Master of Science in Health Policy Student Handbook


This Handbook sets forth departmental policies, procedures, and requirements that pertain to Master of Science in Health Services & Policy Research students in the Department of Health Management and Policy. Graduate degrees offered by The University of Iowa are granted by the Graduate College in accordance with the requirements contained in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College.

Students are urged to consult the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College for details about Graduate College requirements. In addition, the Graduate College periodically posts deadlines for adding or dropping courses, application for degrees, submission of theses, etc. Students are responsible for being aware of and complying with these deadlines. Students should also familiarize themselves with applicable sections of The University of Iowa General Catalog. The latter includes the University-endorsed Student Bill of Rights, Code of Student Life, and policies related to student rights and responsibilities.

Mission and Vision

The mission of the Master of Science in Health Services & Policy Research is to provide students with content knowledge and methodological skills pertaining to the practice of health policy analysis and foundations of health services research.

The vision of the Master of Science in Health Services & Policy Research program is to be nationally recognized for preparing graduates for policy analysis and research careers in a variety of settings including academic institutions, government agencies, private, non-profit, and other organizations explicitly involved with health policy. Students will be prepared with subject matter expertise and a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodological skills. Students will also be prepared for doctoral studies in health policy, health services research, and other closely related fields.

Faculty Advisors

Students will be assigned a faculty academic advisor for course registration and plan of study direction. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisor on a regular basis. Students who wish to be assigned to a different advisor should make the request through the Student Services Office. The faculty research proposal advisor may be a different faculty member than the academic advisor. Additionally the Department invites students to consult with all faculty members, and alumni, for informal advising and counseling.

Plan of Study

Students must develop an initial Plan of Study during their first semester and have it signed by their academic advisor. This approved Plan of Study must be filed with the Student Services Office. In order to register for the second semester, and subsequent semesters, the student’s Plan of Study must be reviewed and approved by their advisor and filed with the Student Services Office.

The MS plan of study may be modified on an as-needed basis to improve students’ educational experience. When this occurs the Department makes every effort to allow students to choose whether to follow the plan of study the student entered under, or the revised plan of study. The student should discuss this choice with her/his advisor. In rare instances, special accommodations may need to be made to a student’s individual plan of study in order to prevent delay of graduation.


The MS in Health Services and Policy Research curriculum requires that the student complete 30 semester hours of course work.

Semester 1 – Fall Required Courses           (12 s.h.)                            Credits

HMP:5005                 Intro to Health Care Org. & Policy                        3

                                    (or HMP:4000)

HMP:5610                 Health Policy                                                           3

BIOS:5110                 Introduction to Biostatistics                                   3

CPH:6100                 Essentials of Public Health                                   2

HMP:7950                 Design Issues in Health Services Research       3

CPH:7270                 Principles of Scholarly Integrity                             0

Semester 2 – Spring Required Courses      (11 s.h.)                            Credits

BIOS:5120                 Regression Modeling and ANOVA in Health Sciences     3

HMP:5410                 Health Economics I                                                 3

HMP:6850                 Independent Study & Research                            3

HMP:xxxx                  Elective                                                                     3

HMP:xxxx                  Elective                                                                      3

CPH:7270                 Principles of Scholarly Integrity


Students take electives to be exposed to other areas or to gain greater depth within their interest.

Possible elective offerings:

HMP:6610                 Legal Aspects of Health Care (3 s.h)      

BIOS:4120                 Introduction to Biostatistics (3 s.h.)

HMP:5450                 Health Insurance and Managed Care (3 s.h.)

HMP:5650                 Health Policy Analysis (3 s.h.)

HMP:6710                 Federalism and Health Policy (3 s.h.)                                        

HMP:6750                 Seminar in Health Policy (3 s.h.)  

HMP:7550                 Cost-Effectiveness & Decision Analysis (3 s.h.)

EPID:4400                 Epidemiology I: Principles (3 s.h.)

HMP:7940                 Primary Data and Mixed Methods (3 s.h.)                     

HMP:7960                 Analytic Issues in Health Services Research I (3 s.h.)

HMP:7961                 Analytic Issues in Health Services Research II (3 s.h)

Additional Expectations

In addition to the coursework included in the plan of study, it is expected that MS students will avail themselves of the many additional educational opportunities in the Department, College, and University. In particular, MS students are expected to attend the weekly HMP Friday Seminar and attend major Department functions including the annual Levey Healthcare Leadership Symposium and presentations by speakers invited to campus by the Department.

HMP: 6850 Final Capstone Research Proposal

The MS in HSPR student will be expected to produce either a potentially publishable manuscript, (complete with empirical analyses involving primary and/or secondary data) OR a research proposal modeled on the format of a major research grant application (R01 or equivalent) used by one of the following US funding agencies: NIH, AHRQ, or PCORI. The capstone research project should focus on evaluating some aspect of the organization or delivery of health services or the impact of specific health policies on health services use and health outcomes. The capstone research project will be completed in consultation with their faculty research proposal advisor. 

If the student elects to complete a research proposal, they should closely follow the research plan structure and page limits for the selected format.  For example, if an NIH R01 format is selected, the research plan would have the following sections: Specific Aims (1 single-spaced page), and the Research Strategy (limited to 12 pages), with the following three sections: Significance, Innovation, and Approach.  The proposal should have separate sections for each of the designated scoring criteria used by the funding agency. The student should also complete the sections related to human subject protection.

A cover sheet before the research plan should list the title, student’s name, department, date approved, and include signature lines for committee members.

After the project has been distributed to committee members, an oral examination will be conducted by the committee to evaluate the proposed research plan. 

Review of the prospectus by the Committee will result in: (a) approval of the proposed research as outlined in the project; (b) approval subject to recommended modifications and subsequent approval by the Committee chairperson; (c) a recommendation that the student prepare a supplement to the project for approval by the Committee members; or (d) recommendation that another project be prepared and considered at a subsequent oral examination.

The student should discuss the expected date of graduation with the Director of HMP Student Services after successful defense of the student’s capstone proposal.  A copy of the project, with the cover page signed by all Committee members, should be retained in the student’s file and an electronic copy should be provided to the department (to the Director of HMP Student Services or the Director of the PhD Program).

Faculty Capstone Advisor

The faculty advisor overseeing the capstone research proposal must be a Department of Health Management and Policy primary tenure-track faculty member, but not necessarily the student’s academic advisor.

Capstone Committee

The student is responsible for identifying faculty to serve as members of her\his capstone committee. The committee for the master’s degree consists of three Graduate College faculty members, including at least two tenure-track faculty members with primary appointments in the Department of Health Management and Policy, one of whom is the student’s faculty advisor.

Capstone Research Project Defense

The student will be required to make an oral presentation of the research project. This presentation will be scheduled by the student in consultation with the advisor and committee members. A copy of the project must be delivered to committee members two weeks prior to the defense.

The capstone defense will be evaluated by the examining committee as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, with two unsatisfactory votes making the committee report unsatisfactory. An unsatisfactory vote is interpreted as an insufficient attempt at the research project.

If the capstone receives a satisfactory evaluation, the student must make any corrections and modifications on the proposal as required by the examining committee and obtain the signatures of all members of the committee.


At the beginning of the semester in which the master’s candidate expects to receive the MS degree, they will review their academic record and progress on the proposal with their advisor. If all work on the research proposal is likely to be completed by the end of the semester, the master’s candidate will complete the application for graduation.

Grading System

To receive a master’s degree, a student must be in “good standing” and registered in the University during the semester in which the degree is to be awarded. To be in good standing, the master’s student must show promise of scholarly distinction by maintaining a grade point average greater than 3.00 while enrolled in the Department. Masters students must also meet the general requirements established by the Graduate College.


Courses in the Department are letter-graded. Grades carrying advanced degree credit are A+, A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C- and S-Satisfactory.


Students who receive an incomplete (I) must remove that grade in accordance with the deadlines posted by the Graduate College or the grade is automatically converted to an F.


A student may audit a course with permission of her/his faculty advisor and the course instructor. No academic credit is given for an audited course, but a grade of either Audit Successful or Audit Unsuccessful is recorded on the student’s transcript. It is the prerogative of the course instructor to set requirements for the audit. MS students who receive grades of Audit Unsuccessful may be required to complete remedial coursework.

Academic Achievement

Students should review the website listed below for Graduate College Publications, particularly the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College, which governs most aspects of study:

Dismissal and Probation

  1. A master’s student will be dismissed from the MS in Health Services and Policy Research Program if they earn less than a 2.6 cumulative G.P.A. after completing six or more semester hours toward the MS. A master’s student will be dismissed from the MS Program if they earn less than a 2.85 cumulative G.P.A. after completing nine or more semester hours in the MS.
  2. A master’s student will be placed on probation and may be dismissed from the MS Program by simple majority vote of the primary HMP faculty excluding the Department Head, under the following conditions:
    1. If, after completing six or more semester hours toward the MS, the student has a cumulative grade point average of less than 3.00; or,
    2. If the student receives one or more course grades of F or U.
  3. Placement on Probation A student will be notified in writing by the Department Head if they are placed on probation. The letter will specify the reasons for probation, the specific steps the student must take to be restored to good standing in the MS Program, the time allowed to perform the remedial steps, and a warning that the student faces the possibility of dismissal from the MS Program. A copy of this letter will be placed in the student’s file and sent to the student’s academic advisor.
  4. Special Counseling. A student on probation is expected to arrange counseling sessions with her/his advisor to discuss progress in meeting the standards and requirements outlined in her/his letter of probation.
  5. Removal from Probation. A student placed on probation will be removed from probation upon successful completion of the objectives as specified in her/his letter of probation. The performance of each student on probation who does not qualify for removal from probation after one semester shall be reviewed by primary HMP faculty, excluding the Department Head, after the end of each session during which the student has registered until they have met the requirements for removal from probation. By simple majority vote, the primary HMP faculty, excluding the Department Head, will then select one of the following courses of action:
    1. Continue the student on probation; or
    2. Dismiss the student
    3. The student will be notified in writing of any action taken by the faculty
  6. Appeal. A student has the right to a review by the Department Head of a faculty decision that results in the student being placed on probation or dismissed. The faculty decision shall be deemed final unless it is appealed within 14 calendar days of written notification. This period may be extended at the discretion of the Department Head. Upon receiving the student’s written request to the Department Head, a time and place for an appeal hearing will be set. The student will be notified in writing of the time and place of the hearing. At this hearing, the student and her/his representative may appear in person and submit a written and/or oral statement and supporting materials. The Department Head may uphold, modify, or reverse the faculty decision based on the evidence submitted at the hearing. The Department Head’s decision shall be in writing and shall state the decision and basis for that decision. A copy of the decision will be placed in the student’s file and the original will be mailed to the student. The Department Head’s decision shall be the final action by the MHA Program when an appeal is sought.
    1. Attendance at Probation and Appeal Meetings. Meetings of the HMP faculty relating to probation or dismissal will be closed. An appeal hearing will be closed to all but the student and her/his representative, the Department Head, and other persons the Department Head deems necessary.
    2. Extradepartmental Review. According to the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College:

      Questions involving judgment of performance will not be reviewed beyond the departmental level. If, however, the student feels there has been unfairness or some procedural irregularity concerning dismissal, the student may pursue a grievance according to the Academic Grievance Procedure (AGP) established by the Graduate College. The AGP is available in the Graduate College. The student should consult with the Graduate College prior to initiating an academic grievance.

Human Subjects Research

Proposed research must be discussed with the student’s advisor and comply with the University of Iowa’s Human Subjects Research policies and procedures to protect human subjects from disclosure of confidential information or other unexpected harm. Copies of the University’s policies and procedures should be reviewed prior to initiating any research project.

Students who are planning research that includes human subjects should review the requirements and rules on the Human Subjects Office website at

Residence Requirement

The Graduate College has the following residence requirement for MS students: Of the minimum of 30 semester hours required for the degree, at least 24 semester hours must be completed under the auspices of The University of Iowa after admission to a graduate department/program. Various forms of extramural registration may quality toward fulfillment of the 24 semester hours registration requirement (see Section II. G. Extramural Registration) in addition to regular on-campus registration. A student must be registered in the semester in which s/he earns his/her degree.

Student Conduct

If an enrolled student commits an act of misconduct and is subsequently subject to disciplinary action by the University, the HMP Department reserves the right to establish its own disciplinary action which can include, but is not limited to, probation and/or dismissal from the Program.

Academic misconduct is identified as: including the acquisition of honors, awards, certification or professional endorsements, degrees, academic credits, or grades by means of cheating, plagiarism, or falsification, including forgery, with respect to any examination, paper, project, application, recommendation, transcript, or test, or registration document or by any other dishonest means whatsoever, or aiding or abetting another student to do so.


Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another’s ideas (including artificial intelligence systems such as ChatGPT) expressed in either the author’s original words or in a manner similar to the original form. When using ideas, direct quotes, or paraphrases, the source must be footnoted or referenced. This principle applies even if the writer discovers that an idea, initially thought to be his or her own, has already been published by someone else. It is the student’s responsibility to seek clarification of any situation in which s/he is uncertain whether plagiarism is/has been involved. Students who are uncertain about what constitutes plagiarism should consult with their advisors or other faculty members.

The Online Oxford English Dictionary defines “plagiarize” as follows, “to take and use as one’s own (the thoughts, writings, or inventions of another person); to copy (literary work or ideas) improperly or without acknowledgement; (occas.) to pass off as one’s own the thoughts or work of (another).” In practice, the exact definition of “plagiarize” or “plagiarism” is dependent upon the unique attributes of the creative work of a particular discipline. Thus, it is understood that different academic disciplines and cultures may have different interpretations as to the actual actions which constitute plagiarism. With this in mind, the Graduate College will operate in the following manner when a program or department discovers an act or acts of plagiarism on the part of a graduate student.

In the Graduate College, the questions [of academic dishonesty] are handled at the departmental level. If the departmental decision is appealed, the dean may appoint an appeals Committee of faculty and students from a slate of nominees prepared by the Graduate Council and the Graduate Student Senate to recommend an appropriate course of action.

The appeal process must be initiated by the student. If the student wishes to appeal the department’s or program’s action, that appeal must be lodged with the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the Graduate College within 30 days of program or departmental dismissal.

In the event that academic misconduct or plagiarism is suspected, the following procedures will be followed:

  1. The Instructor will meet as soon as feasible with the student to clarify the situation.
  2. If the meeting results in no sanction or only a relatively minor sanction, and the student accepts the sanction, the process will be considered completed. No additional reporting will be required, nor will there be any information related to the situation entered into the student’s permanent record.
  3. If after meeting with the student the situation is either not resolved to the satisfaction of both the Instructor and the student, or if the resulting sanction is not of a relatively minor nature, the Instructor will bring the matter to the attention of the appropriate Program Director (MHA, MPH in Policy and Administration or MS). The Program Director will appoint a review Committee consisting of three primary faculty members from the Department, excluding the Instructor. If the Instructor is the Program Director, the Department Head will appoint another faculty member to select the Committee. One Committee member will be designated as Chair.
  4. The Instructor will provide the Committee with a written description of the suspected plagiarism or academic misconduct. Information serving to identify the Student will be removed from this material. The Committee Chair will work with the Instructor to obtain all necessary background information for the Committee to review. The Committee will then review the documentation to determine if sufficient evidence exists to meet with the student. Once appointed the Committee will proceed with all deliberate speed to render their recommendation.
  5. If necessary, a meeting will be convened to allow the student opportunity to discuss the alleged plagiarism or academic misconduct. The Committee will preside over the meeting with the Instructor, student and Program Director in attendance. The Program Director will serve as a process Advisor to ensure that the Committee’s deliberative process follows Departmental and Graduate College guidelines.
  6. The Committee will make a determination of whether academic misconduct has occurred, and determine the resulting sanction. Sanctions may range from no action, to re-doing the assignment, to significantly lowering of the grade, to failure of the assignment, to failure of the course. The Committee may also recommend to the full Departmental faculty that the student be dismissed from the degree program. Consideration of such a dismissal recommendation will be held within 14 calendar days of the transmittal of the Committee’s formal recommendation.
  7. The student may contest the Committee’s sanction within 14 calendar days of written notification of that action by appealing, in writing, to the Department Head.
  8. For students from degree programs enrolled outside the Department, the Committee’s review of the facts, findings and sanctions will be directly communicated to the DEO of the department in which the student is currently enrolled by the Instructor.
  9. A copy of the final determination document will be maintained by the Department.

Department Resources Available to Students

Student Workrooms

Rooms in the HMP suite are available for students’ use in conducting collegiate or departmental business, including course work. Students will be allowed access to these rooms with their Iowa One card. Rooms can be reserved by speaking with the Administrative Services Coordinator.

Students shall not engage in behaviors that may cause destruction or misuse of property. Students who cause damage to University equipment will be assessed damage costs. Students must also be courteous to fellow CPH students who share the student commons areas.

Computers are not to be used for playing games or other non-program-related activities including spamming, discriminatory or harassing use, or accessing inappropriate material on the internet. Students working on course assignments, which require computer usage, have priority for computer time.

Office Equipment and Services

Office equipment, including printers, and copying machines, and services of the Department staff are available to students only for approved Department business. No equipment should be removed from any of the supply rooms.

Any equipment malfunction should be reported immediately to the Department office staff. A fax machine is located in N235 CPHB and is available for department-related faxes.

Student Use of Conference Rooms

The Corbeil Conference Room (N202) and room N228 may be used by students for studying or group meetings if the room is available. Students intending to use them for meetings should schedule them through the department Administrative Services Coordinator. Students will be asked to leave these rooms if faculty or staff have them scheduled.