Doctoral training has been part of Yale’s mission since early in its history. The University awarded the first Ph.D. in North America in 1861, and the doctoral program in public health began with the establishment of the department in 1915. Six years later, in 1922, Yale conferred the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Health on two candidates.
Within the Yale academic community, the Ph.D. is the highest degree awarded by the University. The School of Public Health offers studies toward the Ph.D. degree through its affiliation with the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The Graduate School makes the final decisions on accepting students into the program, admission to candidacy, and awarding the degree.
The primary mission of the doctoral program in Public Health (PH) is to provide scholars with the disciplinary background and skills required to contribute to the development of our understanding of better ways of measuring, maintaining, and improving the public’s health. The core of such training includes the mastery of research tools in the specialty discipline chosen by the candidate. Public health spans disciplines that use tools available in the laboratory, field research, social sciences, the public policy arena, and mathematics. Students engage in a highly focused area of research reflecting scholarship at the doctoral level but are exposed to a broad view of public health as seen in the diverse research interests of the School’s faculty.
Competencies for the Ph.D. in Public Health
Upon receiving a Ph.D. in Public Health, the student will be able to:
- • Critically evaluate public health and related literature.
- • Discuss and critically evaluate the broad literature of the student’s discipline.
- • Review in depth the background and research advances in the student’s specific research area.
- • Apply at an advanced level the research methodology of the student’s broader discipline and, in particular, the student’s specific research area.
- • Present research to colleagues and professionals on a national and international level at professional meetings.
- • Design a course in the student’s broad discipline.
- • Explain the principles of research ethics and apply these principles to specific research projects.
- • Design and conduct an advanced, original research project in the student’s discipline.
- • Generate data to create publishable manuscripts that represent important contributions to the literature.
Each student is assigned to an academic adviser at the time of matriculation. The academic adviser is available for help with general academic questions, course selections, choosing a dissertation project, and preparation for the qualifying examinations. A student may request a change of academic adviser by writing to the director of graduate studies (DGS). The request must be agreed upon by both the previous and new academic advisers.
Teaching and research experiences are regarded as an integral aspect of the graduate training program. All doctoral students are required to serve as teaching fellows for a minimum of two terms, typically during years two and three. With the permission of the DGS, the total teaching requirement beyond two terms may be reduced for students who are awarded fellowships supported by outside funding or who serve as graduate research assistants in year three. Other exceptions may be granted after two terms of teaching are completed, with the approval of the DGS. During the first term of teaching, students must attend a training session conducted by the Center for Teaching and Learning. First-year students are encouraged to focus their efforts on course work and are not permitted to serve as teaching fellows.
There are six departments in PH in which doctoral students may choose a specialty. Requirements for each department vary and are outlined below under Departmental Requirements. In addition, all candidates for the Ph.D. degree must conform to the requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Required Course Work
Generally, the first two years are devoted primarily to course work. Each student must satisfactorily complete a minimum of ten courses or their equivalent and must satisfy the individual departmental requirements (see below for course requirements in each department). All first-year PH doctoral students are required to participate in a course covering both practical and theoretical issues in research ethics (EPH 600b, Research Ethics and Responsibility); this course is in addition to the minimum required courses. Additionally, all first-year students are required to enroll in EPH 608, Frontiers of Public Health. Students entering the Ph.D. program with an M.P.H. may be exempt from this course as determined by the DGS. The Graduate School requires that Ph.D. students achieve a grade of Honors in at least two full-term doctoral-level courses. Additionally students must maintain a High Pass average. (This applies to courses taken after matriculation in the Graduate School and during the nine-month academic year.)
The required qualifying examinations are usually taken at the end of the second year of study. In order to meet the different departmental needs, each department has developed a qualifying examination format; details are provided in each departmental program description below. The qualifying examinations serve to demonstrate that the candidate has mastered the background and the research tools required for dissertation research. The qualifying examinations are usually scheduled in June, generally within a three-week period.
Before the end of the spring term of the third year, each student must submit a Dissertation Prospectus, i.e., a written summary of the planned nature and scope of the dissertation research, together with a provisional title for the dissertation. It is strongly recommended that students begin working with their thesis adviser on this process early in the third year. Ideally students should submit the names of Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) members during the fall term of the third year and then submit the prospectus during the spring term of the third year. Students must have both the DAC members and the prospectus approved by the end of the third year (May).
The DAC consists of at least three members, including the thesis adviser, who must have a Graduate School appointment and will chair the committee. Two members are expected to be Yale School of Public Health faculty, but participation of faculty members from other departments is encouraged. An additional committee member who is a recognized authority in the area of the dissertation may be selected from outside the University; a supporting curriculum vitae must be provided. The student should also submit a one-page specific aims (for the research plan) and a rationale for each committee member. The proposed DAC members must sign the one-page specific aims stating that they have agreed to serve on the committee. The Graduate Studies Executive Committee (GSEC) prefers that students submit this one-page specific aims document for approval prior to developing the prospectus. Once the GSEC approves the student’s DAC and specific aims, the student works the DAC to develop the prospectus.
The purpose of the prospectus is to formalize an understanding between the student, the DAC, and the GSEC regarding the scholarship of a proposed dissertation project. The prospectus should:
- • Provide a detailed description of the research plan as outlined below, including title, topic, background, significance, study questions, analytic plan, and methods;
- • Establish a consensus between the student, the DAC, and the GSEC that the research plan meets the requisite standards of originality, scope, significance, and virtuosity;
- • Formalize the DAC’s willingness to work with the student to see the proposed research plan to successful completion.
The prospectus should be written in clear, plain English with minimal jargon, abbreviations, or colloquialisms and is limited to a maximum of twenty pages (double-spaced). All tables, graphs, figures, diagrams, and charts must be included within the twenty-page limit. References are not part of the page limit. Be succinct and remember that there is no requirement to use all twenty pages. A prospectus found not to comply with these requirements will be returned without review.
The following format should be used (similar to NIH guidelines):
- 1. Title of proposed dissertation (can be a working title).
- 2. Specific aims (one page): A self-contained description of the project, which should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields. State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will exert on the research field(s) involved.
- 3. Research strategy: Use the following subsections:
- a. Significance: This section should place the research project in context and describe the proposed research in a manner intelligible to a nonspecialist. This should include a brief but critical evaluation of the relevant literature and a description of how the proposed research project will advance scientific knowledge and/or technical capability in one or more broad fields.
- b. Innovation: Explain how the application challenges and seeks to shift current research paradigm(s). Describe any novel theoretical concepts, approaches or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions to be developed or used, and any advantage(s) over existing methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions.
- c. Approach: Outline the research project envisioned at this time and sketch out the plan to attain the overall goals of the project. Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used. Include preliminary data, if available. Acknowledge pitfalls and limitations of the research, and if possible suggest alternative strategies.
- 4. References: Should be included at the end (not counted in the page limit).
The prospectus submitted to the GSEC must be the version approved by the student’s DAC and must be submitted together with the Submission of Dissertation Prospectus form.
The GSEC will review the prospectus and may request changes to either the DAC or the prospectus. Once the GSEC has approved the prospectus, it will be submitted to the Graduate School registrar.
Weekly meetings with the chair of the DAC are recommended. Regular face-to-face meetings of the full DAC are invaluable and are expected throughout the student’s research toward the thesis. The DAC is expected to meet at least twice each year, and more frequently if necessary. Since dissertation progress reports at the Graduate School are due at the close of the spring term, it is advised that one of the meetings be scheduled in March or April. In doing so, the thesis adviser, student, and DGS will have current information on the student’s progress for use in completing the dissertation progress report online. The student schedules the meetings of the DAC. The chairperson of the DAC, i.e., the thesis adviser, produces a summary report outlining progress and plans for the coming year. The document is to be distributed to the other committee members for comments. The student and the DGS are to receive a copy of the document from the DAC chair.
Because the prospectus is required fairly early in the dissertation research, the content of a thesis may change over time, and thus the student should not feel bound by what is submitted. However, major changes to the direction of research described in the prospectus should be discussed with the DAC and approved by the GSEC.
Admission to Candidacy
After all predissertation requirements are successfully completed (course requirements for the chosen department, grades of Honors in at least two full-term doctoral-level courses, an overall High Pass average, pass the qualifying examination, and approval of the dissertation prospectus by the GSEC), the student will be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. These requirements are typically met in three years. Customarily, students who have not been admitted to candidacy will not be permitted to register for the fourth year. Exceptions must be approved in advance by the DGS and the Graduate School associate dean. When students advance to candidacy, the registrar’s office automatically submits a petition for the awarding of the M.Phil. degree.
The Ph.D. thesis in PH should be of publishable quality and represent a substantial contribution to the advancement of knowledge in a field of scholarship. The Graduate School policy in regard to the dissertation is as follows:
The dissertation should demonstrate the student’s mastery of relevant resources and methods and should make an original contribution to knowledge in the field. The originality of a dissertation may consist of the discovery of significant new information or principles of organization, the achievement of a new synthesis, the development of new methods or theories, or the application of established methods to new materials. Normally, it is expected that a dissertation will have a single topic, however broadly defined, and that all parts of the dissertation will be interrelated. This does not mean that sections of the dissertation cannot constitute essentially discrete units. Dissertations in the physical and biological sciences, for example, often present the results of several independent but related experiments. Given the diverse nature of the fields in which dissertations are written and the wide variety of topics that are explored, it is impossible to designate an ideal length for the dissertation. Clearly, however, a long dissertation is not necessarily a better one. The value of a dissertation ultimately depends on the quality of its thought and the clarity of its exposition. In consultation with their faculty advisers and the director of graduate studies, students should give serious thought to the scale of proposed dissertation topics. There should be a reasonable expectation that the project can be completed in two to three years.
The dissertation may be presented as a single monograph resulting in a major publication, or as (typically) a minimum of three first-authored scientific papers. One or more of the papers should be published, accepted for publication, or be in submission. The collected paper option does not imply that any combination of papers would be acceptable. For example, three papers related to background material (review papers), or three papers that reported associations of three unrelated exposures, or three papers of the same exposure but reporting different outcomes would not be acceptable. Rather, it is expected that the papers represent a cohesive, coherent, and integrated body of work. For example, one paper might be a systematic review and meta-analysis of the topic, another might develop a new methodological approach, and the third might apply those new methods to an area of current public health interest. In the collected paper option, the final thesis must include introductory and discussion chapters to summarize and integrate the published papers.
The DAC reviews the progress of the dissertation research and decides when the dissertation is ready to be submitted to the readers. This decision is made based on a closed defense of the dissertation. The dissertation defense involves a formal oral presentation to the DAC and other invited faculty. Upon completion of the closed defense, the chair of the DAC submits its recommendation to the GSEC, and its recommendation of suitable readers.
There will be a minimum of three readers, one of whom is at YSPH. The second reader can be from YSPH or another Yale department. Both Yale readers must hold a Graduate School appointment, and at least one should be a senior faculty member. The third reader must be selected from outside the University. All readers must be recognized authorities in the area of the dissertation. The outside reader must submit a curriculum vitae for review by the GSEC. The outside reader should be an individual who has not coauthored a publication(s) with members of the student’s DAC and/or the student within the preceding three years. However, this restriction does not apply to mega-multiauthored publications. Members of the DAC are not eligible to serve as readers. After the completed readers’ reports are received by the Graduate School, they are reviewed by the DGS prior to making a School of Public Health recommendation to the Graduate School that the degree be awarded. The DAC may be asked to comment on the readers’ reports before recommendations are made to the Graduate School.
Oral Presentation of the Doctoral Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) dissertations in PH must be presented in a public seminar. This presentation is scheduled after the closed defense, after submission of the dissertation to the readers, and preferably prior to the receipt and consideration of the readers’ reports. At least one member each of the DAC and GSEC is expected to attend the presentation. It is expected to be presented during the academic term in which the dissertation was submitted and must be widely advertised within YSPH.
The specific requirements with regard to courses, qualifying examinations, and admission to candidacy set by PH departments are described below.
Biostatistics involves the development and application of sound statistical and mathematical principles to research in the health sciences. Because original theoretical research in biostatistics flows from medical research, it is essential that the foundations of methodological development be firmly grounded in sound principles of statistical inference and a thorough knowledge of the substantive area that provides the source of the medical questions being addressed. Thus, the Department of Biostatistics encourages excellent methodological work that is motivated by sound science that includes but is not limited to active collaborations with other investigators.
Research collaborations for biostatisticians take place both within and across departments in YSPH, as well as with other departments in the School of Medicine and the University at large. Areas of current research include development of general methods that have wide applicability across different areas of health research, as well as more specific techniques for dealing with the underlying processes that give rise to the data of interest. A broad range of health topics addressed by students in this department include chronic diseases such as cancer, genetic epidemiology, clinical research, and mathematical models for infectious diseases.
Graduates of the doctoral program in Biostatistics are employed in universities throughout the country, as well as in such dedicated research institutions as the National Institutes of Health. In addition, graduates have pursued careers in the pharmaceutical industry, in which they are actively involved in the evaluation of new therapeutic strategies.
Required Course Work
Students in the department of Biostatistics prepare for their qualifying examination by taking the courses listed below. Course waivers must be recommended by the academic adviser and approved by the DGS.
*These courses are offered in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. †Students entering the program with an M.P.H. degree may be exempt. Course number Course title Course units
In consultation with their academic adviser, students choose a minimum of four additional electives that will best prepare them for dissertation work. Students funded by specific fellowships may be subject to additional requirements and should discuss this with their adviser.
The qualifying examination has two parts, the first being a written examination that demonstrates competence with the use of statistical principles to develop methods of application. The second involves the critical review of the statistical literature, report writing, and oral defense of a specific biomedical topic agreed upon by the candidate and the BIS faculty adviser that will be evaluated by a committee approved by the BIS faculty.
In a number of courses, especially Statistical Consulting (BIS 678a), students gain actual experience with various aspects of research including preparation of a research grant, questionnaire design, preparation of a database for analysis, and analysis and interpretation of real data. In addition, doctoral students can gain research experience by working with faculty members on ongoing research studies prior to initiating dissertation research, which includes but is not limited to BIS 695c. During the summer following the first year of course work, candidates are required to take a research rotation that is approved by the department and communicated to the DGS.
The department strives for doctoral dissertations that have a strong methodological component motivated by an important health question. Hence, the dissertation should include a methodological advance or a substantial modification of an existing method motivated by a set of data collected to address an important health question. The dissertation must also include the application of the proposed methodology to real data. A fairly routine application of widely available statistical methodology is not acceptable as a dissertation topic. Candidates are expected not only to show a thorough knowledge of the posed health question, but also to demonstrate quantitative skills necessary for the creation and application of novel statistical tools.
Chronic Disease Epidemiology
Epidemiology is the study of disease in populations. Such populations may be groups of people in certain geographic areas, people with a common disease, or people with some suspected risk factor. The Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology (CDE) has traditionally focused on either chronic or noninfectious diseases, although in recent years the artificiality of this distinction has become obvious and the view has been broadened. A recent thesis, for example concerned the perinatal transmission of HIV/AIDS, and others have examined the viral etiology of cancer.
The department is perhaps best known for its doctoral programs in the epidemiology of aging, cancer, perinatal diseases, genomics, HIV/AIDS, and psychosocial disorders. However, students in the department often work on projects with other departments within YSPH, other departments in the School of Medicine, and other schools within the University. Thus there are numerous opportunities for creating an experientially rich doctoral program.
Graduates from the department’s doctoral program are found on the faculties of universities throughout the world, at the highest levels of federal and international research programs, and in leadership positions in numerous private and public foundations and institutions.
Required Course Work
Students in the CDE department are expected to complete a minimum of fifteen courses (not including CDE 610b, EPH 600a, and EPH 608b) from the following courses or their equivalents. Students supported by training grants may be subject to additional requirements and should discuss whether there are training-specific requirements with the principal investigator of the grant.
Course number Course title Course units
In consultation with their dissertation adviser, students choose three 600-level course units in Biostatistics (S&DS 563, Multivariate Statistical Methods for Social Sciences, may serve as one of these three courses), as well as three additional electives that will best prepare them for their dissertation research.†Students entering the program with an M.P.H. degree may be exempt.
The qualifying examinations in CDE entail a three-part system emphasizing biostatistics, epidemiologic methods, and the student’s chosen specialty area.
The examination covering epidemiological methods includes both an in-class and a take-home portion. One faculty member is responsible for coordinating this examination, and the examination content is developed by the overall faculty. The specialty area examination is usually prepared in a tutorial with one or more faculty members in the term prior to the exam.
In a number of courses, students gain actual experience with various aspects of research including preparation of a research grant, questionnaire design, preparation of a database for analysis, and analysis and interpretation of real data. In addition, doctoral students can gain research experience by working with faculty members on ongoing research studies prior to initiating dissertation research.
For the doctoral dissertation, some candidates will design and develop their own research protocol, collect the data, and conduct appropriate analyses. However, epidemiologic studies are often large, time-consuming, and expensive enterprises that often cannot be realistically completed within the time frame expected for a doctoral dissertation. Consequently, some dissertations often result from “piggy-backing” the dissertation research onto a larger study being conducted by a faculty member. If a student has previously documented experience with data collection, the doctoral dissertation may emphasize the statistical analysis of a data set in such a way as to address a new hypothesis. However the thesis is constructed, the department requires that the research makes a significant contribution to new knowledge in the field of epidemiology.
Environmental Health Sciences
The Environmental Health Sciences (EHS) doctoral program focuses on how environmental agents—physical, chemical, and biological—affect human health, considered within the general framework of epidemiology and public health. Students are skilled in research, assessment, and evaluation of the impact of environmental stressors; they identify potentially adverse environmental agents, assess their exposures, determine their impact on health, and estimate the consequent risk. The Ph.D. emphasizes the preparation of students for scholarly careers in research and teaching.
The EHS doctoral program offers two concentrations: (1) Environmental Epidemiology & Exposure Science and (2) Environmental & Molecular Toxicology.
Required Course Work
Environmental Epidemiology & Exposure Science concentration
A qualifying examination that will serve as the formal test prior to admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. program will be administered after completion of thirteen course units and generally before the end of the second year. Accordingly, the student should complete this examination within two years after entering the program. The student’s DAC will administer this qualifying examination. The exam consists of an evaluation of a written prospectus and an oral presentation and defense of the research proposal. The proposal will be on the student’s thesis project, written in NRSA format. Within two weeks of completing the written segment, the student will present and defend the thesis proposal to the dissertation advisory committee. The possible outcomes are (a) pass unconditionally, (b) pass conditionally, with further study suggested (or required) in one or more areas, or (c) fail, with or without the option to retake the examination after the areas of concern have been identified and the student has had time to prepare. If a student receives an unconditional pass, the committee should note whether it is an unconditional pass with distinction.
Once the student has passed the qualifying examination without conditions, and the GSEC has approved the prospectus, the student will be admitted to candidacy.
Two research rotations during the first academic year in EHS laboratories able to accommodate students are required of each student, one in the fall term and one in the second term. In consultation with the student’s academic adviser, an additional rotation may be offered during the summer between the first and second years. Research rotations will be available for both “dry” (i.e., statistical analysis) and “wet” (i.e., bench) laboratory research groups. The student will meet with the EHS graduate faculty member at the beginning of the rotation for an explanation of the goals and expectations of a student in the laboratory. The student will become familiar with the research models, approaches, and methods utilized by the research group through interactions with other laboratory/research personnel and from laboratory manuscripts. The student is expected to spend at least fifteen hours per week working in the laboratory or research group and to present a rotation seminar at the end of the rotation period.
In years three and beyond, students are expected to present at least twice a year to their DAC and annually to the rest of the Ph.D. students and faculty in a departmental retreat or during an EHS Doctoral Research-in-Progress seminar.
Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases
The goals for doctoral students in the department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases (EMD) are to obtain a current theoretical and practical base of epidemiological and microbiological principles, to master research methods, and to apply these skills to investigations of the biology of infectious organisms of public health importance, their transmission, and the epidemiology of the diseases they cause. The approach is multidisciplinary and includes in-depth ecological, pathogenic, clinical, cellular, immunological, and molecular aspects of infectious diseases, their causative agents, vertebrate hosts, and vectors.
Required Course Work
Courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, and microbiology are strongly recommended. The specific courses taken depend on the background of individual students and their stated research interests. An individual program that includes courses, seminars, and research rotations is developed by the student and the student’s academic adviser. All students are required to complete three distinct research rotations. These are done in the fall and spring terms and in the summer between the first and second years. Students will be asked to prepare a brief presentation at the end of each rotation. These research rotations (EMD 670) are graded and account for three of the required ten courses. In addition, students are required to complete course work in epidemiology (EMD 508a or CDE 516b) and in breadth of public health (EPH 608b, Frontiers of Public Health). Both courses may be waived if the student enters the program with an M.P.H. degree.
The following courses are suggested courses that are appropriate for Ph.D. students in EMD. However, other courses in YSPH or in other departments may also be appropriate.
*These courses are offered in the School of Medicine. †This course is offered in the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Course number Course title Course units
EMD has adopted an oral and written qualifying examination format. The qualifying examination serves as an opportunity for the faculty to evaluate students before their admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. It also serves as a valuable learning experience, where a student has a chance to read critically and in-depth with various faculty members on both the thesis topic and two other topics of interest to the student. The other two topics should ideally be in areas which will expand the dissertation topic to subject matters not covered in the courses. The second component includes writing a research proposal on the proposed dissertation topic. The oral examination takes the form of questions from members of the committee based on the readings and an oral defense of the research proposal.
Detailed information regarding the EMD qualifying examination is available from the EMD representative to the GSEC or the coordinator of graduate student affairs.
Three research training modules are required of all students, and each term involves a different investigator. These are offered as formal courses, and there will be a brief presentation to the department at the end of each rotation. Each term is graded and recorded on the student’s transcript. Investigators act as tutors and monitor the progress of the work, although students are given a certain amount of independence in their work. Rotations are defined broadly, including experiments in the more traditional wet laboratory setting, as well as work in the field and on the computer.
Health Policy and Management
The doctoral program in the Health Policy and Management (HPM) Department emphasizes application of theory and methods to important policy and management topics. It is designed to educate students to apply knowledge derived from public health, social sciences (political science, organizational behavior, and microeconomics), and other areas to crucial public health topics. The program educates students to conduct research on the forefront of health services research; management of health care organizations; policy analysis; and health economic issues. Students are prepared for academic, research, and policy careers in both the public and the private sectors in public health.
The program requires individuals to develop expertise in one of three disciplines and then to apply this discipline to a more specialized area; the latter becomes their area of distinction.
Areas of Disciplinary Concentration
Disciplinary background and methods are important to meaningful application of theory and methods to key public health topics. Students in HPM will specialize in one of the following disciplines: Economics; Organizational Theory and Management; or Political and Policy Analysis.
Mentoring and Advising
A hallmark of our program is the low student-to-faculty ratio and the high student and faculty interaction. Students work closely with their adviser and with a number of faculty with common interests, either a specific topic or a policy area. The adviser or set of advisers conducts independent readings with the student in preparation for the dissertation. In addition, students will typically work on research with faculty from both inside the department and from around the University throughout the student’s time in the program; these faculty provide an informal network for supplementary mentoring. The student’s DAC works closely with the student and has informal as well as formal meetings.
Students will complete the following course work or the equivalent of the topic areas covered in these courses. This course listing represents a suggested general program of study, but the specifics of course requirements are adapted to the particular interests and professional aspirations of each student. The standard number of courses taken is eighteen (excluding EPH 600a and EPH 608b), with the option of obtaining credits for previous courses. With the approval of the academic adviser and DGS, alternative courses that better suit the needs of the student may satisfy the course work requirement. The departmental representative to the GSEC, in conjunction with the student’s adviser, is responsible for determining if core course requirements have been satisfied by previous course work or alternative courses. If so, the student should apply for a course waiver through the Graduate School. HPM students can only waive up to two of the eighteen courses.
Disciplinary Concentration Course Work
Students take qualifying exams in each of these three areas: (1) health policy and management, (2) empirical analysis and/or statistics, and (3) the student’s area of concentration. Typically these are taken in the summer after two years of course work.
All students are expected to develop their research skills through working with HPM faculty on research. Typically, students will work on a variety of projects with multiple faculty members, beginning during their initial year in the program. Students are expected to attend the departmental research seminar for faculty and are also expected to attend the doctoral research seminar.
Students’ doctoral dissertations should have a strong disciplinary base, often with an interdisciplinary approach, applying theory and rigorous methods to a significant public health policy or management topic.
Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) Department aims to understand and improve health equity, both domestically and globally. SBS provides instruction in the theory and methods of the social and behavioral sciences that emphasize individual, interpersonal, community, and structural influences on health, illness, and recovery. The primary emphases are focused on (1) understanding the psychosocial, behavioral, community, and societal influences on health in the general population, with a focus on those who are disadvantaged; and (2) creating multilevel interventions that eliminate barriers to health, from infancy to old age. The SBS curriculum takes an interdisciplinary approach and focuses on integrating methods from epidemiology and the social sciences, training scientists with a broad skill set that allows them to answer a host of complex research questions. The department has numerous research strengths including in HIV/AIDS, aging health, community-engaged health research, maternal child health, mental health, health equity and disparities, and stigma prevention and health.
Required Course Work
Students in the SBS department are expected to complete a minimum of fifteen courses (not including EPH 600a) from the following courses or their equivalents. Students supported by training grants may be subject to additional requirements and should discuss whether there are training-specific requirements with the principal investigator of the grant.
In consultation with their dissertation adviser, students choose three advanced-level (600 or above) statistics courses from Biostatistics, Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, or Statistics and Data Science (S&DS 563, Multivariate Statistical Methods for Social Sciences, may serve as one of these three courses), as well as three additional electives that will best prepare them for their dissertation research.†Students entering the program with an M.P.H. degree may be exempt.
The qualifying examinations in SBS entail a two-part system. The first part will consist of completing a systematic review or meta-analysis as part of SBS 610b related to the student’s main area of interest, overseen by the student’s dissertation adviser. The second part consists of an oral exam on the content, theory, and methods outlined in the systematic review/meta-analysis completed in the written part of the qualifying exam. The qualifying exam committee will consist of three faculty who will grade both the written and oral components as Pass/Fail, and cannot include the candidate’s dissertation adviser.
Students are strongly encouraged to get involved in research by working with faculty members on ongoing research studies throughout their doctoral work. Further, students will gain research experience during their course work by working on real data. Ideally students should publish one to two papers a year during the doctoral program to develop their research portfolio and to be competitive for academic positions after completion of their doctoral degree.
SBS uses a three-paper model, where students complete three research papers (of publication quality) on a related topic that demonstrates mastery of content, theory, and methods. In addition, the dissertation will have an introductory chapter that ties the three papers together and a conclusion chapter that summarizes main findings and their research and public health implications. The research papers can involve original data collection, secondary data analysis (using faculty data or national data sets), or some combination of the two.
M.D./Ph.D. Program Requirements
All M.D./Ph.D. students must meet with the director of graduate studies in Public Health if they are considering affiliating with PH. Students in this program are expected to meet the guidelines listed below in the time frame outlined. The DGS must approve any variations to these requirements.
One term of teaching will be required. If students teach beyond this requirement, they can be compensated. If a student has served as a teaching assistant elsewhere on campus, this experience may be counted toward the requirement. DGS approval is required to waive the teaching requirement on the basis of previous Yale teaching experience.
Students should do two rotations/internships with potential advisers in YSPH. These short-term research projects will be with a specific principal investigator and can be (1) in a lab, (2) field work, or (3) analysis of an existing dataset. The purpose of these rotations/internships is to learn lab technique and/or to allow the student time to determine if the PI’s research interests are compatible with the student’s research interests. These rotations/internships are usually done during the summer between the first and second year of medical school course work. In some cases students may need to defer this until the summer after the second year after taking certain courses and/or completing readings so that they possess the background necessary for a successful rotation/internship.
Required Course Work
M.D./Ph.D. students are generally expected to take the same courses as traditional Ph.D. students. Departmental requirements may vary; therefore, students should confer with the DGS and/or their Ph.D. adviser.
Timeline for Qualifying Exam
Students generally will take medical school courses in years one and two. Students can take PH doctoral courses in years one and two before they affiliate if scheduling allows. Once affiliated with the PH program, students will complete all course requirements for the department. This generally takes a minimum of two terms but can take up to four terms after affiliating with PH. The qualifying exam is commonly completed after the fourth term of affiliation with the Ph.D. program in PH but can sometimes be done earlier with approval of the Ph.D. adviser and DGS.
Following completion of the qualifying exam, students should focus on the prospectus, which must be approved by the PH Graduate Studies Executive Committee (GSEC) before the end of the student’s sixth term as an affiliated Ph.D. student in PH.
Admission to Candidacy
To be admitted to candidacy, students must: (1) satisfactorily complete the course requirements for their department as outlined above, achieve grades of Honors in at least two full-term doctoral-level courses, and achieve an overall High Pass average; (2) obtain an average grade of High Pass on the qualifying exam; and (3) have the dissertation prospectus approved by the GSEC. All Ph.D. students must be admitted to candidacy before the start of the fourth year in the Ph.D. program (i.e., before the start of the seventh term).