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CURRICULUM OVERVIEW

The curriculum is designed to be interdisciplinary including core courses completed by all students, regardless of their chosen emphasis. Students apply directly into one of three emphases: Biostatistics, Clinical and Translational Epidemiology, or Health Systems Research.

    Students who hold a relevant master’s degree take a minimum of 62 credits to earn a PhD in Population Health Sciences. Students who do not have a previous master’s degree take a minimum of 80 credits to earn a PhD in Population Health Sciences.

    Students will also be required to complete the following requirements during the course of the program:

    • Program of Study
    • Supervisory Committee
    • Qualifying Examination
    • Dissertation Proposal
    • Dissertation

    Milestones should be complete based on the PHS Education Program Timeline.

    The interdisciplinary curriculum beings with core courses completed by all students in their first two years. Integrated with the core curriculum, students will take the required coursework of their chosen emphasis as well as electives. All coursework must be completed at a cumulative 3.0 GPA (B grade average). All courses must be passed with a B- or better.

    The number of elective credits required varies by emphasis, however all electives must be approved by a student's primary faculty mentor or the Director of Graduate Studies if a student has not yet selected a primary mentor. All electives must be a 6000 or 7000 level course (graduate level) to receive credit towards fulfilling the PhD degree requirements.

    Check List:


    • Students need to make all changes to their course schedule before the tuition deadline for the given semester. Deadlines can be found on the University of Utah Academic Calendar.
    • All graduate students must be registered for at least one course from the time of formal admission through completion of all requirements for the degree they are seeking, unless granted an official leave of absence. The Graduate School's Continuous Registration requirement excludes the Summer semester.
      • Students only need to be registered during the Summer semester if they care completing a degree milestone (exam, dissertation proposal, or defense).
    • At least one year of the doctoral program must be spent in full-time academic work at the University of Utah, defined as two consecutive semesters of registration for at least nine hours. This Study Requirement is set by the University of Utah. 
    • As an alternative to traditional course work, students can establish an Independent Study. Independent Studies are learning experiences arranged between a student and supervising faculty member that receive credit. Students interested in establishing an independent study must, with help from the supervising faculty member, submit an Independent Study Proposal form to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. The proposal includes:

      1. The faculty member who will be supervising the project
      2. The learning objective(s) for the independent study
      3. What deliverables will the student produce to demonstrate their mastery of the learning objective(s).
      4. The number of hours a week the student will dedicate to the independent study.

      Independent Study Proposal Form must be submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies one month before the start of the semester that the independent study will take place in.

      An independent study is notably different from the credit assigned for dissertation hours. Students completing an independent study register for credit hours under PHS 7840 - Independent Study, with the faculty member supervising the projected listed as the course instructor. In contrast, dissertation hours are registered under PHS 7970 – Dissertation, and purpose of this course is for students to complete all requirements pertaining to their doctoral dissertation. The purpose of an independent study is to contribute to a student’s didactic coursework. Papers produced during an independent study cannot be used towards a student’s overall dissertation requirement of 3 published papers. Students are only allowed to register for an independent study up to 3 times for a total of 12 credit hours.

      Student are able to use Independent Study credit towards Teaching Assistantship (TA) efforts. Students are not allowed to be simultaneously registered for the class and act as the course TA. To be eligible for a TA position, students must first successfully pass the class. To earn independent study credit as a TA, students must prepare and deliver some of the course content. TA are not IT support.

      • Accordingly to University of Utah Policy 6-100: Instruction and Evaluation (III. Policy B), a University credit hour shall represent approximately three clock hours of the student's time a week for one semester.

        Each semester is approximately fifteen weeks, and it is expected that one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction will have a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week. To determine credit hours assigned for an independent study, student can use the following equation:

        X hour instruction per week x 15 weeks + 2 hour of out-of-class student work per week x 15 weeks = minimum student work for X credit unit per semester
        Example for 1 credit hour:
        1 hour instruction per week x 15 weeks = 15 hours of instruction  + 2 hours of out-of-class student work per week x 15 weeks = 30 hours of additional student work for that course = minimum student work for 1 credit unit per semester = 45 hours

        The PHS Academic Program Manager will assist students in determining the correct credit hours assigned to an independent study based on how many hours a student plans to commit per week.

    • The Applied Population Health Sciences Experience practicum is required for students in the Clinical and  Translational Epidemiology emphasis. This practicum is designed to give students the opportunity to gain experience in a health care setting relevant to their research. This course consists of two sections:

      1. Shadowing

      2. In-class presentations and discussion.

      To fulfill the Shadowing component students must independently arrange to shadow a health care professional and shadow them 12 times over the course of a year. Students cannot formally register for PHS 7130 until they have completed at least 9 sessions by the first day of class. Students must track their days shadowing using the PHS Applied Experience Tracking Sheet.  The tracking sheet must be turned at the end of the shadowing period.

      During the “in class” portion of this practicum students will meet together to present and discuss their experiences. Students presentations will take place during the HSIR Seminar Series and other PHS faculty, staff and students will be invited to attend. Presentations can include, but are not limited to: presentation of a case, application of the knowledge gained, or how their research has been informed by the experience.

      Students must complete the Applied PHS Experience Health Care Professional - Student Agreement and return it to the PHS Academic Program Manager. At the end of the experience, students must also complete and return the Clinical Rotation Tracking Sheet.

    Each student is expected to select a supervisory committee by the end of the Spring semester year two. This supervisory committee is responsible for approving the student’s academic program, preparing and evaluating the qualifying examinations (subject to departmental policy), approving the thesis or dissertation subject, reading and approving the final dissertation, and administering and judging the final oral examination (dissertation defense).

    Check List:


    • The process of forming a supervisory committee requires that students complete the Request for Supervisory Committee Form.
    • Faculty outside the Department of Population Health Sciences, career-line, adjunct, visiting and emeritus positions and persons not from the University of Utah may also serve as committee members. These potential members require approval of the Dean of The Graduate School (a CV for the proposed committee members must accompany the request).
    • The supervisory committee is made up of five members. The majority of the committee members must be tenure-line faculty with-in the department, one member must be from out-side the department and one member must be a methodologist (biostatistician, economist, epidemiologist, etc. with strong methodology skills). Exemptions to the makeup of the committee will be considered on a student to student basis and may require approval from the Director of Graduate Studies, the Department Chair and the Dean of the Graduate School.

      Each supervisory committee is headed by a Committee Chair – typically the student’s primary faculty mentor. The chair of the supervisory committee directs the student’s research and writing of the thesis or dissertation. If a graduate student’s preliminary work is deficient, the supervisory committee may require supplementary undergraduate courses for which no graduate credit is granted. Decisions concerning program requirements, examinations, and the dissertation are made by majority vote of the supervisory committee.

      All University of Utah tenure-line faculty members are eligible to serve as supervisory committee members. The faculty member must hold an academic or professional doctorate, a terminal degree in a relevant field, and/or must have demonstrated competence to do research and scholarly work in the student’s general field. Faculty with career-line, adjunct, visiting and emeritus positions and persons not from the University of Utah may also serve as committee members. These potential members require approval of the Dean of The Graduate School (a CV for the proposed committee members must accompany the request). Committee chairs must be selected from tenure-line faculty. Immediate family members are not eligible to serve on a student’s supervisory committee.

      It is the responsibility of the student to approach prospective committee members to assess their willingness and availability to serve in such a capacity. Faculty may, for justifiable academic reasons, decline to serve on a student’s supervisory committee. The process of forming a supervisory committee is completed by filing a Request for Supervisory Committee Form. Students are required to invite either the Director of Graduate Studies or the Academic Program Manager to attend the first meeting of the Supervisory Committee to help answer any questions the Committee may have regarding program policies and next steps.

      If a student fails to establish a Supervisory Committee by the end of their third year, their academic history will be evaluated by the Academic Review Committee established by the Department. The Academic Review Committee reviews the students’ progress in the program and determines any academic action needed, which may include probation and remediation or dismissal. The Committee will provide the student with their decision in writing.

    The purpose of the qualifying exam is to test the overall competencies in the emphasis that the student has chosen and to evaluate whether the student has in-depth knowledge related to the dissertation work that they are or will be proposing. The qualification exam proposal exam should be completed by the early Spring semester year three. Students must be registered for classes at the time they complete their oral portion of their qualification exam. For this reason, students should plan accordingly if the qualification exam is to be completed the Summer semester. The faculty anticipates that a student will be the expert in the area of their dissertation topic by the completion of the dissertation, therefore the student should be well on their way by the time they take the qualifying exam. The exam aids the committee by identifying gaps, strengths and weaknesses to address as the student completes their dissertation and other degree requirements.

    Check List


    • Students must be registered for credit hours at the time of their oral exam. Students on the Tuition Benefit Program (TBP) should be mindful of TBP restrictions if planning to complete the qualification exam over the Summer semester. Students should check with the PHS Academic Program Manager before scheduling their oral exam.
    • Once students have finished the Qualification Exam, the Qualifying Exam Approval Form should be completed and returned to the PHS Academic Program Manager. This will ensure that the requirement is fulfilled on a student's Graduate Student Summary (Graduate School record).

     

    • The qualifying exam is written by the PhD Supervisory Committee (hereafter referred to as “the Committee”). The Chair of the Committee cannot chair the qualifying exam. Another member of the committee must chair the qualifying exam and must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Each student proposes research that adds unique information, methods or other types of insights to the field. Therefore, each qualifying exam is an individualized exam and standardization is not possible.

      The qualifying exam commonly, but not always, includes the following components:

      1. 3-5 questions that address program competencies and the doctoral student’s individual research focus;
      2. is answered a question at a time, usually one question over the course of one week, using any resource except other students, faculty, or other persons to answer the questions;
      3. in totality, is completed over a period of several weeks;
      4. is generally evaluated by the committee within 2 weeks; and
      5. generally, requires revisions to written responses prior to the oral examination.

      The structure and content of the qualifying exam is established by the student’s Committee and may deviate from the components above. Students should work closely with their Committee to understand the expectations and format of their unique exam.

      In all cases, the Committee prepares questions prior to the beginning of the examination. In all cases, the Committee has the discretion to deviate from the examples above in order to meet the needs of any given student as approved by the chair of the qualifying exam committee.

      Responses to questions requiring an essay or literature review will follow the page limits imposed by the Committee and the following formatting guidelines: ½ inch margins, 11-point Arial font, and single-spacing. Page limits exclude references unless otherwise directed by the Committee. Page limits for each question are set and enforced by the qualifying exam committee.

      After the completion of the last question, the Committee has two weeks to review the doctoral student responses. The primary author of an exam question assumes primary responsibility for the evaluation of his/her question.

    • In all cases, after completion (including revisions) of the written exam, the student and his/her committee meets in person to clarify candidate responses and probe for further understanding of the material. After the oral examination, the student leaves the room, and the committee members discuss the student responses and assigns a grade for the combined written and oral examination.

      The grades for each question are determined by majority vote; the committee chair’s vote breaks all ties. The student is then advised of the grade.

      The qualifying exam questions are graded as follows: Pass, Revise and Resubmit, or Fail.

      • PASS: is awarded when the response is complete, demonstrates a thorough understanding of the concepts tested and the literature associated. Minor issues in writing or in interpretation of literature may exist.
        • Satisfactory response in writing and/or via verbal responses to the committee.
        • Students must pass each question in order to pass the exam.
      • REVISE AND RESUBMIT: requires revision of the written response.
        • Revise and resubmit is awarded when the response is not complete, the interpretation of the literature is partially flawed, or the response does not communicate an adequate understanding of the concepts being tested.
        • If the student receives a revise and resubmit, the student will have time to prepare a revision for each question they are required to revise. The committee will indicate the time for revision.
        •  The committee is expected to provide clear, written guidance to the student regarding the components of the response that are not satisfactory.
        • A grade of revise and resubmit does not guarantee that the final grade is a pass of the exam.
        • At the end of the revision timeline, the Committee reviews the revised answers and then the grade for each question becomes Pass or Fail.
      • FAIL: The grade of Fail is applied when the response does not answer the question, demonstrates poor understanding or inability to communicate understanding of the concepts.
        • Students must pass all questions to pass the exam
        • The student may take a qualifying exam a maximum of 2 times.
        • Use of incorrect citations or plagiarism in any one question or more result will result in a failed exam.
        • If the student receives a Revise and resubmit, the student will have time to prepare a revision for each question they are required to revise. The committee will indicate the time for revision.
        • The committee will provide clear, written guidance to the student regarding the components of the response that are not satisfactory.
        • A student who fails will be given a new exam after a minimum period of 3 months.

      If students fail to pass their qualifying exam by the end of their third year, their academic history will be evaluated by the Academic Review Committee gathered by the Department. The Academic Review Committee review the students’ progress in the program and determine any academic action which may include probation and remediation or dismissal. The Committee will provide the student with their decision in writing.

    The dissertation proposal exam should be completed by the end of the Spring semester year three. PhD students work with their faculty mentor and approved committee to write their dissertation proposal. The purpose of the proposal is to ensure that all committee members are aware of and supportive of the research plan the student is proposing for their dissertation. Students must follow the Dissertation Proposal Guidelines and the Dissertation Proposal Check-list as they move through the dissertation proposal process. These resources can be found on the Department’s website or received from the Academic Program Manager.

    Check List


    • Students must be registered for credit hours at the time of their proposal defense. Students on the Tuition Benefit Program (TBP) should be mindful of TBP restrictions if planning to complete the qualification exam over the Summer semester. Students should check with the PHS Academic Program Manager before scheduling their oral exam.
    • Students should utilize the Dissertation Proposal Checklist to ensure all necessary steps are completed before scheduling their dissertation proposal with their Supervisory Committee. 
    • Once students have finished the Dissertation Proposal, the Dissertation Proposal Form should be completed and returned to the PHS Academic Program Manager. This will ensure that the requirement is fulfilled on a student's Graduate Student Summary (Graduate School record).
    • The proposal roughly follows the format of an NIH R01 or F30 or R31 grant. The background in the PhD proposal is longer to allow a thorough review of the literature. The review of literature is excellent preparation for the proposal and for the comprehensive exam. Students should expect to generate many iterations of their proposal before it is finalized. Students should anticipate several committee meetings to discuss specifics of methods used in the dissertation prior to defending their proposal. Components of the proposal are encouraged to be reused for a Ruth L. Kirchstein fellowship (F31). The dissertation proposal should follow the formatting guidelines: ½ inch margins, 11-point Arial font, and single-spacing.

      Section Pages
      Specific Aim

      1

      Background: Detailed review of the literature (rigor of prior research and scientific premise, significance and innovation)

      8-10

      Approach: Includes study design, detailed methods, including data source, detailed analysis plan

      9
    • When the written proposal is complete, the student presents the proposal in seminar format to their committee. The student will present their scientific rationale, and detailed methodology for approximately 45 minutes and then the committee members will have the opportunity to comment on the proposal or to ask the student questions. After the presentation and follow-up questions, the Committee will excuse the student and other participants to review the students’ performance. After deliberation, the student will be called back into discuss the outcomes of the proposal. The overall time of the proposal defense should be scheduled for 90 minutes.

      The student may invite other students, faculty, and relevant professionals to the defense. We encourage students to have at least one other student there to help take notes on committee suggestions and concerns. 

      The outcome of the proposal presentation can be:

      1. Student moves forward with the research/ dissertation preparation
      2. Changes in the written proposal are needed
      3. Changes to the written proposal and repeat presentation to the committee.

    The dissertation is one of two styles:

    1. Three journal-ready academic manuscripts
    2. Traditional book style

    The three manuscripts should be related and form a cohesive whole. Students will also work closely with their supervisory committee on the topic, 'relatedness,' and timing of paper submission. Manuscripts must be approved by the student's supervisory committee and submitted to an approved journal. Publication, though desirable, is not required. The text of the submitted manuscripts then form the central part of the student's dissertation.

    Each dissertation must include an abstract, introduction, conclusion or discussion, references, and other required pages in the same manner as a traditional dissertation. Additional chapters to introduce and connect the individual manuscripts or fill the body of the dissertation are required as indicated by the dissertation work.

    After the supervisory committee approves the dissertation, the student must submit the document to the University of Utah Graduate School Thesis Office, which has additional requirements and rules.

    Check List


    • Students must be registered for credit hours at the time of their dissertation defense. Students on the Tuition Benefit Program (TBP) should be mindful of TBP restrictions if planning to complete the qualification exam over the Summer semester. Students should check with the PHS Academic Program Manager before scheduling their oral defense.
    • Students must meet all dissertation requirements set by the Graduate School's Thesis Office. Thesis Office deadlines must also be considered if students are trying to graduate in a specific semester. Student should be become familiar with the thesis resources and guides below.
    • Once students have finished their Dissertation Defense, the Dissertation Form should be completed and returned to the PHS Academic Program Manager. This will ensure that the requirement is fulfilled on a student's Graduate Student Summary (Graduate School record).
    • Student who choose to complete three journal-ready academic manuscripts, must also complete the Manuscripts Submission Form and returned to the PHS Academic Program Manager.
    • Preliminary Thesis Review


      • Before compiling a complete dissertation and before the oral defense, students are strongly encouraged to submit a chapter to the Thesis Office for preliminary review.
        • The preliminary review checks for formatting error. The chapter should include graphs, tables, and images, since this is the content that often presents the greatest formatting issues.
        • The Thesis Office will conduct preliminary review before their dissertation defense. The preliminary review must also be submitted before the target date set by the Thesis Office
      • Students should become familiar with the Thesis Office submission procedure. The procedure outlines the process that students should allow before and after the dissertation defense.
      • All graduate students have access to Grammarly Premium, which is meant to assist students’ writing throughout their graduate research careers. Please use Grammarly on your dissertation prior to submitting it to the Thesis Office for review. If you have not activated your Grammarly account, please send an email (from your umail) to: info@gradschool.utah.edu
      • Student also have the option of hiring an independent thesis editor. A list is maintained through the Writing Center.
    • Selecting a Date:


      • The defense should be scheduled early enough for the student to make any changes requested by the committee and submit the departmentally-approved manuscript at least 2 weeks prior to the target date for submission for the semester.
      • Confirm a date when all FIVE (5) of your committee members are available, committee members can join either in-person or over Zoom.
        • The defense will take 90-minutes, but students should schedule for a 2-hour time block when considering the committee's availability. To encourage attendance, the defense must be scheduled between regular business hours (8am - 5pm).
      • It is a Graduate School requirement that the defense date be publicized at least 1 month in advanced. The oral presentation is open to the public.
        • One month before the defense date, contact the Academic Program Manager to coordinate:
          • Scheduling a room for the defense
          • Creating a defense advertisement flier
          • Student should create their own Zoom link to share with the flier

      Come Prepared


      Students should come prepared to use the AV equipment in the classroom. Most classrooms required:

      • USB port – required to use the Meeting Owl (a camera, mic, and speaker best for Zoom meetings)
      • HDMI port – required to use for the classroom AV equipment

      If an adaptor is required, students should ensure to get one ahead of time.

      Students should ensure that Zoom is downloaded on their personal computer and ready to launch. The Academic Program Manager should be given access as a co-host during the Zoom meeting. This will allow the Academic Program Manager the ability to monitor the Zoom during the defense and admit participants. 

      Dissertation Defense Agenda


      The defense will take approximately 90-minutes.

      • Presentation: 45-minues is reserved for the presentation.
      • Questions: 30-minutes is reserved for questions.
        • Questions are first opened to all in attendance.
        • Following the audience questions, the committee will excuse the audience and conduct a closed-door question session with the student.
      • Deliberation: 15-minutes is reserved for deliberation.
        • The committee excuses the student and determine if the student has: Pass, Fail, Revise and Resubmit.
        • Once a decision is reached, the committee will call the student back in to announce the outcome of the defense.
    • Thesis Office Submission


      Dissertations must be submitted Thesis Office via their online manuscript submission system OnBase. The Thesis Office website provides details on the online submission process.

      • It is the students responsibility to ensure that signatures come in from your committee members and department chair.
      • Students will receive confirmation emails as signatures are submitted.
      • Manuscripts remain in a holding queue until the department chair and the majority of the committee members have signed the electronic forms.

      PHS Manuscript Requirement


      1. Student must successful defend their dissertation at an oral examination.
      2. Within 2 weeks of the successful defense date, student must submit a PDF copy of the approved manuscript through the Thesis Office OnBase system.
      3. Manuscripts remain in a holding queue until the department chair and the majority of the committee members have signed the electronic OnBase forms.
      4. The department chair will only approve a student’s manuscript after the Manuscripts Submission Form has been submitted to the PHS Academic Program Manager.

      Thesis Release Issues


      • All processing of the manuscript must be completed by the last day of the semester for graduation in the semester.
      • If a thesis release cannot be issued by the closing date of the semester, the student will need to reapply for graduation for the next semester.
      • The diploma is dated at the end of the graduation semester but the student may obtain an earlier Statement of Degree Completion from the Office of the Registrar.
      • Diplomas are mailed to students by the Office of the Registrar approximately 3 months after the closing date of the semester of graduation.

    The following process is recommended to help students prepare for graduation:

    • Students should check their Graduate Student Summary on CIS.
      • If students have questions or issues surrounding graduation, they should make an appointment with the PHS Academic Program Manager.
    • Students must apply for graduation to the University of Utah's Office of the Registrar. The semester of graduation depends on when a student complete their dissertation defense. Students must meet all of the University of Utah requirements as well as the department requirements for graduation. 
    • The Commencement Ceremony happens once a year in May. Students must have applied for graduation to be eligible to participate the ceremony. 
    • Statement of Degree Completion may be used in place of the diploma, when students are waiting to receive their posted degree. Degrees cannot be awarded until the end of your graduating term even if you finish all requirements before then. If an employer or school needs proof that you have completed the degree requirements, request a Statement of Degree Completion.

    The 2022-2023 Student Handbook contains Department of Population Health Sciences requirements, policies, and procedures. Students can also review a list of core competencies expected to gain from the PhD Program.

    CORE CURRICULUM

    Population Health Sciences students will take the required core courses as described below.

    Catalogue Number Title Credit Hours

    PHS 7020

    Secondary Data Analysis

    4

    PHS 7030

    Applied Modern Causal Inference

    3

    PHS 7100

    Epidemiology Theory & Methods

    3

    PHS 7310

    Comparative Health Systems Seminar I

    2

    PHS 7370

    Social Determinants & Health Inequities

    3

    MDCRC 6450

    Grant Writing

    3

    PHIL XXXX Ethics 1

    PHS 7970

    Dissertation (minimum)

    14

    Total Number of Credits

    33

    EMPHASES CURRICULUM

    BIOSTATISTICS

    Emphasis

    CURRICULUM

    YEAR 0 CURRICULUM - prerequisites for students without a relevant mater degree

    CLINICAL & TRANSLATIONAL EPIDEMIOLOGY

    Emphasis

    HEALTH SYSTEMS RESEARCH

    Emphasis

    Education Team

    Marcie Leek, MPA

    Academic Program Manager

    Maureen Murtaugh, PhD

    Director of Graduate Studies

    Contact Us

    Questions? Contact us by phone or email:

    Phone: 801-587-1606
    Emailphsphd@hsc.utah.edu

    Williams Building, Room 1N490
    295 Chipeta Way
    Salt Lake City, UT 84108