Saint Louis University

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health Studies

Through our apprenticeship model, students are paired with a world-class faculty member as mentor from day one


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The PhD in Public Health Studies gives students expert skills in research design, methods and dissemination, and a solid understanding of public health science, including the distribution and determinants of health and disease across populations.

Students are able to choose one of seven concentrations (see below). Each concentration is intended to provide an educational experience that our faculty feel meets the intellectual and professional requirements for PhD-trained students. These concentrations consist mainly of prescribed and elected coursework and participation in mentored research. Students will also complete dissertation research corresponding with student goals and available resources.

Why Saint Louis University?

As the only college of public health at a Jesuit or a Catholic University, faculty in the College are committed to shaping successful doctoral graduates in Public Health Studies. We use an apprenticeship model in which students are paired with a world-class faculty member as mentor from day one. PhD students also actively help set the direction of the doctoral program. For example, doctoral students have taken the lead in developing a writing group to help them produce high-quality manuscripts, serve as members of the governing committee, and assist in developing academic and professional programming outside of the classroom. We also showcase doctoral-student research at local, regional, and national conferences. Doctoral students have also developed a research symposium. Every Fall, doctoral students can showcase their research in the form of posters and oral presentations.

The SLU doctoral student body is racially diverse with about 25% of the student body being African American, Asian or other minorities. In a 2014 alumni survey of doctoral graduates in Public Health Studies, 96% of graduates found a job in their field before graduation, or within six months of graduation.

Credit Hours/Coursework:

The program requires 72 credit hours of study. There are three components to the curriculum:

1. Core doctoral curriculum

Shared across all concentrations and required of all students, comprised of a total of 15 credit hours.

These are divided between five shared courses:

  • PHS.6010 Design and Analysis in Public Health
  • PHS.6050 Science, Theory and Public Health
  • PHS.6060 Applied Research Skills
  • BST.5100 Introduction to General Linear Modeling
  • PHS.6900 Professional Development

The professional development course provides students with the opportunity to build their unique professional skills. Students meet for a weekly seminar in which they review student manuscripts and grants, engage with leaders in public health, discuss strategies for success in the workforce, and network with faculty in all fields of public health.

2. Concentration curriculum

Comprised of courses totaling 45 credit hours. Within the concentration, some of these credits may be for specific required courses and some may be for courses that are tailored for each student to provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to achieve their research and professional goals. The specific concentrations can be found here.

3. Dissertation (12 dissertation credit hours).

At the end of their doctoral studies, students should master the following competencies:

  • Critically evaluate, integrate and challenge existing scientific knowledge.
  • Conduct research studies and interpret the results using inferential statistical methods or methods of qualitative data analysis.
  • Write and speak clearly and effectively about scientific information for diverse audiences through scientific publications, grant applications, teaching/training, etc.
  • Apply leadership and management principles to assemble and cultivate effective teams and successful projects or studies, including management of team members, budgets, and the project.
  • Recognize and apply ethical principles for public health research and decisions on social justice and equity in the global environment.
  • Demonstrate knowledge, awareness and respect for the impact of cultural, structural, legal, political, and public health and social justice on health outcomes. 
  • Use innovative methods to communicate scientific findings and implications to diverse audiences, ensuring appropriate strategies.


Doctoral students choose from one of seven available concentrations. Each concentration includes required methods and elective courses. Students also have the flexibility to work with their mentors from the onset of the program to develop and revise as needed an Individual Plan of Study (IPS), which outlines the courses the student will take during their doctoral studies. The IPS is individualized in the concentration and elective curriculum to allow the student to gain the skills and knowledge for their respective interests and career goals.

Prepares students to use behavioral science principles to develop and evaluate programs, policies, and environmental changes that promote public health. Students learn to conduct independent research as well as design and evaluate community-based interventions at individual, organizational, community or societal levels.

Areas of Research
• Physical Activity
• Injury Prevention
• Cancer Prevention
• Sexual and Reproductive Health
• Health Disparities
• Alcohol and illicit drug use

Provides the knowledge required for biosecurity professionals, teaching students skills such as emergency management, homeland security, epidemiology, communicable disease management and disaster/pandemic planning. The program includes online courses, but requires 2-3 years of residency at Saint Louis University.

Areas of Research
• Health Care Infection Prevention
• Technologies for Improving Responsiveness
• Countering Biological Weapons Terrorism

Prepares students to be experts in research design, analytic statistical methods, computational/ statistical programming and data management administration. Graduates are able to conduct or manage biostatistical operations related to planning, analysis and evaluation of research in public health, health services, epidemiology and medical care. Our program encourages application of knowledge in practical settings.

Areas of Research
• Data Management Using GIS
• Health Risk Appraisal Methodology
• Measurement of Physical Activity & Nutrition

Prepares students to master laboratory techniques, understand the etiology of occupational and environmental disease, conduct exposure assessment, analyze policy, and design and build control techniques for biological, chemical, or physical hazards. Students might pursue careers as independent investigators working in academia, government, business, consulting, or in non-governmental agencies.

Areas of Research
• Exposure Assessment
• Biomarkers
• Applied Environmental Chemistry
• Poisoning Prevention & Abatement

Advances a student's understanding of the distribution and determinants of health and disease in human populations. This track is designed to produce academicians and well-trained practitioners of epidemiology, who are highly qualified as independent investigators and teachers.

Areas of Research
• Global Health
• Exposure Assessment
• Indoor & Outdoor Air Pollution
• Cancer Epidemiology

Focuses on the policy and politics, financing, organization, delivery and associated outcomes of health services. Drawing upon the disciplines of economics, finance, management science, political science and sociology, students are able to address societal, systemic and organizational health care issues in a comprehensive and systematic way. The program's research agenda is active and diverse with particular emphasis on projects involving underserved communities.

Areas of Research
• Health Disparities
• Minority Men's Health
• Health Information Technology
• Policy Change Implications

Examines the interplay among multiple aspects of health care, including clinical care, access, utilization, organization, financing, cost and outcomes. The program prepares students to conduct basic and applied research that reveals a deeper understanding of the clinical, personal, economic and societal results of health care services. Health services research is a high-demand field that offers numerous opportunities across corporate, government, non-profit and academic settings, especially in the current era of health care system reform.

Areas of Research
• Comparative Effectiveness Research
• Clinical Trials
• Patient Centered Outcomes Measurement
• Organ Transplantation, Diabetes, Geriatrics

Career Opportunities

The field of public health offers a wide variety of career options for a student pursuing a PhD in Public Health Studies. Graduates work to promote the health of communities in academic settings, non-profits, government agencies and the private sector.

Faculty Mentors and Research

Our faculty are internationally recognized as leaders in public health. PhD students have the opportunity to work on projects with faculty members in their research areas. Each of our faculty is active in at least one research project.

At acceptance, each student is matched with a primary mentor in an area of research related to the student's interests. Mentorship is the hallmark of the doctoral experience at SLU. At the conclusion of the coursework phase of the degree, each student will develop an interdisciplinary mentorship team of at least three faculty members to guide them through the dissertation phase of the program.

For a detailed list of research topics, please visit the CPHSJ Faculty Research interests web site.

Application & Admissions

This program is designed for individuals who already hold a master's degree in public health or a related field. In rare and exceptional cases, students with only a baccalaureate degree may be admitted to the Doctoral Program but will be required to complete all course work for a CPHSJ Master's Degree prior to beginning the core courses for the Doctoral Program. All applications are considered on an individual basis with a balanced approach.

Application requirements:

  • Official Transcripts
    • Students are required to have a grade of "B" or higher in an analytic course above the 500 level within the past 5 years. This may require taking the course in the summer prior to entering the doctoral program.
    • Applicants should have a minimum 3.0 GPA from their previous master's degree.
  • An earned master's degree from an accredited college or university
  • GRE Scores (may be substituted by GMAT, MCAT, or LSAT). Scores may not be more than 5 years old. Applicants with an existing doctoral-level degree do not need to submit GRE scores.
    • The doctoral program is very competitive. It is recommended that applicants score at least at the 65th percentile on the verbal and 55th percentile quantitative reasoning sections of the GRE exam, and at least a 3.5 on the analytical writing section
  • A résumé or curriculum vitae 
  • Professional Goals Statement (2-page limit) describing interests in the field, career goals and objectives, and reasoning for wanting to study at Saint Louis University.
    • It is strongly advised that applicants review the research interests of current Saint Louis University faculty and include the name(s) of faculty with whom they are interested in studying under. 
  • Three confidential letters of recommendation from individuals qualified to evaluate an applicant's potential for success in the program

Application Deadline for PhD in Public Health Studies (Fall)

All students are required to submit an application, even students currently enrolled in master's programs at the College for Public Health & Social Justice and other programs at SLU. The PhD program only accepts applications for the fall semester.

Early Decision Admissions

The early decision application deadline is January 15th. Students who submit completed applications by January 15th will be considered for financial assistance in the form of a Graduate Research Assistantship. Early decision applicants will be made aware of an initial decision by February 21st. Incomplete applications will not be considered for early decision. Students not accepted in this admissions phase will be considered for admittance in the second round of review.

Regular Admissions

The final deadline for consideration is February 15th. All admission decisions will be finalized by April 15. Incomplete applications will not be considered after the deadline.

Graduate Research Assistantships and Other Funding

The doctoral program has a limited number of graduate research assistantships. Assistantships are designed to allow doctoral students to work closely with their mentor or another faculty mentor on current projects. Assistantships are typically awarded for two years. Students will be informed at the time of their acceptance the terms and length of their awards. Assistantships provide students with a stipend, student health insurance, and tuition waiver (up to 21 credits annually).

Students who submit completed applications by the early decision admission deadline have a greater likelihood of receiving one of these competitive awards. However, awards may be offered to students who submit their application by the standard deadline of February 15th if they are available.

Other assistantships outside of the college are available to doctoral students. Admitted students should check with the Office of Graduate Education for available opportunities. Programmatic announcements are made throughout the year to alert students of opportunities available on campus and with other organizations.

Student Characteristics & Alumni Outcomes

In the 2014-15 academic year, the Public Health Studies students were 10% African American, 23% international, and 68% female.

In a 2014 alumni survey, 96% of graduates in Public Health Studies stated they found a job in their field before graduation, or within six months of graduation. The association with their mentor and their dissertation work were important factors in securing their first job.

Contact Us:

Enbal Shacham or

Mario Schootman
Co-directors of the PhD in Public Health Studies

or the program coordinator of the PhD in Public Health Studies

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