The Doctor of Philosophy program in health services and policy requires a minimum of 79 s.h. of graduate credit, which may include up to 30 s.h. of credit from a master's degree. The program prepares students for careers in health services research, education, and policy leadership in universities, government agencies, and health organizations.

The Ph.D. program is oriented toward applied, interdisciplinary research and scholarly inquiry. Students develop mastery of theories and research methodologies necessary to study the complex American health system. They work closely with faculty mentors on research projects and develop research design and methodology skills through course work and an apprenticeship model of training.

Individual plans of study allow students to prepare for specific careers, and small class size encourages frequent student-faculty interaction, including participation in research projects as well as scholarly publications.

The Ph.D. in health services and policy has three focus areas: health economics, health management and organization, or health policy. Admitted students may not change focus areas unless they are formally reviewed and accepted to the new area. Students work with a faculty advisor and a mentorship team of faculty members from their focus area; the advisor and mentorship team participate in initial planning with a student during orientation and in annual professional development reviews. Students conduct required independent study and thesis research in their focus area; their comprehensive exam and dissertation committees include faculty members from their focus area.

Focus Areas

The health economics focus area provides students with in-depth training in economic theory and its applications to health and health care. Students in this area acquire advanced theoretical knowledge and state-of-the-art analytical and econometric skills that enable them to build careers as health economists in academic departments, research organizations, and health care industries. The health economics focus area provides comprehensive course work covering all main areas in health and health care economics, including demand for health and health care, economic determinants and consequences of health behaviors, health insurance, economic organization of health care markets, impact of government policy and regulation, econometric methods, and economic evaluation methods.

The health management and organization focus area prepares students to conduct research on organizational, strategic, and operational issues that confront health institutions and systems. Emphasis is placed on health care applications of theories, concepts, and models from the fields of organizational theory (macro), organizational behavior (micro), strategic management, and operations management. Students in this area may conduct research on topics such as effectiveness of health care organizations; improving the organization and management of health delivery processes; measuring performance and productivity of health care organizations; examining the relative influence of mission, culture, and financial incentives in hospitals and health organizations; and management of professional groups. Graduates of the health management and organization focus area should find employment in academic and research organizations, integrated delivery systems, and governmental units that are interested in the impact of organizational structures and managerial practices on performance.

The health policy focus area prepares students to undertake health services and policy research aimed at improving care and management of illness and disability and enhancing individual and community health outcomes. Students develop the skills necessary to conduct health services and policy research. They take courses in the basic disciplines that contribute to the fields of public and social policy (e.g., law, political science, public affairs) as well as courses that focus on the structure and organization of health policy making in the United States. They study the formation and implementation of health policies; the effect of health policies on the organization, financing, and delivery of health services; the effect of health policies on access to, use of, and costs of health services; and approaches to improve access and effectiveness of care for vulnerable populations. Students who complete the health policy focus area are prepared for employment in academic research institutions, policy organizations, and governmental agencies and departments.

Course Work

Students take course work in core content areas covering health care systems, health economics, health management and organizations, and health policy as well as courses in research design and statistical analysis. Credit may be awarded for guided and independent research project work. Students may waive specific courses, depending on their background. For more detailed information about Ph.D. and focus area curricula, visit Ph.D. in Health Services and Policy on the Department of Health Management and Policy website.


Students must pass a preliminary examination that tests mastery of core material covered during the first year in the department, including American health systems, health services research methods, and foundation courses in their focus area.

Students take the comprehensive examination at or near the end of their formal course work. The comprehensive exam focuses on a student's specific area of research and theoretical interest.


Doctoral candidates prepare dissertations based on original research that tests, extends, or applies concepts or principles to a health care problem related to their chosen focus area. Students may complete a traditional dissertation or a dissertation based on three publishable papers.

Applicants must apply through the Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS). All applicants also must submit the supplement University of Iowa application fee. For detailed application information, visit HMP Degree Programs on the Department of Health Management and Policy website.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College.

Students begin the program in fall semester. Personal interviews are required before admission; the admissions committee conducts Skype interview with applicants.

A variety of financial assistance is available, including scholarships and awards, student loans, and graduate research assistantships. Every effort is made to provide financial support to students who demonstrate need and maintain satisfactory academic standards. Some awards are offered in recognition of outstanding academic performance and experience, regardless of need.

Graduate research assistantships generally are awarded on the basis of student merit and the department's need. Assistantships afford valuable experience in health services research and management projects. Graduate research assistants work 10-20 hours per week and must apply for reappointment each year. Assistantships provide a stipend, some tuition assistance, and entitle students to the resident tuition rate.

Opportunities also exist for part-time employment both on and off campus. For information and financial aid application forms, contact the University's Office of Student Financial Aid.