a written plan of study as approved by the doctoral committee;
  • Successful performance on the written comprehensive qualifying examination for doctoral candidacy;
  • Preparation and formal defense of a dissertation proposal;
  • Conduct of dissertation research activities and preparation of the dissertation;
  • Successful completion of teaching proficiency as defined by the department; and,
  • Successful defense of the dissertation.

2.  Advisor and Major Professor

As a condition of admission, a student must have a faculty member in the Department agree to serve as the student's sponsor. Upon the student's admission to doctoral studies, the department chairperson will appoint the faculty sponsor as the major professor. The major professor serves as a mentor and facilitates the student's doctoral studies by:

  • Serving as the student's advisor;
  • Meeting with the student to develop a plan of study for Doctoral Committee approval by the end of the second semester;
  • Chairing the Doctoral Committee;
  • Keeping the Doctoral Committee informed of the student's progress;
  • Meeting with student on a regular basis about academic and research progress;
  • Coordinating the development, administration, and grading of the comprehensive qualifying examination;
  • Recommending additional members when the dissertation committee is formed;
  • Guiding the student in the development and implementation of a quality dissertation (including proposal, implementation of the research, and the written document); and,
  • Recommending an appropriate outside chair to preside over the dissertation defense examination.

3. Doctoral Committee

By the end of the student's second semester, the major professor, in consultation with the student, shall form a Doctoral Committee and the Department will complete and forward the appropriate forms (see this document section #13 for links). The Doctoral Committee is also known as the Doctoral Supervisory Committee. The Committee will meet with the student and approve the student's plan of study. The plan of study shall include all required departmental courses, prerequisites, and additional courses as prescribed by the Committee (including courses required outside of the Department) that are required to sit for the comprehensive qualifying examination and to conduct dissertation research. It will also specify required teaching activities. The plan should include a proposed time schedule to complete each course, and copies of the plan shall be given to each Committee member and to the Office of Academic and Student Affairs. The major professor has the privilege of calling additional meetings, as necessary, to discuss the student's progress, research ideas, plan for the qualifying examination, or a significant change in the plan of study. It is the student's responsibility to arrange these meetings.

The Doctoral Committee is responsible for the following:

  • Meeting with the student to discuss the plan of study, research proposal, comprehensive qualifying examination, or academic progress;
  • Facilitating opportunities for research and scholarly growth;
  • Approving and monitoring a written plan of study that prepares the student to sit for the comprehensive qualifying examination and to conduct dissertation research;
  • Developing and grading the written comprehensive qualifying examination; and
  • Guiding the student throughout dissertation preparation, including:
    • approving the written dissertation proposal through a formal oral defense process;
    • providing guidance during the writing of the dissertation; and
    • Conducting the dissertation defense examination and approving the dissertation.

Occasionally, it becomes necessary or desirable to change a student's major professor or Doctoral Committee members. This may occur when research interests are more closely matched with another faculty member, the student and faculty member mutually agree that another faculty member is more appropriate, or a faculty member is leaving the university. This action requires submission of another change of committee form.

4.  Enrollment Requirements

In the first year of study, the student must enroll for a minimum of 9 hours each in two of the first three semesters (Fall, Spring, Summer) at a University of South Florida campus. The department abides by the Enrollment Requirements (including the Leave of Absence provisions) in the Graduate Catalog.

5.  Plan of Study

The student's plan of study will include the following:

Prerequisites: A minimum of PHC 6050 Biostatistics I, PHC 6000 Epidemiology, and PHC 6102 Principles of Health Policy and Management are required to be taken by all students who do not have a master's degree in public health, (unless an equivalent course has been taken). The Doctoral Committee or the Department may require other prerequisites. These courses are not included in the minimum number of hours needed to complete the PhD and are expected to be completed early in the course of study.

Required Course Work: The courses and number of credit hours required are defined by the Department and the Doctoral Committee and may include course work from another department or college. There must be a minimum of 13 credits at the 7000 level. A minimum of 90 credits beyond the bachelor's degree is required. There is a mandatory doctoral student orientation that all new doctoral students must attend in the fall semester of their first academic year. The required coursework will include:

Download PHD Plan of Study Form

7000-level Courses (minimum) 

QMB 7565 Introduction to Research Methods (3)
QMB 7566 Applied Multivariate Statistical Methods (3)
PHC 7936 Seminar in Health Care Outcome Measurement (3)
PHC 7437 Applications in Health Economics (3)

PHC 7935 Interdisciplinary Seminar (1)


Advanced Statistics & Research Methods

PHC 6051 Biostatistics II (3)

PHC 6760 Research Methods in Public Health Programs (3)

PHC 6053 Categorical Data Analysis (3)

PHC 6701 Computer Applications for Public Health Researchers

QMB 6375 Applied Linear Statistical Models (3)

ECO 6424 Econometrics I (3)


Health Policy and Management

PHC 6151 Health Policy and Politics (3)
PHC 6180 Health Services Management (3)
PHC 6191 Quantitative Analysis in Health Care Services (3)
PHC 6430 Health Economics I (3)


Specialty area courses, including courses necessary to complete dissertation research. (The maximum accepted from a previous master's degree cannot be more than 35).




Minimum Credits:

Additional coursework beyond 90 credits may be required of the student as specified in the plan of study



6.   Transfer Credit

It is possible to count most of the academic credits earned in an equivalent master's degree program in health policy and management (within the previous five years) toward the PhD. During the PhD program, it is possible to complete and transfer up to 8 semester hours (or 3 courses) from another regionally accredited University. The courses to be accepted for transfer credit will be determined by the student's Doctoral Committee.

7.  Teaching

All doctoral students will demonstrate or document proficiency in teaching academic courses at the college or university level. The Doctoral Committee will determine the required teaching activities or whether previous teaching experience is sufficient to satisfy this requirement.

8.  Comprehensive Qualifying Examination

When all required coursework is satisfactorily completed (and prerequisites), the student must pass the comprehensive qualifying examination covering the subject matter in the major and related fields. If all or part of the examination is failed, the student has one opportunity to retake the examination. If the student fails any part of the second examination, the student will be dismissed from the program.

The comprehensive qualifying examination consists of two parts: a written examination and an oral examination. The written portion, at the minimum, must include the following three parts:

  • the field of health policy and management;
  • the student's cognate discipline or disciplines supporting the student's specialization area and public health; and,
  • research and analytic methods and their applications relevant to the health policy and management area.

Other sections or areas may also be included in the written examination at the discretion of the doctoral committee. The written examination will occur over two consecutive days. The student will be required to pass satisfactorily each section of the written examination before being allowed to take the oral portion. A passing score is 70%. The results of the written portion of the comprehensive qualifying examination must be reported to the student, the members of the committee, and the department chair within three weeks of the date of the examination. The oral portion of the examination will be administered by the student's doctoral Committee and will be no more than two hours duration. The oral examination is an extension of and based on the written examination. Passing the oral portion of the examination requires approval by a majority of the Committee.

Successful completion of the examination requires passing grades on both the written and oral portions. No portion or section of the examination may be re-taken more than once, and the Doctoral Committee will determine the portions or sections to be re-taken.

After successful completion of the qualifying examination, the completed and approved the appropriate form will be forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies. Upon approval of the form by Graduate Studies, the student is admitted to candidacy and may register for dissertation credits.

9.   Dissertation

All students must follow the University's Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines. .Generally, the Doctoral Committee will continue to serve as the Dissertation Committee, although this is not necessary. If not, a new appropriate form must be completed and approved. The Dissertation Committee will formally approve the student's written research proposal through an oral presentation given by the student, supervise the research, read and approve the dissertation for defense, and conduct the dissertation defense examination. The Committee will include at least three approved faculty from the department and one faculty from outside of the department.

10.  Final Oral Examination

After the Dissertation Committee has determined that the dissertation is complete and suitable for presentation, the Committee will request the scheduling and announcement of the dissertation defense examination. All committee members must agree to the examination date and must be in attendance at the examination either in person or via speakerphone. This will be an oral examination of approximately two hours duration. The "chair" of the examination is expected to be a faculty member from outside of the Department.

Successful completion requires a 3/4 vote of the Dissertation Committee. Conditions may be placed upon a "pass" that require the candidate to revise the dissertation before final approval. The final oral examination may be re-taken once. In addition to information for the Dissertation Committee and on the Oral Defense, the Graduate Studies website contains information on forms you will need regarding dissertation defense notices, and various completion forms.

11.  Restrictions on Release of Publications 

See University of South Florida Graduate Catalog section on Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines for details on release of publications. 

12.  Responsibilities of Students

Students are expected to be familiar with the Graduate Catalog, departmental and college guidelines (Academic and Student Affairs). The student is responsible for assuring appropriate forms are submitted on time. Forms and directions are available on the following websites: Academic and Student Affairs, and from Graduate Studies.

13.  Forms and Guidance

The official forms are listed on the University Graduate Studies website. Guidance as to what forms to use for what purpose can be found at the College Academic and Student Affairs website.





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