Program Description

The Health Services Research (HSR) doctoral program in offers training in research methods to advance knowledge of issues central to the improvement of population health by focusing on organizational characteristics of health care delivery systems, providers and economic forces that shape consumer and provider behavior, as well as the policy environment in which these relationships exist. The competency-based curriculum provides students with a strong analytic foundation and general health services research orientation. Students may select an emphasis area in Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, Healthcare Economics or Comparative Effectiveness Research and Evidence-based Medicine.

There is no GRE requirement.

Interim Graduate Program Director: David Meyers (Fall 2022) 

HSR Graduate Program Director: Omar Galárraga (On sabbatical until January 2023)

Program Manager: Catherine (Cat) Leopold     


HSR Seminars: our students have access to leading health services researchers both in a small group format and large lectures.


SIZED HSR Doctoral Students with HSR Seminar Speaker Abigail Friedman on Nov. 13, 2019.png

             HSR doctoral students with HSR Seminar guest lecturer Dr. Abigail Friedman,                       
         November 13, 2019
Our students have one-on-one access to eminent leaders in the
         field of health services research from around the country at the HSR Seminar Series lectures.


Student Groups

Our students participate in and form groups such as the HSR Journal Club and the Student Writing Accountability Group (SWAG). SWAG meets weekly in a local coffee shop where HSR students write in solidarity with each other with specific program goals in mind.

HSR students at a SWAG meeting











Academic Program Handbook

HSR Doctoral Program Handbook 2022 - 2023

PhD in Health Services Research - Basic Degree Requirements

If matriculating into the program with a master's degree, students must complete 16 tuition units. If matriculating without a master's degree, students must complete 24 tuition units.

Degree completion requirements for all doctoral students at the School of Public Health include:

  1. Completion of a program of courses covering core areas of required expertise.
  2. Demonstration of proficiency in teaching.
  3. Synthesis of a core body of knowledge to be evaluated via a written examination.
  4. Demonstration of readiness to undertake original research, via oral presentation and defense of a written dissertation proposal (oral exam).
  5. Completion and oral defense of a dissertation that makes an original contribution in the chosen field of study.

The methods for meeting these requirements may differ depending on the individual program of study

PhD in Health Services Research - Required Courses
All course offerings are subject to change. Consult [email protected] for the most up-to-date schedule and course descriptions.

Concepts learned in the classroom are reinforced through lectures, reading courses, and other structured learning experiences. Additional coursework beyond those listed depends on the requirements of the specialty track. 

Foundations in Epidemiologic Research Methods (PHP2150)
Intermediate Methods in Epidemiologic Research (PHP2200)
Principles of Biostatistics and Data Analysis (PHP2510)
The US Health Care System:  Case Studies in Financing, Delivery, Regulation and Public Health (PHP2400)
Health Services Research Methods I (PHP2455A)
Graduate Independent Student and Thesis Research (Full Credit)  (PHP2980)
Research Grant Writing for Public Health (PHP2090)

PhD in Health Services Research-Specialty Tracks

In addition to demonstrated ability in the eight core competency areas, students are expected to select a specialty track: Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmaceutical Health Services Research, Healthcare Economics or Comparative Effectiveness Research and Evidence-based Medicine. Students may create their own specialty track in conjunction with their advisor. Permission for the plan of study must be obtained by the Graduate Program Director.

Specialty Track in Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmaceutical Health Services Research

The Department of Health Services Policy & Practice is committed to advancing safe, effective, and cost-effective pharmaceutical use.  While drug products and devices are evaluated for efficacy in clinical trials, their population effectiveness is dependent upon their dissemination to patients who can benefit from them while at the same time limiting the adverse consequences inherent to their use.  Students in our graduate program benefit from interdisciplinary, state-of-the-art training in epidemiology and biostatistics and application of real-world data to contemporary gaps in knowledge. These applications broadly span pharmacoepidemiology and pharmaceutical health services research.

Pharmacoepidemiology is the application of the principles of epidemiology to the study the use and effects of medications and other medical devices, generally in large populations.  Most studies examine the adverse events or therapeutic benefits of drugs or medical devices after products have been launched (post-marketing).  Such work is critical to overcome the inherent limitations of pre-marketing studies and for supporting the most appropriate use of medications/devices with respect to safety and effectiveness.

Pharmaceutical health services research moves beyond the risks and benefits of drugs in selected populations to important questions about access, quality, and costs.  Despite the fact that the United States spends more on pharmaceuticals than any other nation, there remain significant disparities in prescribing and utilization, poor adherence, and failure to achieve therapeutic outcomes. 

Specialty Track in Health Economics

The specialty track in health economics offers both economic theory as well as additional methodological training, relying upon the econometric tools used by that discipline but applied to better understanding the demand for health services and the industry factors that influence the distribution and shape of health care services in different markets. Of the increasing number of doctoral training programs in health services research, those built around the discipline of econometrics are prevalent. Nonetheless, few of these programs are designed to give students complete exposure to all aspects of economics as a discipline, then allowing students to specialize in health issues.   

The goal of the specialty track in health economics is to offer additional training in both the theory and methods of economics in order to prepare students to acquire greater substantive and technical competencies such that they can execute a dissertation that has the potential of contributing to the health services literature from the perspective of a health economist. College-level intermediate Microeconomics is required as a prerequisite; and intermediate Econometrics is highly recommended.

To complete this track, students must meet with Dr. Omar Galárraga (track advisor), work with their advisor, and take a minimum of four courses, one of which may be an elective.

Foundational courses: 

·       ECON2320 Economics of Labor and Population

·       ECON2360 Economics of Health and Population

·       PHP2480 Selected Topics in Global Health Economics  

At least one elective, from below: 

·       ECON1360 Health Economics

·       ECON1460 Industrial Organization

·       ECON1530 Health, Hunger and the Household in Developing Countries 

·       ECON1629 Applied Research Methods for Economists

·       ECON2330 Topics in Labor Economics


Specialty Track in Comparative Effectiveness Research and Evidence-based Medicine

Students selecting this emphasis area will learn about evidence synthesis, including systematic review and meta-analysis, for assessing the effectiveness and safety of interventions, and decision, economic [such as net health benefit, cost-utility, or cost-effectiveness], and value-of-information analysis, to identify “good” decisions to clinical, population health and economic questions.

Required Courses (Students are required to select 3-6 courses)

Molecular Mechanisms of Disease (BIOL 2860) 
Note: Meets human biology/pharmacology competency requirements for Health Services Research, specialty track in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research.

Introduction to Pharmacoepidemiology (PHP 2440) 
Note: Epidemiology students may use this course as either a methodological or substantive elective. Required course for Health Services Research, specialty track in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research.

Conflicting priorities?  Prescription Profits & the Public’s Health (PHP 2436) 
Note: Approved course selection for Health Services Research, specialty track in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research.

Clinical Trials Methodology (PHP 2030) 
Note: Epidemiology students may use this course as a methodological elective. Approved course selection for Health Services Research, specialty track in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research. This course is an MPH approved elective.

Analysis of Population Based Datasets (PHP 2430) 
Note: Approved course selection for Health Services Research, specialty track in Pharmaceutical Health Services Research.

In response to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notice NOT-OD-13-093, and the Brown University School of Public Health mandate regarding the use of Individual Development Plans (IDP) for graduate students, effective April 1, 2015, the doctoral program in Health Services Research will require:

  • All incoming, matriculating doctoral students (regardless of funding source) to complete an IDP, in consultation with their advisor, by the beginning of their second semester.  
  • All doctoral students (regardless of funding source) to submit an updated IDP, in consultation with their advisor, on an annual basis.  

NOTE:  Doctoral students may submit an earlier version of an IDP that they have completed as long as it was initially completed within the last few years and has been reviewed/ discussed with their Graduate Program Directors and/or advisors.

The IDP is a valuable tool that gives students the opportunity to address their short-term and long-term career goals.  In order to achieve compliance with the IDP policy, please fill out the Individual Development Plan for Health Services Research Doctoral Students, discuss with your advisor, and submit your completed form.