Doctor of Philosophy in the Field of Epidemiology

Program Director S. Cleary                                                                                              

The purpose of the doctor of philosophy program is to prepare students for a career in epidemiologic research in an academic or industry setting. The Ph.D. graduate is expected to have knowledge across a wide range of epidemiologic theories and methods and specific knowledge of the epidemiology of one of the following areas: chronic disease, infectious disease, environmental and occupational health.

Doctoral students are required to pass a written comprehensive examination and to complete a dissertation. For the comprehensive examination the student must demonstrate advanced knowledge of epidemiologic and biostatistical methods. For the dissertation, the student must design and execute an original research study that contributes new knowledge to the field and demonstrates proficiency using advanced analytic methods.

In addition to MS and MPH competencies, doctoral students in epidemiology must demonstrate competencies in the following areas: demonstrate understanding of general and specialized advanced epidemiologic concepts, develop a research protocol, conduct and analyze a research study, and disseminate research findings.

At the completion of the doctoral program in epidemiology students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of general and specialized epidemiologic concepts: Demonstrate knowledge of advanced epidemiologic concepts with specialized knowledge in a specific area of epidemiology (e.g., methods, infectious diseases, chronic diseases, environmental, or occupational); apply knowledge of disease pathogenesis to a study protocol; discuss major public health problems; and exhibit knowledge of ethical issues in research;
  • Develop a research protocol: Synthesize and identify gaps and/or limitations of published research and present appropriate hypotheses to address gaps; develop a research protocol including identification of data sources, evaluate appropriate instruments for data collection, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different epidemiologic study designs and sources of potential bias;
  • Conducting and analyzing data from a research study: Demonstrate proficiency in data collection, data cleaning, primary or secondary data analysis, summarizing statistical analyses and results, and evaluating potential for bias; and
  • Dissemination of research findings: Provide a structured proposal of a research study including the background, study hypotheses, design, methodology, and contribution to the field; communicate dissertation results to lay and scientific communities through presentations at conferences and publications in the peer-reviewed literature.

Admissions Requirements

Specific admission requirements are shown on the Graduate Program Finder.

Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Applicants should have academic backgrounds of excellence, usually with majors, or equivalent, in the fields in which they intend to study for advanced degrees. Normally, a B average (or equivalent) from an accredited college is required. With evidence of special promise, such as high Graduate Record Examination scores, an applicant whose academic record falls short of a B average may be accepted on a conditional basis. Meeting the minimum requirements does not assure acceptance. The departments may, and often do, set higher admission standards. Moreover, the number of spaces available for new graduate students limits the number who can be accepted. Students who apply in their senior year must provide evidence of the completion of their baccalaureate work before registration in SPH is permitted. Applicants should be aware that graduate courses taken prior to admission while in non-degree status are not used in assessing admissibility to degree programs and may not be transferable into those programs. The SPH-at-a-Glance presents the Ph.D. curriculum for students admitted to the program with no intermediate master’s degree.

If desired, a student may complete the M.S. or M.P.H. program prior to admission to the Ph.D. degree program, in which case no more than 24 credits from the M.S. degree may be applied to the Ph.D. course work requirements. In this instance the student will be required to take a minimum of 27 additional credits of course work. The distribution of these courses between epidemiology and statistics will depend on the nature of the M\master's degree and whether the transferred credits will be used to defray epidemiology or statistics course work. All applications are submitted through SOPHAS.org.

For reporting GRE general test scores use the following institutional code: 5268.

At the completion of the doctoral program in epidemiology students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate understanding of general and specialized epidemiologic concepts.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of advanced epidemiologic concepts with specialized knowledge in a specific area of epidemiology (e.g., methods, infectious diseases, chronic diseases, environmental, or occupational); apply knowledge of disease pathogenesis to a study protocol; discuss major public health problems; and exhibit knowledge of ethical issues in research.
  • Develop a research protocol: Synthesize, identify gaps and/or limitations of published research and present appropriate hypotheses to address gaps; develop a research protocol including identification of data sources, evaluate appropriate instruments for data collection, the advantages and disadvantages of different epidemiologic study designs and sources of potential bias.
  • Conducting and analyzing data from a research study: Demonstrate proficiency in data collection, data cleaning, primary or secondary data analysis, summarizing statistical analyses and results, and evaluating potential for bias.
  • Dissemination of research findings: Provide a structured proposal of a research study including the background, study hypotheses, design, methodology, and contribution to the field; communicate dissertation results to lay and scientific communities through presentations at conferences and publications in the peer-reviewed literature.

The following requirements must be fulfilled: 

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Program.

72 credits

Preparatory Requirements

Minimum prerequisite courses for admission consideration
BISC 1111Introductory Biology: Cells and Molecules
BISC 1112Introductory Biology: The Biology of Organisms
MATH 1231Single-Variable Calculus I
MATH 1232Single-Variable Calculus II
MATH 2233Multivariable Calculus (option A only)
Additional course requirements
The courses listed below are additional course requirements. Applicants lacking these courses (or equivalents to these GW courses) will be considered for admission, but will be admitted conditionally with the expectation that these courses will be completed within two semesters following matriculation in the program. Credits for these courses do not count toward the 72-credit graduation requirement, or are grades earned in these additional courses reflected in the overall grade-point average.
MATH 2184Linear Algebra I
STAT 2183Intermediate Stat Lab/Packages
or PUBH 6249 StatPackages/DataMgt&DataAnlys

Degree Requirements

Public health core
PUBH 6003Principles and Practices of Epidemiology
PUBH 6247Design of Health Studies
PUBH 6252Advanced Epidemiology Methods
PUBH 8419Measurement in Public Health & Health Services
One of the following for a total of 4 credits:
PUBH 6299Topics in Epi/Bio (taken for 2 credits)
and
PUBH 6004Environmental and Occupational Health in a Sustainable World
or PUBH 6007 Social and Behavioral Approaches to Public Health
OR
PUBH 6299
PUBH 6006
Topics in Epi/Bio
and Management and Policy Approaches to Public Health (taken for 1 credit)
Statistics core
STAT 6210Data Analysis (OR)
PUBH 8365Design of Medical Studies
PUBH 8366Biostatistical Methods (basis for PhD general comprehensive)
Option A
STAT 6201Mathematical Statistics I
STAT 6202Mathematical Statistics II
Option B
PUBH 8364Quantitative Methods
Electives
A minimum of 17-20 public health elective credits, which may be selected from the following. Additional courses may be approved by the program director.
PUBH 6299Topics in Epi/Bio
PUBH 6123Toxicology: Applications for Public Health Policy
PUBH 6124Problem Solving in EOH
PUBH 6242ClinicalEpid&Decision Analysis
PUBH 6244Cancer Epidemiology
PUBH 6245InfectiousDisease Epidemiology
PUBH 6250Epidemiology of HIV/AIDS
PUBH 8242DPH Topics:ClinEpi&DecAnalysis
PUBH 8244DPH Topics:Cancer Epidemiology
PUBH 8245DPH Topics:InfectDiseaseEpi
PUBH 8250DPH Topics: Epi of HIV/AIDS
PUBH 6259Epid Surveillance/PublicHealth
PUBH 6260Adv DataAnalysis-Public Health
PUBH 6262Intro-Geog Information Systems
PUBH 6263Advanced GIS
PUBH 6267Time Series:Applications in PH
PUBH 6268Advanced SAS
Statistics electives (only students pursuing Option A)
STAT 6213Intermediate Probability and Stochastic Processes
STAT 6215Applied Multivariate Analysis I
STAT 6216Applied Multivariate Analysis II
STAT 6217Design of Experiments
STAT 6223Bayesian Statistics: Theory and Applications
STAT 6227Survival Analysis
STAT 6231Contingency Table Analysis
STAT 8226Advanced Biostatistical Methods
Consulting
Three credits from the following:
PUBH 6258Adv Topics/Biostat Consulting
PUBH 6283Biostatistics Consulting Practicum
The consulting requiement may be waived by the Epidemiology Program Director based on written documentation of prior equivalent course work or relevant work experience. Waiver of the consulting course increases the total number of electives proportionally.
Dissertation research
12-21 credits of the following:
PUBH 8999Dissertation Research (taken in units of 3 credits)

Graduation Requirements

  1. Program options: Students may choose either curriculum Plan A or curriculum Plan B for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in the field of epidemiology.
  2. Graduate credit requirement: 72 graduate credits are required.
  3. Prerequisites: Review official program guide for minimum prerequisite requirements for admission.
  4. Comprehensive (General) exam
    1. A written comprehensive exam will be administered within 24 months from date of matriculation based on the course content of PUBH 6247 Design of Health StudiesPUBH 6252 Advanced Epidemiology Methods, and PUBH 8419 Measrmnt/PublHlth&HlthSrvcsRes. The exam is administered once per year in August. 
    2. An oral presentation of the proposal for dissertation is made to the students’ Dissertation Research Committee. The Committee will determine the student’s readiness to pursue and complete the proposed research.
  5. Dissertation: 12-21 credits of dissertation research are required. Students may register for up to 6 credits of PUBH 8999 Dissertation Research prior to completion of the proposal defense.
  6. Grade point requirements: An overall GPA of 3.0 (B average) is required.
  7. Time limit requirement: The degree must be completed 8 years.
  8. Transfer credit policy: Up to 24 credits from an applicable masters program may be approved to be transferred to the doctoral program. Credits must have been earned from an accredited institution with a grade point average of B or better. 

The General Examinations

Part I is a written comprehensive examination consisting of one examination in the field of biostatistics and one in the field of epidemiology. The epidemiology examination is based on the course content of PUBH 6247 Design of Health StudiesPUBH 6252 Advanced Epidemiology Methods, and PUBH 8419 Measrmnt/PublHlth&HlthSrvcsRes as well as the biostatistics examination is based on the course content of PUBH 8366 Biostatistical Methods and is administered by the faculty of the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics. Students are expected to take the comprehensive examination within 24 months from the date of enrollment in the program. In addition, students are required to make up any deficiencies prior to taking the examination, e.g., by enrolling in appropriate master's-level courses as needed. The doctoral comprehensive examination is administered once per year in late August. A student who fails to pass the comprehensive examination may, with the approval of the faculty, repeat all or portions of the examination. Failure on the second attempt will result in termination from the Ph.D. program.

Part II, the research proposal, consists of an oral examination based on a written dissertation research proposal. As soon as feasible after successful completion of the comprehensive exam, students are encouraged to identify a dissertation advisor and a topic of research. The written dissertation proposal is then submitted to the student's Dissertation Research Committee, and the student will make an oral presentation of his or her proposal to the Committee. The Committee will determine the student's readiness to pursue and successfully complete the proposed research, in addition to the appropriateness of the specific problem for dissertation level research.

Upon successful completion of the required course work and both parts of the General Examination, the candidate will generally be recommended for promotion to PhD Candidacy: the dissertation research. Prior to completion of the General examination, a student may register for at most 6 credit hours of PUBH 8999 Dissertation Research.

Professional Enhancement Requirement (Two Days)

Professional enhancement activities supplement the academic curriculum and help prepare students to participate actively in the professional community. They enhance practical knowledge and awareness of public health issues – either in general or in a student’s specific area of study.

Students can fulfill this requirement by attending workshops, seminars, or other relevant professional meetings, which are often held at SPH and in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. Examples of conference sponsors include the National Academy for State Health Policy, the Pan American Health Organization, the American Public Health Association, the American College of Healthcare Executives, the Area Health Education Center, the American College of Sports Medicine, and the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. Opportunities for professional enhancement are regularly publicized via the SPH Listserv and through your department or advisor. It is hoped that PhD students will fulfill one day of this two day requirement by participating in a poster presentation at GWUMC Research Day.

Students must submit documentation of Professional Enhancement activities to the Epidemiology Program Director, which includes a prior approval, a description of the program agenda, and proof of attendance before applying for graduation.