Doctoral (Ph.D.) Degree


The Ph.D. program is designed for students who are interested in pursuing research careers in both academic and non-academic settings. The core curriculum familiarizes students with the organization and financing of health services, as well as the statistical methods required to do state-of-the-art empirical work in health policy, health administration, and related disciplines. Beginning in the second year of the program, students obtain specialized training in one of three tracks: health economics; healthcare management and organizations; or population health and demography. Students may complete graduate minors in gerontology or demography. An option to complete a dual-title Ph.D. in Demography is also available.

We typically admit three to six students per year. Keeping our program small ensures students have easy access to faculty and allows us to fund virtually all students for three or more years. We also regularly provide financial support to students presenting their research at conferences.

Faculty in the department have a variety of interests. Recent areas of emphasis include large-scale quality-improvement initiatives, financing and insurance, the relationship between organizational structure and performance, and health disparities based on race, ethnicity, and income. There is also a large contingent of researchers at Penn State, both at the main campus and at the medical school, studying cancer control, prevention, treatment, and survivorship. While we expect these topics to remain strong foci of the department in coming years, opportunities are likely to arise in other areas as the department expands from approximately 10 to 16 tenure-track faculty members.


Students entering the doctoral program are funded through graduate assistantships. Our assistantships provide roughly $20,000 per year in support, along with a tuition waiver and access to health insurance. Those making adequate progress in the program can expect to receive three years of funding at this level. In subsequent years, financial support is available through faculty research grants or teaching opportunities within the department. Applicants with exceptional credentials are nominated for university-wide fellowships that provide additional funding.

The department has additional financial support available for a qualified Ph.D. student interested in tobacco policy research. Access the Predoctoral_Research_Fellowships_Informationfor more detailed information.


Our students have obtained tenure-track faculty positions at major research universities such as the University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, the University of Nebraska, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of South Carolina and non-tenure-track research positions at Duke University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, the University of Pennsylvania, and Virginia Commonwealth University. Others have opted for private research organizations, such as RAND and RTI, while still others have found employment at government agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Department of Health and Human Services, or with private sector firms such as Merck and the Henry Ford Health System.

“The PhD program at Penn State has prepared me with numerous opportunities to develop my skills as a health services researcher. The coursework and research experience has been outstanding, and I am confident this program has prepared me for the next phase in my career.”
-- Jill Harvey, Assistant Professor, Medical University of South Carolina, Department of Healthcare Leadership & Management

"The PhD program at Penn State has prepared me well to be a topflight health services researcher. The methodological training during the coursework is excellent, and the practical education gained through interaction with world-class faculty has been invaluable. I am sure that my time at Penn State will serve as the foundation for a meaningful and productive research career."
-- Grant Martsolf, Associate Health Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation

Apply to the Ph.D. Program

Application Materials

  1. Three letters of reference
  2. A statement of purpose
  3. Current resume
  4. Standardized test scores (GRE)
    • Institution Code and Name: 2660 Pennsylvania ST U University Park
    • Department Code and Name: 0607 Health Science Administration
  5. One unofficial transcript from each institution attended
  6. Application for a US Visa (international students only)
  7. Official TOEFL score (international students only)

Penn State has a standardized online application system available here: Penn State Graduate School

Additional Information about the Ph.D. Program

Current Students

Student News

Recent Publications

Anderson, R., Yang, T. C., Kern, T., Camacho, F., Mackley, H. B., Kimmick, G., Louis, C., Lengerich, E., & Yao. N. (2014). Breast cancer screening, area deprivation, and late stage breast cancer in Appalachia: Does geography matter? Health Services Research, 49(2), 546-567.

BeLue, R., Miranda, P. Y., Elewonibi, B. R., & Hillemeier, M. (2014). The association of generation status and health insurance among US children. Pediatrics, 134(2), 1-10.

Bhandari, N., Shi, Y., & Jung, K. (2014). Seeking health information online: does limited healthcare access matter? Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 21(6), 1113-7. doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2013-002350.

Bleser, W. K., Miller-Day, M., Naughton, D., Bricker, P. L., Cronholm, P. F., & Gabbey, R. A. (2014). Strategies for achieving whole-practice engagement and buy-in to the patient-centered medical home. Annals of Family Medicine, 12(1), 37-45. doi:10.1370/afm.1564.

Bock, J. A., Fairley, K. J., Smith, R. E., Maeng, D. D., Pitcavage, J. M., Iverso, N. A., & Williams, M. S. (2014). Cost-effectiveness genotype-guided protease inhibitor triple therapy versus standard of care treatment in patients with hepatitis C genotypes 2 or 3 infection. Public Health Genomics, 17, 306-319.

Ford, E. W., Pettit, L., Silvera, G., & Huerta, T. R. (2014). EMR implementation speed: Patient safety culture paradox. Journal of Healthcare Information Management, 3(28), 24-31.

Hankins, J. S., Verevkina, N. L., Smeltzer, M. P., Wu, S., Aygun, B., & Clarke, D. F. (2014). Assessment of sleep-related disorders in children with sickle cell disease. Hemoglobin, 38(4), 244-251. doi:10.3109/03630269.2014.919941.

Jung, K., Lim, D., & Shi, T. (2014). Racial/ethnic disparities in the use of antidepressants in private coverage: Implications for the affordable care act. Psychiatric Services, 65(9), 1140-1146.

Lehrman, W., Silvera, G., & Wolf, J. A. (2014). The patient experience movement moment. Patient Experience Journal, 1(2), 9-11.

Stock, S., Pitcavage, J. M., Simic, D., Altin, S., Graf, C., Feng, W., & Graf, T. R. (2014). Chronic care model strategies in the United States and Germany deliver patient-centered, high-quality diabetes care. Health Affairs, 33(9), 1540-1548. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2014.0428.

Verevkina, N., Shi, T., Fuentes-Caceres, V. A., & Scanlon, D. P. (2014). Attrition in chronic disease self-management programs and self-efficacy at enrollment. Health Education & Behavior, 41(6), 590-598.

Recent Presentations

Abiero, B. (2014). An exploratory study of urban in-migration and dengue in Indonesia. Poster presentation at the Annual Population Association of America Meeting, Boston, MA. [Won Population Association of America Outstanding Poster Award.]

Abiero, B., Robinson, M., Kamara, P., Wilshire, S. (2014). Stability, correlates, and consequences of suicidal ideation among black youth. Presented at the APHA Annual Research Meeting, New Orleans, LA.

Bediako, P. T. (2014). Family immigrant status and developmental delay among prematurely born children in 2011-2012 national survey of children's health. Poster presentation at the APHA Annual Research Meeting Immigrant and Refugee Health Caucus, New Orleans, LA.

BeLue, R., Miranda, P. Y., Elewonibi, B. R., & Hillemeier, M. (2014). Reasons for and barriers to obtaining insurance among US children: The role of generation status. Poster presentation at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.

Bhandari N., Shi Y., & Jung K. (2014). Patient experience of provider refusal of medicaid coverage and its implications. Presented at the 2014 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, San Diego, CA.

Bleser, W. K., Young, S. I., & Miranda, P. Y. (2014). Disparities in family-centered care by insurance type during children's healthcare encounters. Poster presentation at the 2014 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, San Diego, CA.

Elewonibi, B. R. (2014). Evaluability assessment of a breast cancer screening program in a large metropolitan city in Nigeria. Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, San Antonio, TX.

Elewonibi, B. R., (2014). The effect of mammography on non-breast cancer mortality. Presented at the American Association for Cancer Research, San Antonio, TX.

Hearld, L. R., Bleser, W. K., Bofdenschatz, L. J., & Alexander, J. A. (2014). Sustainability of community health collaboratives. Poster presentation at the 2014 AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, San Diego, CA.

O'Hora, J. (2014). Examining the role of organizational culture in realizing patient-centeredness. Poster presentation at the AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting, San Diego, CA.

Silvera, G. (2014). Insider versus outsider CEO succession and competitive advantage. Presented at the Southern Management Association, Savannah, GA. [Won Outstanding Student Paper, Strategy Track.]

Zewde, N. (2014). Applying survey over coverage methodology to health disparities research. Presented at the APHA Annual Research Meeting, New Orleans, LA. [Finalist for the Applied Public Health Statistics Student Research Competition.]

Other News

Phylicia Bediako has been honored with a student fellowship from the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Section of the American Public Health Association (APHA). The fellowship offers graduate students an opportunity to learn more about the maternal and child health field and to be actively engaged in APHA MCH Section activities. This includes participating in business meetings, serving on various section committees and working on section policy statements, among other activities.

Phylicia Bediako received a grant from the Africana Research Center for her study, Using Mixed Methods to Understand Motivations behind Sexual Behaviors among South African High School Learners.

Reni Elewonibi taught a six-week research methods course to the physicians of L'Hopital Grand Mbour, a public hospital in Senegal, in the summer of 2014. The coursework focused on developing a research question, conceptual frameworks and hypothesis generation, research design methods, sampling, data collection and management, causal inference, quantitative analysis, the publication process, and research ethics. During the course, physicians developed research questions from their areas of interested and worked through the steps necessary to turn their ideas into publishable papers.

Reni Elewonibi received a grant from Africana Research Center for her study, Evaluation of a Breast Cancer Screening Program in Nigeria.

Nina Verevkina was a junior fellow during the summer of 2014 in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Intramural Fellowship Program, where she worked with leading health services researchers on projects supporting AHRQ's mission of improving the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans.

Naomi Zewde served on the Penn State Task Force on Student Health Insurance from April through October of this year. As a member of the task force, Naomi compiled and drafted sections of the task force report on upcoming changes in student health insurance plan costs. She also served as co-chair of the subcommittee on Premiums and University Contributions, which reviewed Penn State’s contribution history compared with similar institutions around the country.

Penn State Student Chapter Of Academy Health