Discipline-Based Focal Areas

The primary goal of the doctoral program in Health Services and Policy, is to prepare graduates in health economics, health policy, and health management and organizations. Graduates seek professional careers as researchers, teachers, and practitioners in academic institutions, government agencies, and private industry. Applicants frequently have a master’s degree in social science, management, law, nursing administration, pharmacy administration, or public health administration. The PhD requires 77 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate.

Focal Areas

Doctoral students in the Department of Health Management and Policy apply to and are admitted to a specific Focal Area.  These Focal Areas are: Health Economics, Health Policy, and Health Management and Organization.

Health Economics

The Health Economics Focal Area provides students with in-depth training in economic theory and its applications to health and health care. Students will acquire advanced theoretical knowledge and state-of-the-art analytical and econometric skills to build an outstanding career as health economists in academic departments, research organizations, and health care industries. The Health Economics Focal Area provides comprehensive course work that covers all main areas within health and health care economics including: demand for health and health care, economic determinants and consequences of health behaviors, health insurance, economic organization of health care markets, impact of government policy and regulation, econometric methods, and economic evaluation methods.

Health Policy

The Health Policy Focal Area prepares students to undertake health services and policy research to improve the care and management of illness and disability and to contribute meaningfully to enhancing individual and community health outcomes.  Students who enroll in the Health Policy Focal Area will complete coursework in the basic disciplines that contribute to the fields of public and social policy (e.g., law, political science and public affairs), as well as the structure and organization of health policy making in the United States in order to develop the skills necessary to conduct health services and policy research.  Students pursuing the Health Policy Focal Area will study the formation and implementation of health policies; the effect of health policies on the organization, financing and delivery of health services; the effect of health policies on access to, use of, and costs of health services; and approaches to improve access and effectiveness of care for vulnerable populations.  Students who complete the Health Policy Focal Area will be prepared for employment in academic research institutions, policy organizations, and governmental agencies and departments.

Health Management and Organization

The Health Management and Organization Focal Area prepares students to conduct research on organizational, strategic, and operational issues that confront health institutions and systems.  Health care applications of theories, concepts, and models from the fields of organizational theory (macro), organizational behavior (micro), strategic management, and operations management are emphasized.  Students in the Health Management and Organization Focal Area may conduct research on topics such as effectiveness of health care organizations, improving the organization and management of health delivery processes, measuring performance and productivity of health care organizations, examining the relative influence of mission, culture, and financial incentives in hospitals and health organizations, and management of professional groups.  Graduates of the Health Management and Organization Focal Area should find employment in academic and research organizations, integrated delivery systems, and governmental units that are interested in the impact of organizational structures and managerial practices on performance.

Procedures Related to PhD Focal Areas

Department faculty are aligned with the three Focal Areas according to their research and practice interests, potential applicants must declare one of those areas as their training focus.  All applications to the doctoral program will first be reviewed by the PhD Admissions Committee to determine whether they meet departmental expectations.  If approved by the Admissions Committee, applications will then be reviewed by the faculty in the Focal Area that the student has chosen.

If admitted to the Focal Area, a faculty adviser from that Focal Area will be assigned. Doctoral students may select a different faculty advisor from the Focal Area if a better match is found whose interests closely parallel those of the student.  Students may not, however, switch Focal Areas unless they have been formally reviewed and accepted by the faculty in the proposed new Focal Area.

While the advisor plays a key role in advising doctoral students, it is the philosophy of the Department to involve multiple faculty in the student’s Focal Area in advising.   Thus, plans of study and other forms are signed by the advisor plus all other faculty aligned with the Focal Area who serve on the student’s Mentorship Team.  The advisor and mentorship team are involved in initial planning sessions during orientation and annual professional development reviews for doctoral students.  Likewise, comprehensive exam committees and dissertation committees include the faculty aligned with the student’s Focal Area and students will conduct their independent study and thesis research in their Focal Area.