Doctoral Program

Major areas of faculty research include long-term care research, pharmaceutical health services research, quality measurement and improvement, medicare policy, eliminating racial disparities, evaluation of state policies, and end of life care. Strengths of the program include its student-centric approach to learning, high faculty to student ratio, and hands on experience conducting supervised research.

Funding via fellowship, teaching assistantship and research assistantship is available for those admitted to the PhD program. 

PhD Program Application Deadline

PhD in Health Services Research - Basic Degree Requirements

Students must complete 24 tuition units if matriculating into the program without a Master's degree; 16 are required beyond a master's. 

Requirements for doctoral students in the Public Health program 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, evaluated via 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

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)
Development of a Research Proposal in Public Health (PHP2850)

The Department of Health Services, Policy and Practice offers the following courses:


Course # Course Name
PHP0300 History of Hispaniola
  Two developing countries, Dominican Republic and Haiti, have widely differing health outcomes despite centuries of shared experience on the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola. This course will examine the history, politics, economics, culture, international relations, demography, and geography, as well as epidemiology and health services, to demonstrate that multiple factors, both recent and long-standing, determine the present health of these populations. Enrollment limited to 20 first-year students. Instructor permission required. FYS WRIT
PHP0050 Pain and the Human Condition
  Pain is a universal human experience, yet it is highly subjective. For most, pain represents an occasionally unpleasant, self-limited experience. However, for others, chronic pain persists beyond the recovery from an injury or as a result of a chronic health condition. Persons with chronic pain often describe their pain as permeating every aspect of their lives. While an active area of research, pain remains a significant challenge to the individual seeking treatment, the health care provider and society. This multidisciplinary course introduces students to scientific, medical, and public health aspects of pain and explores personal narratives and cultural meanings of pain. Enrollment limited to 20 first-year students.
PHP0310 Health Care in the United States 
  Introduction to the health care delivery system. An overview of the U.S. health care financing, delivery and regulatory system. Considers the interaction between paying for and providing and assuring the quality of health services; changes in one component of the system inevitably affect the others. Addresses the balance between employer-funded health insurance, publicly funded health insurance and the consequences of not being insured. Seven discussion sections arranged during the semester. Open to undergraduates only. LILE
PHP1100 Comparative Health Care Systems
  Focuses on principles of national health system organization and cross-national comparative analysis. Emphasizes application of comparative models to the analysis of health and health-related systems among nations at varying levels of economic development and health care reform. Addresses research questions related to population health and systems' performance. Questionnaire completion required for Freshman and Sophomore students. Enrollment limited to 30. DPLL
PHP1530 Case Studies in Public Health
  This course provides an integrated knowledge of the public health's development, policy, practice and infrastructure and its relationship to medical care, social services, and the environment. The matrix approach juxtaposes public health content (e.g., infectious disease) and public health tools (e.g., behavioral theory, policy/advocacy/epidemiology/quality improvement/program planning) using case studies. It aims to strengthen students' capacity to apply a population-based viewpoint to public health practice. Prerequisite: PHP 0320. Enrollment limited to 40.
PHP1680K Introduction to Conducting Clinical Research
  This course is intended to help students become familiar with the design and implementation of clinical research, including ethical and logistical processes related to collecting data and interpretation of published medical literature. In addition to weekly sessions, the course requires 4-6 hours weekly in the Emergency Department at Rhode Island Hospital enrolling patients in clinical trials. As students will be directly exposed to patient and clinical care, the course is limited to 12 students for the semester. Interested students should contact the course director to be considered for enrollment. Not open to first-year students. Instructor permission required.
PHP2060 Qualitative Methods in Health Research
  Introduces qualitative approaches to data collection and analysis in health research. Methods covered include: participant observation, key-informant interviews, focus groups, innovative data collection strategies, and non-obtrusive measures. Students will use applied projects to develop skills in: qualitative data collection and management, interviewing, transcript analysis using computerized software, triangulation between qualitative and quantitative data, and report preparation for qualitative studies. Enrollment limited to 15 graduate students.
PHP2070 Public Health/Community Service Internship (Patrick Vivier)
  The course is an introduction to the history, organization, resources, concepts and issues of public health and health care. Students will be matched according to their interests in a related practical experience in a health-related organization, with the expectation that they complete a project or produce a product of public health utility. This gives students an opportunity to critically apply knowledge and skills learned in didactic sessions. Instructor permission required.
PHP2080 Ethical and Legal Issues in Public Health
  Uses case study strategies to: identify key ethical principles, values, legal authorities and regulation relevant to public health practice and research; evaluate public health research designs in terms of ethical and legal principles; conduct ethical analyses of public health interventions by identifying potential ethical and legal concerns and conflicts; and employ strategies for working effectively with special populations, including the design of culturally appropriate interventions. Open to graduate students only. *Not offered 2017-18 A/Y
PHP2350 Economics of Medical Therapies: Health Policy and Practice
  Introduces methods and applications of decision analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, and benefit-cost analysis in public health policy and practice, including health care technology assessment, medical decision making, and health resource allocation. Examines technical features of these methods, problems associated with implementing them, and advantages and pitfalls in their application in setting public health policy. Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students. *Not offered 2017-18 A/Y
PHP2400 The U.S. Health Care System (Christopher Koller)
  Reviews the development of the health care delivery, financing and regulatory control systems in the U.S. and reviews the literature on the relationship between health system structure and the services used and health outcomes that populations experience. A case-study approach is used to understand the inter-relationship between financing, delivery and regulatory components of the health system and their implication for public health by drawing on epidemiological, economic, political and sociological principals. Prerequisites: Graduate standing or PHP 0310 or PHP 0070 (not available to first year students or sophomores). Instructor permission required.
PHP2410E Medicare: A Data Based Policy Examination    (Vincent Mor)
  This course will explore the role of Medicare as America's health insurer for the elderly and disabled through the use of real Medicare insurance claims data, examining how Medicare policy changes in financing and regulation have affected the delivery and receipt of medical services. At the end of the course students will: 1) know the history of important Medicare policy changes; 2) be able to construct aggregated patient case mix acuity adjusted measures of provider quality using insurance claims data; 3) be able to conduct policy analyses using Medicare claims data that are sensitive to standardized coding schemes. Enrollment limited to 15 graduate students. Prerequisite: PHP 2120, 2508, or 2510. Instructor permission required.
PHP2415 Introduction to Evidence-based Medicine
  Unbiased assessments of the scientific literature by means of research synthesis methods are critical for formulating public health policy, counseling patients or prioritizing future research. We focus on the methods and uses of systematic reviews and meta-analyses and their applications in medicine and health policy. After course completion, and with some direction, students will be able to undertake a basic systematic review or meta-analysis. Enrollment limited to 15. Prerequisites:PHP 2120, 2150, or 2460; and PHP 2507/08 or 2510/11 (2508 and 2511 may be taken concurrently); and clinical background or training in basic concepts in medicine (must discuss with instructor).
PHP2425 Doing Public Health:  Getting It Done in the Real World
  This course covers topics that MPH graduates will encounter in public health work and engages students with important challenges in public health practice. Class sessions will be as real-world as possible. We will choose a major current public health problem in RI and develop a coalition of agencies. Each student will learn about a different agency, develop its role in addressing the problem as a part of the coalition, and design a proposal for intervention, interacting with experienced public health practitioners, interviewing agency staff, gathering data, writing proposals, drafting budgets etc. Assignments will foster good communication within organizations and coalitions.
PHP2440 Introduction to Pharmacoepidemiology
  The course will focus on substantive topics in pharmacoepidemiology, including relevant principles of pharmacology, inference from spontaneous case reports, study design considerations, premarketing pharmacoepidemiology, common data sources for pharmacoepidemiologic studies, drug utilization review, adherence, and the development, implementation, and assessment of therapeutic risk management policies. The course will also focus on issues in pharmacovigilance, including the legal and historical basis of pharmacovigilance, evaluation of individual adverse drug events, signal detection, active safety surveillance, and medication errors. A clinical background is not required. Prerequisites are PHP2120 and PHP2510 (or PHP2507) or permission of the instructor.
PHP2445 Minding the Gap: The U.S. Healthcare Safety Net
  The right to access affordable, quality health care in the US is not guaranteed. During our nation’s history, a patchwork quilt of programs, referred to collectively as the safety net, has been crafted to address health care needs for a wide range of people who fall through the cracks. This course examines its structure, function, and effects. We introduce key features of the safety net: access, cost, quality, and outcomes. We pay particular attention to the nation’s largest program, Medicaid. We highlight the unique challenges facing vulnerable groups: legal and illegal immigrants, homeless populations, veterans, and people with disabilities.
PHP2450 Measuring and Improving the Quality of Health Care (Amal Trivedi)
  The quality of health care in the United States is in urgent need of improvement. This course will focus on the science of measuring and improving the quality of health care. Topics will include quality assessment, patient safety, medical errors, public reporting, financial incentives, organizational change, and health care disparities. Students will engage in a team-based quality improvement project. Open to graduate and medical students only.
PHP2455A Health Services Research (HSR) Methods I
  Health services researchers use theories, models, and data to understand the health care system, assess the effectiveness of interventions (at multiple levels of the healthcare system), and inform health policy decisions. This course reviews the application of statistical and epidemiological principles to the design and analysis of health services research studies. The goal is to familiarize students with common study designs and methods in health services research, so that they can critically review the published literature and use these approaches in their own research.
PHP2455B HSR Methods II
  This course covers commonly used statistical (regression) models for health services research, including survival analysis; examines the problem of missing data and strategies for addressing it; and provides a basic introduction to causal inference methods for time-varying exposures (including non-adherence). The goal is to familiarize students with important methods in applied work, so they can critically review the published literature and use the methods in their own research.The topics covered should be of interest to students in Health Services, Policy + Practice, Epidemiology, Economics, and beyond. Pre Requisites: Successful completion of PHP 2455A or instructor permission. Interested students who have not taken PHP 2455A should contact [email protected] to make arrangements. Those with adequate background in basic health services research or epidemiologic methods and regression analysis will be able to gain from this course, even if they have not taken PHP 2455A.
PHP2465A Introduction to Health Decision Analysis

Health decision science is a discipline studying how individuals make complex decisions in the presence of uncertainty and competing objectives in public health. The course introduces decision analysis, a structured approach to studying difficult problems. We will cover basic principles and mechanics of decision modeling to inform decision and cost-effectiveness analysis.


PHP2470 Topics in Clinical, Translational and Health Services Research
  Through a combination of mini-courses and seminars, students will explore concepts, gain knowledge and develop skills in a variety of public health areas. To receive a half credit for this course, students will be required to successfully complete 70 units. Units must be pre-determined by the course instructor and the unit instructor. Units are generally based on the number of in-person contact hours and the number of outside of class/homework hours required for a mini-course or seminar. Students must receive special permission from the instructor or be accepted to the Clinical and Translational Research Summer Institute to enroll.
PHP2480 Selected Topics in Global Health Econ                (Omar Galarraga)
  This course will survey selected topics in global health economics. It is designed to introduce students to specific issues, theory and practice of health economics at the global level. The first part of the course will survey research papers on econometric methods in global health including: field experiments, instrumental variables, propensity score matching and regression discontinuity. The second part will discuss current topics such as: conditional economic incentives for providers and consumers, social health insurance, public goods, and externalities. Prerequisites: PHP 2511 and ECON 1110, or equivalent. Enrollment limited to 8 graduate students. Instructor permission required.
PHP2950 Doctoral Seminar in Public Health
  The purpose of this seminar is to facilitate discussions of current scientific literature in epidemiology, biostatistics, health services, behavioral and health sciences, and public health in general. The main goal is to expose students to current methodological issues and controversies, in an effort to integrate knowledge across disciplines. This seminar is only open to doctoral students in Epidemiology, Behavioral and Social Health Sciences, Biostatistics and Health Services Research.


All course offerings are subject to change. Consult Banner for the most up-to-date schedule. The University Bulletin also contains a comprehensive list of all Public Health courses.



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 or Healthcare Economics. 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. 

Available national datasets allow students to quickly develop important collaborations leading to dissertation funding and publications while they matriculate through the program.  In addition to the general program requirements, students select 3-6 additional courses as a function of interests, previous coursework, and experience. Academic advising assures the correct selection of experiences and/or courses to achieve goals.

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.


Specialty in Health Economics

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 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.

In addition to demonstrated ability in the eight core competency areas, students selecting the health economics specialty take 3 additional courses.

Required Courses (Students are required to select 3 courses)

Health Economics (ECON 1360) 
Note: Undergraduate concentrators in Community Health may use this course to the meet the U.S. Health Care Organization Policy elective requirement. This course is an approved MPH elective.

Industrial Organization (ECON 1460) 
Note: Approved course selection for Health Services Research, specialty track in Health Economics.

Race and Inequality in the United States (ECON 1370) 
Note: Approved course selection for Health Services Research, specialty track in Health Ecomnomics.

Economics of Health and Population (ECON 2360) 
Note: Required course for Health Services Research, specialty track in Health Economics.

Economics of Medical Therapies: Health Policy and Practice (PHP 2350) 
Note: 1.000 Credit hours 1.000 Lecture hours

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.