Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

  • demonstrate breadth of health services research theoretical and conceptual knowledge by applying alternative models from a range of relevant disciplines;
  • apply in-depth disciplinary knowledge and skills relevant to health services research;
  • apply knowledge of the structures, performance, quality, policy, and environmental context of health and health care to formulate solutions for health policy problems;
  • pose innovative and important health service research questions, informed by systematic reviews of the literature, stakeholder needs, and relevant theoretical and conceptual models;
  • select appropriate interventional, observational, or qualitative study designs to address specific health services research questions;
  • know how to collect primary health and health care data obtained by survey, qualitative, or mixed methods;
  • know how to assemble secondary data from existing public and private sources;
  • use conceptual models and operational measures to specify study constructs for a health services research question and develop variables that reliably and validly measure these constructs;
  • implement research protocols with standardized procedures that ensure reproducibility of the science;
  • use appropriate analytical methods to clarify associations between variables and to delineate causal inferences;
  • ensure the ethical and responsible conduct of research in the design, implementation, and dissemination of health services research;
  • work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams;
  • effectively communicate the findings and implications of health services research through multiple modalities to technical and lay audiences;
  • understand the importance of collaborating with stakeholders, such as policymakers, organizations, and communities to plan, conduct, and translate health services research into policy and practice; and
  • demonstrate hands-on teaching experience.

The Doctor of Philosophy program in health services and policy requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit. Students must maintain a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.25 to earn the degree. Those who enter with a master's degree can apply to use transfer credit toward their doctorate degree with approval of the health services and policy program.

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 coursework 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. program provides students flexibility to create a plan of study that allows them to either specialize in one of three research interest areas—health economics, health management and organization, or health policy—or to create a plan of study that includes elective courses from multiple research interest areas. Students work with a faculty advisor and a mentorship team of faculty members from their interest area(s). The advisor and mentorship team participate in initial planning with students during orientation and in annual professional development reviews. Students conduct required independent study and thesis research in their interest area(s); their comprehensive exam and dissertation committees include faculty members from their chose research interest area(s).

Research Interest Areas

The health economics research interest 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 interest area provides comprehensive coursework 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 research interest 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 research interest 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 research interest 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) and 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 research interest area are prepared for employment in academic research institutions, policy organizations, and governmental agencies and departments.

The Ph.D. with a major in health services and policy requires the following.


Students take coursework in core content areas covering health care systems, health economics, health management and organizations, and health policy and 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, see the Ph.D. in Health Services and Policy on the Department of Health Management and Policy website.

Core Courses

All of these:
HMP:5450Health Insurance and Managed Care3
CPH:6100Essentials of Public Health2

Foundation Courses in Research Interest Areas

All of these:
HMP:5005Introduction to Healthcare Organization and Policy3
HMP:5410Health Economics I3
HMP:5610Health Policy3
HMP:5750Medicare and Medicaid Policy3
HMP:7250Organizational Behavior and Theory in Health Care3
HMP:7550Cost Effectiveness and Decision Analysis3
HMP:7930Ph.D. Independent Research3

Design and Analysis Courses

All of these:
HMP:7940Primary Data and Mixed Methods3
HMP:7950Design Issues in Health Service Research3
HMP:7960Analytic Issues in Health Services Research I3
HMP:7965Analytic Issues in Health Services Research II3
BIOS:4120Introduction to Biostatistics3
BIOS:5120Regression Modeling and ANOVA in the Health Sciences3
CPH:7270Principles of Scholarly Integrity: Public Health (must be taken twice; in the first semester for 0 s.h., in the second semester for 1 s.h.)1

Advanced Research Interest Area Courses

Health Economics

At least three of these:
ECON:4140Labor Economics3
ECON:5100Microeconomics I3
ECON:5115Fundamentals of Microeconomics3
ECON:5810Applied Econometrics3
ECON:6310Industrial Organization3
ECON:6900Contemporary Topics in Economics3

Health Management and Organization

At least three of these:
MGMT:7340Group Processes (Ph.D.)3
MGMT:7350Leadership (Ph.D.)3
MGMT:7360Motivation and Attitudes (Ph.D.)3
SOC:6610Complex Organizations3

Health Policy

Both of these:
HMP:5650Health Policy Analysis3
HMP:6750Seminar in Health Policy3
At least one of these:
HMP:6710Federalism and Health Policy3
POLI:5100American Politics4
POLI:7202Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior4
SOC:6810Social Stratification3


Students take elective coursework so that they are exposed to other areas or to gain greater depth within their area of interest.


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 research interest area.

Students take the comprehensive examination at or near the end of their formal coursework. 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 research interest area(s). 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 on the Graduate College website.

Students begin the program in fall semester. Personal interviews are required before admission; the admissions committee conducts video interviews 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.

The program prepares students for careers in health services research, education, and policy leadership in universities, government agencies, and health organizations.