The purpose of the PhD program in Health Services Research is to prepare graduates to be scholars, educators, researchers, and leaders in higher education, health care and service organizations, health care consulting firms, government and nonprofit organizations, and private businesses that support or regulate the health service industry.  The degree has the following two specialized programs of study (concentrations):

  • Health Systems and Policy
  • Knowledge Discovery and Health Informatics

Admissions

Requirements

Students must have a master's degree or other advanced degree (i.e., MD, JD, PhD or equivalent) from a regionally-accredited institution before being admitted to the 72-credit PhD program.

Applicants must meet the admission standards and application requirements specified in Graduate Admissions  and must apply using the online Application for Graduate Admission. For application deadlines and detailed application requirements, refer to the CHHS Admissions website.

Policies

Reduction of Credit

Students who enter with a master's or other advanced degree may have the credit requirement reduced by up to 30 credits (to a minimum of 42) for previous coursework that closely corresponds with doctoral program requirements. The credit reduction decision will be made by the doctoral program coordinator and requires approval of the department chair. Requests for reduction of credit are reviewed only after acceptance to the doctoral program.

Time Requirements

Students must complete all requirements for the PhD in Health Services Research within 9 calendar years from the time of first enrollment as a doctoral student in the program or with provisional status. PhD students are expected to progress steadily toward their degree and to complete all coursework and the written exam in order to advance to candidacy within no more than 6 years.

Banner Code: HH-PHD-HSR

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Core Courses

Research and Computational Methods Domain
HAP 719Advanced Statistics in Health Services Research I3
HAP 760Philosophy of Science in Health Services Research3
HAP 819Advanced Statistics in Health Services Research II3
HAP 835Causal Inference in Health Services Research3
Knowledge Discovery and Health Informatics Domain
HAP 709Health Care Databases3
HAP 720Health Data Integration3
HAP 780Data Mining in Health Care3
Health Systems and Policy Domain
HAP 715Health Economics3
HAP 742Health Policy Development and Analysis3
HAP 868Advanced Research Seminar in Health Policy Analysis3
Total Credits30

Concentration and Electives

Students take additional courses in one of two concentration domains: Knowledge Discovery and Health Informatics or Health Systems and Policy. Doctoral-level electives outside of CHHS or concentration-related content areas may be taken as approved by the student's academic advisor. A maximum of 6 credits of 600-level courses may be applied to the degree.

Concentration in Knowledge Discovery and Health Informatics (KDHI)

Thirty credits from the following:30
Computational Tools in Health Informatics
Health Data: Vocabulary and Standards
Health Care Decision Analysis
Health Care Security Policy
Advanced Health Information Systems
Medical Decision Making and Decision Support Systems
Comparative Effectiveness Analysis using Observational Data
Advanced Methods in Qualitative Research for Health Care
Measurement Theories and Applications in Health Care Research
Principles of Clinical Trials
Rehabilitation Efficacy and Effectiveness Research
Statistical Graphics and Data Exploration I
Statistical Graphics and Data Exploration II
Computational Learning and Discovery
Other course(s) supporting the student's subject matter or research methods, as approved by the advisor
Total Credits30

Concentration in Health Systems and Policy (HSYP)

Thirty credits from the following:30
Introduction to Health Services Research
Policy Development and Analysis for Community Health Programs
Health Policy for Elders and People with Disabilities
Contemporary Issues in Health Systems Management
Health Care Security Policy
Health Policy Leadership
Cost-Effectiveness for Health Care Management and Policy Decisions
Policy Implementation and Health System Management Dilemmas
Comparative Effectiveness Analysis using Observational Data
Politics of Influencing Health Care Policy
Advanced Methods in Qualitative Research for Health Care
Measurement Theories and Applications in Health Care Research
Outcomes Measurement
Rehabilitation Efficacy and Effectiveness Research
Other course(s) supporting the student's subject matter or research methods, as approved by the advisor
Total Credits30

Comprehensive Exams

Two comprehensive examinations (one written and one either oral or computational) will determine whether the student has the necessary knowledge and skills to undertake dissertation work. (Note: A computational exam presents the student with a question that requires analysis of data in order to provide a comprehensive answer.) The comprehensive exams must be taken within one year of completion of all coursework (except for dissertation sequence courses).

Students shall indicate by the end of the previous regular semester their intent to take the comprehensive exams. Students must have organized a dissertation committee with a chair approved by the HSR PhD Program Director. The dissertation committee will develop and evaluate the individual's comprehensive exams on a pass/no-pass basis. Students must pass both exams to enter PhD candidacy. Students who fail to pass either of the comprehensive exams may attempt each exam again the following semester. No more than one additional attempt at the exams will be permitted. Students who do not pass both comprehensive exams after the maximum number of attempts will be dismissed from the program.

Written Comprehensive Exam

Members of the dissertation committee will utilize a written comprehensive examination to assess the student's ability to apply theoretical concepts of research design and methods (including study design, data acquisition or collection, data management, analysis and interpretation) to relevant research questions in the student's concentration and area of research.

Oral or Computational Comprehensive Exam

Members of the dissertation committee will utilize either an oral or a computational comprehensive examination to assess the student's knowledge of theory and application pertaining to the content of the "field" and relevant subject matter, based upon the student's concentration and areas of research.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students who pass the comprehensive exams and all core and concentration course requirements advance to candidacy. A student must advance to candidacy status before taking the dissertation courses.

Dissertation Sequence Courses

Complete at least 12 credits:12
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal
Doctoral Dissertation (at least 6 credits)
Total Credits12

Dissertation

After advancement to candidacy, the HSR PhD student must complete an approved dissertation. The student must seek and obtain the approval of the HSR PhD Program Director on the selection of his/her Dissertation Chair and committee members. The committee must have at least three members, each of which must be a full-time member of the graduate faculty. The Chair must hold an appointment in the Department of Health Administration and Policy (HAP) and be approved by the Program Director. The second member of the dissertation committee must be a member of either the HAP Department or the College of Health and Human Services, and the third member of the committee must be from the College or other academic unit at George Mason University. A fourth member of the committee may be appointed, from another academic unit or from outside Mason, with the approval of the Program Director.

Within six months of passing the comprehensive examinations, the student must submit a draft dissertation proposal to the Dissertation Chair and committee. The proposal shall describe the proposed research as directed by the Chair and Committee. Failure to submit the proposal in a timely manner is grounds for academic probation. The proposal must provide a detailed literature review that provides the context and rationale for the research objectives, state the dissertation objective(s), and describe the proposed study design and analytic methods. The proposal must address the feasibility of completing the dissertation research and state the chair and members of the student's dissertation committee (with signatures or other appropriate documentation through e-mail) and include a short rationale for the inclusion of each member. An oral proposal defense must be scheduled with dissertation committee members who have agreed to serve. During the oral proposal defense, the student will describe their proposed research and address questions by the committee members. At the oral defense, the Dissertation Committee determines approval or disapproval of the proposal. Committee disapproval is accompanied by written recommendations for improving the proposed research with expectations for resubmission.