Doctoral programs

Health Systems and Policy Ph.D.

The Ph.D. program in Health Systems and Policy (HS&P) in the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government provides students with advanced knowledge, analytic skills, and competencies in conducting research and developing teaching and learning skills in health systems and policy.  The foundations of the HS&P Ph.D. program include public health, management theory, health services research, and policy analysis.  

The program curriculum is delivered by an interdisciplinary faculty from PSU and OHSU with educational backgrounds in public health, health policy, public affairs, management, economics, epidemiology, social work, psychology, systems science, and sociology.  Students will generally select one of four primary emphasis areas:  1) health systems organization, financing and delivery, 2) health policy analysis, 3) health services access, quality and cost, or 4) community-based health and social services.

This program provides a unique educational experience for students seeking to apply theory to practice in careers as researchers and teachers.  This is achieved by building upon Oregon’s role as a leader in health systems transformation, and the formalized collaborative relationships PSU has with OHSU and with the Oregon Health Authority, as well as strong partnerships with major health systems and health insurance organizations in Oregon.

The HS&P curriculum reflects the vision, mission and competencies of the OHSU & PSU proposed School of Public Health.  It will prepare graduates to address the social determinants of health, and lead in the implementation of new approaches and policies to improve the health of populations.  The curriculum is framed around ten competencies that reflect the expectations of doctoral programs in public health.  The HS&P program includes core curricular content in health systems and public health, extensive study of policy domains and applications, and intensive training in research methods and research design. The curriculum is designed to help students integrate coursework with applied research and practice, and emphasizes community-engaged learning and scholarship.

Admission requirements

Information about the HS&P Ph.D. program and all application forms may be found at  For further assistance, contact the program administrator at or 503-725-3921.  Application materials must be submitted electronically through SOPHAS, the centralized application service for public health-related education programs. More information on the SOPHAS online application system and the HS&P application requirements can be found at  Applications are not accepted in hard copy or via email.  Applications are accepted for fall admission only; the application deadline is 15 January.  Early submission to facilitate processing through SOPHAS is strongly encouraged.

All admitted students must have completed a masters degree from an accredited institution.  Admissions standards include a GPA of at least 3.5 at a relevant masters program; combined verbal and quantitative GRE scores above 1000 (old scoring system) or 326 (new scoring system), and 4.5 analytic GRE score; minimum TOEFL of 213 computer-based or 550 paper-based.  All qualified applicants will be interviewed either in person or by Skype.

Degree Requirements


Admitted students who have completed a relevant masters degree in health management/policy will be able to waive portions of the required curriculum.   Students who have not previously completed the prerequisite classes in the five core areas of public health education programs will be required to complete these in addition to the HS&P courses.

Credit requirements

The program requires 105-114 credits.  Students will also complete up to 6 credits in a health systems and policy dissertation seminar, and 27 credits of dissertation preparation.  Additional major requirements include a written and oral comprehensive exam at the completion of course requirements and before advancement to the dissertation, a written dissertation proposal with an oral defense, and a final written dissertation with an oral defense.

The credits are distributed as follows:

Required core courses


Policy courses


Health systems courses


Research design and research methods


Dissertation seminar


Dissertation credits


Total Credit Hours:105-114
To meet these requirements, upon admission each student’s past masters coursework will be reviewed and a determination made regarding waiver of courses.  A program of study will then be developed with the assigned advisor.  No waiver of credit will be given for professional experience.

Core coursework

The required core courses should be completed early in the program of study.

Core courses (21-27)

PAH 641Organizational Behavior in Health Service Organizations


PAH 671Health Policy


PAH 673Values and Ethics in Health


PAH 674Health Systems Organization


PAH 677Health Care Law and Regulation


PAH 686Introduction to Health Economics


PAH 660Contemporary Research in Health Systems and Policy


PAH 660: 3 to 9 credits. May be taken up to three times.

Policy coursework

Three courses are required; students then select three electives based upon their interests in relevant policy domains. Relevant electives are listed on the HS&P website and in the HS&P student handbook.

Policy courses (19-21)

PAH 575Advanced Health Policy


PAP 616Policy Process


USP 615Economic Analysis of Public Policy


Three policy electives


Health systems coursework

One course is required; students then select three electives based upon their interests in health systems.  Relevant electives are listed on the HS&P website and in the HS&P student handbook.

Health Systems Courses

PHE 622Health and Social Inequalities


Three health systems electives


Research design and methods coursework

Students will complete three research design courses, two of which are required, and three courses on analytic methods, one of which is required.  Relevant electives are listed on the HS&P website and in the HS&P student handbook.

Research Design and Methods (19-22)

PAH 689Research Methods in Health Services


SW 605Interdisciplinary Seminar on Research Methods in Social Determinants of Health


One research design elective


PHE 520Qualitative Research Design


Two research methods electives


Students who have not previously taken a graduate course in epidemiology will also be required to complete PHE 624 Advanced Methods in Epidemiological Research (3 credits).

Dissertation research

Students will register for PAH 603 Dissertation for a minimum of 27 credits during the research and writing of the dissertation.

Comprehensive examination

Students must pass a written and oral comprehensive examination at the conclusion of course requirements before they may proceed to the dissertation.  This examination assesses the student’s competence in integrating, analyzing and critiquing the diverse bodies of knowledge covered in the HS&P curriculum.  The examination committee consists of three HS&P faculty.

Doctoral seminar in health systems and policy

Students will enroll in a one-credit seminar (PAH 607 Seminar) each quarter during their first two years to help prepare them for the dissertation process.  The seminar will meet weekly with a faculty mentor to discuss research topics, including critical evaluation of health systems and policy research, framing research questions, proposal writing, the grant application process, data collection and synthesis, human subjects review, dissertation writing and presentation, the review process, program requirements, and publication opportunities.  PAH 607 Seminar may be taken for up to 6 credits.


The dissertation process is designed to evaluate the student’s ability to successfully conduct a substantial, independent, applied research project. The dissertation represents the culmination of a student’s doctoral studies.  The dissertation is critiqued by the dissertation committee, and presented in an oral defense.  The dissertation committee consists of three HS&P faculty and one Office of Graduate Studies representative.

Program Rules

A comprehensive set of rules governing satisfactory completion of coursework, examinations, dissertation process, and timely completion of doctoral program requirements may be found in the HS&P student handbook issued to incoming students and available on the program website.

Limitation on graduate/undergraduate courses

Students in the HS&P program are strongly discouraged from using courses offered simultaneously at the 400- and 500-level in support of their degree programs. These courses must be approved by the student’s faculty advisor.

Limitation on by-arrangement courses

Admitted Ph.D. students may utilize no more than 12 credits of Research and/or Reading and Conference credits (PAH 601 and PAH 605). In cases where more than 12 credits are needed because of the lack of regularly scheduled classes, the student must obtain a written waiver from their advisor.

Continuous enrollment and leave of absence

All students admitted to the HS&P Ph.D. program must be continuously enrolled until graduation, except for periods in which they are absent for an approved leave. A minimum of 3 credits per quarter during the regular academic year constitutes continuous enrollment. Failure to register without an approved leave may result in termination of a student’s admission. Students may have no more than six terms of approved leave.

Grade requirement

A student who receives more than 9 credits of C+ or below in all coursework attempted after admission to the Ph.D. program will be dropped from the program.

Performance in core courses

A grade of C+ or below in a required course is not considered as a pass. HS&P students who receive a grade of C+ or below in one of the core courses will be required to repeat the course and obtain a passing grade of B- or better, prior to progressing with other coursework.

Research and Teaching Opportunities

The HS&P program offers students a number of research and teaching opportunities.

Graduate research assistantships

Dependent on available funds, graduate research assistantships are available each year with faculty in the Hatfield School of Government at PSU and with various research centers at OHSU. Students must apply for these by February 1 for the next academic year.  Assistantships pay tuition and a small stipend.  Additional summer research opportunities may be available.

Teaching opportunities

Doctoral students may wish to gain experience teaching prior to completing their program. There are a number of opportunities available within the Hatfield School of Government, the College of Urban and Public Affairs, and PSU’s University Studies program.  More information is available in the HS&P handbook.