Curriculum Information – Health Services Research, Policy & Administration PhD (PDF)

The Health Services Research, Policy & Administration (HSRPA) PhD program prepares students for careers as researchers and teachers in the public health field. Students engage in a multidisciplinary examination of the social, political, and economic forces that affect the organization, financing, and delivery of health care.

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Required Core Courses and Suggested Schedule

(It is recommended to take the following within the first year: Either PubH 7401-02 or ApEc 8211-12-13-14 sequence, PubH 8810, PubH 6250^, and either PubH 6832 or PubH 8341, depending on the recommendation of your Area of Emphasis)

^if not waived

Fall Spring
Year One

*PubH 7401, Fundamentals of Biostatistical Inference (4)


*ApEc 8211-12, Econometric Analysis I & II (4)

PubH 6832, Economics of the Health Care System (3)

PubH 8810, Seminar: Research Studies in Health Care (3)

*PubH 7402, Biostatistical Modeling & Methods (4)


*ApEc 8213-14, Econometric Analysis III & IV (4)

PubH 6855, Medical Soc (3)


Year Two

PubH 8811, Research Studies in Health Care (3)

PubH 8341, Advanced Epidemiologic Methods: Concepts (3)

PubH 8801, Health Services Policy Analysis (1)*

PubH 6735 Principles of Health Policy (3)*

PubH 6742, Ethics in Public Health: Research and Policy (1)

PubH 8830, Writing for Research (2)


Year Three  PubH 8831, Writing for Research (2)

*Must be taken together in the same semester

Consult with your Area of Emphasis before selecting statistics or econometrics

Area of Emphasis courses not included

Areas of Emphasis

Our program features 6 areas of emphasis, allowing you to tailor your degree to your interests. These areas of emphasis will become the foundation for the dissertation.

The Clinical Outcomes Research track is designed to train health services researchers who wish to study clinical care, costs and outcomes. Their research may be conducted using observational (quasi-experimental) studies, randomized clinical trials or analyses of secondary data sets, including administrative data. Honing these skills requires a combination of epidemiology, statistics, measurement, and interpretative expertise. These individuals would develop their epidemiology skills and take courses to expand their understanding of how to measure outcomes of health care. Many will want to include work in cost-effectiveness as well.

Required Coursework

Area of Emphasis Required Coursework

  • PUBH 8342 Advanced Epidemiological Methods Applications (3) Spring
  • PUBH 8343 Synthesis and Application Methods in Epidemiological Research (4)
  • PUBH 6864: Conducting Health Outcomes Research (3) (Fall)
  • PUBH 7430: Statistical Methods of Correlated Data (3) (fall)
  • PUBH 7450: Survival Analysis (3) (fall)
  • PUBH 6810: Survey Research Methods (3) (Spring)

Supporting Program (Must total minimum 12 credits)
Courses not listed here may be used with approval of the Area of Emphasis director or designee. Supporting program must be approved by the Area faculty.

  • PUBH 6717: Decision Analysis for Healthcare (2) (fall)
  • PUBH 6862: Cost Effective Analysis in Health Care (3) (spring, even years)
  • PUBH 8813: Measurement of Health-Related Social Factors (3) (spring, odd years)
  • PUBH 6863: Understanding Healthcare Quality (2) (fall)
  • PUBH 6803: Conducting a Systematic Literature Review (3) (spring)

Total Credits:
88 (includes core, A of E core, supporting and required 24 thesis credits).

Prelim Exams:
Methods and the Clinical Outcomes exam which is a 72 hour take home exam format.

Clinical Outcomes Faculty:
Beth Virnig, Mary Butler, Karen Kuntz, Nathan Shippee, Helen Parsons, Tim Beebe, Joe Gaugler, Manka Nkimbeng

The field of health decision science consists of a collection of quantitative methods used to evaluate decision making under uncertainty. There are many areas relevant to medical decision making, which include decision analysis, cost-effectiveness analysis, disease simulation modeling, infectious disease modeling, shared decision making, quality-of-life assessment, utility elicitation, health outcomes assessment, pharmacoeconomics, technology assessment, evidence-based medicine, and discrete event simulation. The concentration in decision sciences prepares students for research careers that involve the application of these methods to public health and clinical problems. Examples of research topics in health decision sciences include: economic evaluations of medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; return-on-investment analyses; optimal screening policies for cancer and other chronic diseases; evaluation of interventions for control of infectious diseases, measurement and evaluation of health outcomes, including quality of life; policy simulation modeling of diseases such as coronary heart disease, cancer, and asthma; and optimal resource allocation for biomedical research.

Required Coursework

Area of Emphasis Required Coursework

  • PUBH 6717: Decision Analysis for Health Care (2) (fall)
  • PUBH 6862: Cost Effectiveness Analysis in Health Care (3) (spring)
  • PUBH 6809: Advanced Methods in Health Decision Science (3) (spring)

AND, Choose a minimum of 2 credits from the following:

  • IDSC 8721: Behavioral Decision Theory (2) (spring, even years)
  • IDSC 8711: Cognitive Sciences (4) (fall)
  • IDSC 8511: Conceptual Topics and Research Methods in Information and Decision Sciences (4) (fall)

Supporting Program:
Must total a minimum of 12 credits, and must be approved by the Area faculty.

Sample supporting program courses:

  • PubH 7450: Survival Analysis (3) (fall)
  • PubH 7420: Clinical Trials: Design, Implementation and Analysis (3) (spring)
  • PubH 7440: Introduction to Bayes Analysis (3) (spring)

Total Credits:
77  (includes core, A of E core, supporting and required 24 thesis credits).

Prelim Exams:
Methods and Decision Science exam, which is a 5-hour classroom format.

Decision Science Faculty:
Karen Kuntz, Eva Enns, Bjorn Berg

The goal of the Health Economics Area of Emphasis is to train health economists who will rival PhDs from the top economics departments in competing for jobs in universities and research institutions. The curriculum includes a broad menu of health economics courses in addition to the multidisciplinary core courses.

Calculus, statistics, and micro-economics

Required Coursework

Core Course Requirements For Economists (8 credits)

Choose one of the following sequences:

  • APEC 8211-12: Econometric Analysis (8) recommended / OR
  • PUBH 7401-7402: Fundamentals of Biostatistical Inference & Biostatistics Models and Methods (8)

Areas of Emphasis Required Coursework (11 Credits)

  • PUBH 8821: Health Economics II (3) (spring, even years)

Choose one of the following sequences:

  • APEC 8001-2-3-4: Microeconomic Analysis (8) (fall & spring) recommended / OR
  • ECON 8101-2-3-4: Microeconomic Theory (8) (fall & spring)

Supporting Program (minimum 12 credits; must be approved by the area faculty)

Choose two methods courses from the selection below:

  • APEC 8211-12: Econometric Analysis, if not taken as core requirement (4-8)
  • ECON 8205-6-7-8: Applied Econometrics (4-8)
  • PUBH 7401-7402: Fundamentals of Biostatistical Inference & Biostatistics Models and Methods (8), if not taken as a core requirement and if not taken with Applied Econometrics
  • APEC 8202: Mathematical Optimization in Applied Economics (3)
  • APEC 8206: Dynamic Optimization: Applications in Economics & Management (3)
  • PUBH 8804: Advanced Quantitative Methods Seminar (3) (spring, even years)
  • PA 8302: Applied Policy Analysis (4)

Courses may be offered infrequently. Check the current class schedule to determine availability and ask your advisor about additional courses that may meet this requirement.

Additional Supporting Program options:

  • ECON 8xxx: Graduate courses in Economics
  • APEC 8xxx: Graduate courses in Applied Economics
  • PUBH 6862: Cost-Effectiveness Analysis in Health Care (3)

Total Credits:
78 (Includes core, area of emphasis, supporting program, and 24 required thesis credits)  

Prelim Exams:
Three preliminary examinations: (1) Methods; (2) Health Economics (5-hour classroom exam); and (3) choice of Micro-economics exam in the Department of Applied Economics or Micro-economics for Minors exam in the Economics Department

Econ Faculty:
Jean Abraham, Jon Christianson, Bryan DowdEzra Golberstein, Peter Huckfeldt, Hannah Neprash

The emphasis area in Health Policy is designed to prepare students for careers in research, teaching, and public service in academic, governmental and public policy settings. The focus of this area includes multi-disciplinary training in the social sciences; application of quantitative research methods; rigorous writing and communication skill-based training. Students will receive the core doctoral-level training in health services research with an emphasis on U.S. Health Policy and applied Policy Analysis. It is expected that graduates will play key leadership roles in creatively addressing current state and national health policy issues and lead rigorous research to improve the health of populations, as well as improve improve health care financing, delivery, and access to needed care.


Take, substitute or test out by end of 1st year:

  • PubH 6724 – Public Health and the US Health Care System (3) (Fall or spring),
  • OR PubH 6556 – Health and Health Systems (2) (fall)

Area of Emphasis Required Core Coursework

  • PubH 8802 – Health Services Policy: Applications (2) (spring odd years)

Supporting Program:

(must total minimum 12 credits, with approval of the area faculty adviser.)

Suggested supporting program: Methods
(Choose courses to fit individual needs with adviser approval.)

  • PubH 6845 – Demographic Data for Policy Analysis (3) (spring) – recommended
  • PubH 8804 – Advanced Quantitative Methods Seminar (3) (spring) – recommended
  • PubH 6717 – Decision Analysis for Health Care (2) (fall)
  • PubH 6810 – Survey Research Methods (3) (fall)
  • PubH 6862 – Cost Effectiveness Analysis (3) (spring)
  • PubH 8813 – Measurement Health-Related Social Factors (3) (spring, odd years)
  • PubH 6811 – Health Disparities in Research (2) (fall, even years)

Other topics for supporting program (must be approved by adviser prior to taking courses): LTC or Aging Policy, Economics, Health Disparities, Ethics, Mental Health, Nutrition Policy, or other topics.

Total Credits
83 (Includes core, area of emphasis core, supporting program, and required thesis credits).

Prelim Exams:
Methods exam and Policy exam, the format of which is a policy analysis paper.

Policy Faculty:
Lynn Blewett, Bryan Dowd, Katy Kozhimannil, Sarah Gollust, Ezra Golberstein, Hannah Neprash, Peter Huckfeldt, Dori Cross, Tetyana Shippee, Carrie Henning-Smith, Sayeh Nikpay

The Multidisciplinary Social Science area of emphasis is designed or doctoral students who want a broad introduction to analytic perspectives from economics, sociology, and political science, along with statistics and econometrics. In addition to the core coursework, students are required to take a second course in economics and sociology or organization theory, a course in American politics, and a third course in either economics or sociology/organizations, depending on their choice of preliminary written examination.

Area of Emphasis Required Core Coursework

  • PUBH 8805 – Sociological Theory in Health Services Research (3) or alternative approved by adviser
  • APEC 5151 – Applied Microeconomics: Firm and Household (3) (Fall)

Choose one additional theory course—to be decided with your advisor. Here are some possibilities:

  • PubH 6862 – Cost Effectiveness Analysis in Health Care (3) (Spring)
  • PubH 8821 – Health Economics II (3) (Spring, even years)
  • APEC 8203 – Applied Welfare Economics and Policy (3) (Spring)
  • SOC 8701 – Sociological Theory (4) (Fall)
  • SOC 8721 – Theories of Social Psychology (3) (offered irregularly)
  • PubH 8804 – Quantitative Methods for Policy and Demographic Research (3) (Spring)
  • PubH 6717 – Decision Analysis for Health Care (2) (Fall)
  • PubH 6809 – Advanced Methods in Health Decision Science (3) (Spring)

Supporting Program
Must total minimum of 12 credits, with the approval of the MULTI faculty. It also has to be submitted to the Graduate Faculty for approval.

Total Core Credits:
77 (includes core, area of emphasis, supporting program, and required 24 thesis credits)

Prelim Exams:

Methods exam and a choice of either the in-house econ exam, which is a 5 hour classroom format, OR the sociology exam, which is a research paper.

MULTI Faculty:
Bryan Dowd (lead member), Manka Nkimbeng (assistant professor), and all other Graduate Faculty in the Division of HPM

Sociology of Health and Illness emphasizes fundamental issues in medical sociology, such as social stratification, the social construction of health and illness, population dynamics and demographic forces. A supporting program in this field prepares students for research focused on how social structures, organizations, and relationships shape the experience of health and illness. Students may instead choose a minor in sociology (Sociology department), or demography (Minnesota Population Center). Students will also learn about methods appropriate for analyses of social behavior. Examples of research topics in the Sociology of Health and Illness include: analysis of health disparities; social predictors of health care utilization and costs; analysis of social stress; and understanding variation in illness behavior.

Area of Emphasis Required Core Coursework

Theoretical Foundations (6 credits)

Example courses. Area faculty must approve courses:

  • PubH 8805 – Sociological Theory in HSR (3) Offered by cohort request
  • SOC 8701 – Sociological Theory (4) Offered periodically (Fall, 2010)
  • SOC 8731 – Sociology of Knowledge (3) Offered periodically
  • MGMT 8302 – Seminar in Organizations Theory (4) Offered periodically
  • SOC 8211 – Race Relations Theory (3) Offered periodically

Supporting Program
Must total minimum of 12 credits. Example courses listed; others may be approved by the area faculty.

Area of specialization (disparities, demography, social networks, family, etc). Supporting program must be approved by the area of faculty.

Sample specialization courses (minimum of 8 credits):

  • SOC 8735: Sociology of Culture (3) Offered periodically
  • SOC 8551: Life Course Inequality & Health (3)
  • SOC 8390: Topics in Political Sociology (3) Offered periodically
  • SOC 8101: Sociology of Law (3) Offered periodically
  • SOC 8290: Topics in Social Stratification (3) Offered periodically
  • SOC 8501: Sociology of the Family (3) Offered periodically
  • IDSC 8721: Behavioral Decision Theory (3)
  • SOC 8311: Political Sociology (3)
  • SOC 8412: Social Network Analysis: Theory and Methods (3)

Sample advanced methodology courses (minimum 4 credits):

  • PUBH 8813: Measurement of Health Related Social Factors (3) Spring, alternating years
  • PUBH 8804: Advanced Quantitative Methods Seminar (3) Spring, even years
  • EPSY 5247: Qualitative Methods in Educational Psychology (3) or Pol 8126 Qualitative Methods(3)
  • PUBH 6845: Using Demographic Data for Policy Analysis (3) Spring
  • PSY 8881: Seminar in Quantitative and Psychological Measurement (1) Fall, may need instructor
  • SOC 8412: Social Network Analysis: Theory and Methods (3)

Total Course Credits:
73 (includes core courses, area of emphasis courses, supporting courses, and required 24 thesis credits)

Prelim Exams:
Methods and Sociology exam, which is a paper with sociological focus.

Sociology Faculty:
Kathleen CallJim BegunSarah GollustDonna McAlpineTodd RockwoodTetyana ShippeeNathan Shippee, Rachel Hardeman, Janette Dill, Tim Beebe, Manka Nkimbeng

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