Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) and Portland State University (PSU) School of Public Health

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PhD in Health Systems and Policy

Program Overview

Core Competencies

Program of Study


The Ph.D. in Health Systems and Policy provides students with advanced knowledge and skills in understanding health systems, health services, and health policy. Graduates are prepared for positions as health services researchers, teachers and practitioners in settings such as governmental and non-governmental organizations, universities, health insurance, and health systems.

The program is distinguished by a focus on systems thinking, the dedicated and knowledgeable research faculty, and its location in a state known for health reform efforts.

In addition to core coursework, the program offers students the choice to pursue one of four emphasis areas: health systems organization, financing, and delivery; health policy analysis and application; health services, access, quality, and cost; or community-based health and social services. The curriculum is designed to help students integrate coursework with applied research and practice and emphasizes community-engaged learning and scholarship.

The program is well situated for those interested in pursuing studies in health systems and policy, since Oregon is a pioneer in implementing health systems transformation. The program’s faculty are involved in state and nationally-funded research projects studying health systems reform, offering rich opportunities for student learning, research assistant positions and doctoral dissertation topics.

Students graduating from this program will be able to:

  • Apply relevant theories and frameworks to issues pertaining to health systems and policies.
  • Select and apply appropriate qualitative and quantitative research techniques to identify strategies to improve health system effectiveness.
  • Formulate a testable research question and propose a relevant study design and analytic approach that has the potential to advance knowledge of health systems and policy.
  • Conduct an independent study that demonstrates synthesis of knowledge and application of research skills.
  • Apply principles of ethics and cultural competence when conducting health systems and policy research and education
  • Evaluate evidence-based public health policy and health systems transformation strategies to identify emerging issues in health systems and policy.
  • Create and deliver effective presentations of scholarly activities to academic and lay audiences.

The doctoral program in Health Systems and Policy requires the completion of 104-115 credits in the following areas:

  • Health Systems courses
  • Policy courses
  • Research Design and Methods courses
  • Public Health foundational courses
  • Dissertation seminar
  • Dissertation credits

For more information on the curriculum, please see the Program Planner.
Students must successfully complete all coursework prior to taking the Comprehensive Examination.
Students may transfer in previously completed comparable graduate courses from an accredited university that fulfill course requirements.

Application questions – Josh Hodsden, MBA

Registration questions – Laura Ehrlich, M.Ed.

Program Director – Sherril Gelmon, DrPH