Program Experience: Health Services Ph.D.

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The UW Health Services Ph.D. program balances comprehensive instruction in the determinants and disparities of population health with knowledge of the health care system and health policy. The program also provides rigorous methodological training in several key disciplines, enabling students to conduct interdisciplinary research with practical applications for policy and practice

Each student chooses an area of emphasis in which they acquire comprehensive knowledge of theory, content, and methods. Working collaboratively with faculty, each student applies this expertise to health services research and health policy issues.

For their dissertations, Ph.D. students engage in collaborative research with faculty from our UW Department of Health Systems and Population Health (HSPop) and the UW School of Public Health, along with partnering research centers, such as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.

As part of the University of Washington, we are committed to excellence through diversity, and our Health Services Ph.D. program’s curriculum promotes an understanding of the means by which social inequities and racism, generated by power and privilege, undermine health.

Health Services Ph.D. at a Glance

Duration 3-5 years, full time (9-15 quarters)
Average time to degree 4.4 years
Format In-person classroom (day)
Location UW Seattle
Course Credits 100 course credits minimum

Health Services Ph.D. Class Profile

Health Services Ph.D. students are the heart of our program. We appreciate that prospective students want to know what kind of cohort they might be joining. On entry to the program, students are matched with both a peer and a faculty mentor who share similar research interests. Peer mentors help create and enhance the program experience.

Below is information gathered from the 2020, 2021, and 2022 incoming cohorts. Percentages are the averages of the three years.

  • Class Size: Average = 7 students; Range = 5-9 students
  • Average GPA: 3.8
  • Prior Master’s Degree: 100%
  • Published at Least One Peer-Reviewed Paper: 73%
  • Gender:  Women = 73%; Men = 23%; Non-binary or another gender= 4%
  • International Students: 14%
  • Washington State Residents: 23%
  • Students of Color (citizens and permanent residents): 50%
    • Asian American: 18%
    • Black or African American: 9%
    • Hispanic or Latinx: 18%
    • Native American: 5%
    • Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0%

Program and University Strengths

Our Ph.D. program stands apart from others because of its team, curriculum, dedication to inclusion of anti-racist pedagogy in classrooms, and ongoing support for students and alumni.

Personal Attention, Mentorship, and Flexibility

Our distinguished faculty are committed to working with students.

One of the hallmarks of our program is the personal attention every student receives through mentorship. On entry to the program, students are matched with both a peer and a faculty mentor who share similar research interests. A mentor is a trusted counselor or guide who encourages students in their graduate studies and provides a model of what academic life. Mentoring includes responsibilities beyond advising and dissertation supervision. Faculty mentors focus on preparing students to meet their own self-stated goals academically, to complete the requirements for the doctoral program, and for successful careers postdoctoral degree. Mentors guide and encourage students, help them network within the field of health services research, and support them in achieving independent critical thought and decision-making to become a leader in the field. The relationship between mentor and mentee changes over time as a result of shared learning and accountability.

While designed to ensure that graduates gain advanced knowledge and extensive research skills, the curriculum and program requirements are flexible in order to meet the needs and interests of each student. Our program encourages students to pursue and investigate their individual interests by defining an area of emphasis.

Rigorous and Comprehensive Curriculum

Average Time to Degree: 4.4 years

The Health Services Ph.D. program balances comprehensive instruction in the determinants and disparities of population health with knowledge of the health care system and health policy.

Students are required to complete an area of emphasis with specialized theory or methods courses. The area of emphasis is typically chosen after the first year.

Areas of Interest

  • Evaluative Sciences and Statistics
  • Health Behavior and Social Determinants of Health
  • Health Economics
  • Implementation Science
  • Occupational Health

Preliminary and general examinations are also required to earn a doctorate in the Health Services Ph.D. program.


Areas of Interest


Advance Health Services Research

All Ph.D. students are required to write a dissertation that significantly advances the state of knowledge in their chosen field, including having work published in academic journals.

Strong Connections and Successful Alumni

The Health Services Ph.D. program has strong and productive relationships with local research centers and medical institutions, which help support our students and alumni.

We have a strong record of alumni placement. Our students are consistently employed at graduation. Health Services Ph.D. graduates pursue research careers in top-tier universities, the health care industry, government agencies, and research and policy-making organizations. Our alumni have received numerous grants and awards. Many also remain actively involved with the Ph.D. program.


Committed to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

As part of the UW Department of Health Systems and Population Health (HSPop) within the School of Public Health, our staff and faculty are committed to supporting equity, diversity, and inclusion in every aspect of our work.


A Degree Above the Rest

The Health Services Ph.D. is part of the UW School of Public Health, which is highly ranked by the U.S. News & World Report. UW also ranks highly among public universities in research funding and provides health leadership across the Pacific Northwest.