Program of Study

Students in the PhD program take required classes during their first two years in the program (syllabi can be accessed here). The core curriculum provides interdisciplinary training in research design and statistical analysis, including a year of biostatistics and econometrics teaching linear regression and core methods for analyzing count, categorical and time to event data, multilevel modeling, and methods for causal modeling in observational data, and a year of research design examining basic research approaches, the construction and analysis of complex environments and conceptual models, design challenges to working with observational data, and evaluation. Other core courses provide an introduction to health services research including classic articles and contemporary cutting-edge methods, and for students without prior MPH or equivalent degrees, an introduction to health system organization and financing.  Courses include:

  • HLT POL 200A, Health Systems Organization and Financing
  • HLT POL 225A, Health Policy and Management Research Design I
  • HLT POL 225B, Health Policy and Management Research Design II
  • HLT POL 237C, Issues in Health Policy and Management Methodologies
  • HLT POL 226A, Readings in Health Services Research I
  • HLT POL 226B, Readings in Health Services Research II
  • HLT POL 227B, Special Topics in Health Services (“journal club”)
  • HLT POL 423, Advanced Evaluation Theory and Methods for Health Services
  • Biostatistics 201A, Topics in Applied Regression I
  • Biostatistics 201B, Topics in Applied Regression II
  • One (or more) additional statistics course(s) (200-level or above)
  • Epidemiology 100, Introduction to Epidemiology (or equivalent)

Courses, seminars and other activities also provide professional development experiences in professional writing and presentation, proposal writing, navigating the job market, managing a career in research, and other topics.

Additionally, each PhD student pursues a cognate, to provide depth of knowledge in a field relevant to the student’s research interests. Cognate-specific coursework provides exposure to theoretical and conceptual frameworks specific to the cognate discipline or field and analytic methods particularly relevant to the cognate area. This coursework is usually completed during the second year of study. Students can choose from a list of established cognates (see below) or design their own. Cognate selection and planning is conducted with assistance from the student’s advisor and the relevant cognate coordinator. Established cognates include:

All incoming PhD students are assigned a faculty advisor. Students work closely with their advisors to plan coursework, particularly how the cognate course requirements will be met by end of Year 2. Detailed lists of required cognate classes can be found in the Doctoral Student Handbook. The faculty advisor, department chair, and cognate coordinator approve each student’s cognate plan.

More extensive and detailed information can be found in the Doctoral Student Handbook.

You can also read more about coursework and course planning; and about dissertations below.

Coursework and Course Planning

Given the diversity of PhD students’ interests, there are many possible paths through the required coursework. Here are examples of recent coursework performed by HPM PhD students.

Example #1: Organizational behavior and implementation science cognate

Year 1, Fall

Biostatistics 201A* (Topics in Applied Regression I)

HLT POL 225A* (Health Services Research Design I)

HLT POL 226A* (Readings in Health Services Research I)

Year 1, Winter

Biostatistics 201B* (Topics in Applied Regression II)

HLT POL 225B* (Readings in Health Services Research II)

HLT POL 226B* (Health Services Research Design II)

HLT POL 249 (Advanced Research Topics in HPM: Transformation of Health in U.S.)

Year 1, Spring

HLT POL 237C* (Issues in Health Services Methodologies)

HLT POL 423* (Advanced Evaluation Theory and Methods for Health Services)

HLT POL 415? (Organizational Analysis)

Year 2, Fall

Biostatistics M236* (Longitudinal Data)

HLT POL 239A? (Decision Analysis and Cost-Effectiveness Analysis)

HLT POL 403 (Healthcare Financial Accounting)

 

Year 2, Winter

Epidemiology 203* (Topics in Theoretical Epidemiology)

HLT POL 214? (Measurement of Effectiveness and Outcomes of Healthcare)

MGMT 281B? (People in Organizations)

MGMT M243? (Foundations of Organizational Behavior)

Year 2, Spring

EDUC 231D? (Advanced Quantitative Models in Nonexperimental Research: Multilevel Analysis)

HLT POL M287 (Politics of Health Policy)

HLT POL 215B (Applied Methods for Improvement/Implementation Science)

* Indicates departmental PhD program requirement; ? indicates cognate requirement

 

Example #2: Health outcomes research cognate

Year 1, Fall

Biostatistics 201A* (Topics in Applied Regression I)

HLT POL 225A* (Readings in Health Services Research I)

HLT POL 226A* (Health Services Research Design I)

Year 1, Winter

Biostatistics 201B* (Topics in Applied Regression II)

HLT POL 225B* (Readings in Health Services Research II)

HLT POL 226B* (Health Services Research Design II)

Year 1, Spring

HLT POL 237C* (Issues in Health Services Methodologies)

HLT POL 423* (Advanced Evaluation Theory and Methods for Health Services)

HLT POL M242 (Determinants of Health)

Year 2, Fall

Biostatistics M215* (Survival Analysis)

Epidemiology 200A? (Methods I: Basic Concepts and Study Designs)

Epidemiology 232 (Methods in Research of Marginalized and Hidden Populations)

Year 2, Winter

Epidemiology 200B? (Methods II: Prediction and Validity)

HLT POL 214? (Measurement of Effectiveness and Outcomes of Health Care)

HLT POL 227B? (Journal Club Seminar Series)

Year 2, Spring

Epidemiology 200C? (Methods III: Analysis)

HLT POL 265? (Challenges in Clinical Health Services Research)

Epidemiology 215 (Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis)

* Indicates departmental PhD program requirement; ? indicates cognate requirement

 

 

Example #3: Health economics cognate

Year 1, Fall

Biostatistics 201A* (Topics in Applied Regression I)

HLT POL 225A* (Readings in Health Services Research I)

HLT POL 226A* (Health Services Research Design I)

 

Econ “boot camp”?

Year 1, Winter

Biostatistics 201B* (Topics in Applied Regression II)

HLT POL 225B* (Readings in Health Services Research II)

HLT POL 226B* (Health Services Research Design II)

Epidemiology 100* (Principles of Epidemiology)

Year 1, Spring

HLT POL 237C* (Issues in Health Services Methodologies)

HLT POL 423* (Advanced Evaluation Theory and Methods for Health Services)

HLT POL (Quality Assessment and Assurance)

Biostatistics M236 (Longitudinal Data)

Year 2, Fall

Economics 200? (Mathematical Methods in Economics)

Economics 201A? (Microeconomics: Theory of Firm and Consumer)

Economics 262P? (Topics in Labor Economics)

Economics 203A? (Introduction to Econometrics I)

Year 2, Winter

Economics 201B? (Microeconomics: Basic Concepts and Techniques of Noncooperative Game Theory and Information Economics)

Economics 203B? (Introduction to Econometrics II)

HLT POL 241 (Economics of Health Policy)

Year 2, Spring

Economics 201C? (Microeconomics: Game Theory with Asymmetric Information and Applications)

Economics 203C? (Introduction to Econometrics III)

HLT POL 249 (Health Insurance Systems in High-Income Countries)

* Indicates departmental PhD program requirement; ? indicates cognate requirement

 

Following coursework and before advancement to candidacy, students must pass written and oral qualifying examinations.

The written comprehensive exam prepares and evaluates the students’ knowledge and application of health services research and its methods. The exam is administered during September of each year, and is typically taken between Years 2 and 3 of each PhD student’s progress. Students have 5 days to complete the take-home exam, which includes: literature critique, research design, statistical analysis, and cognate specific contents.

The oral qualifying examination is taken once the student has nominated a doctoral committee and is centered on the student’s dissertation proposal. After passing both the written and oral exams, students may be advanced to candidacy and commence work on a dissertation, supervised by the student’s established doctoral committee. The dissertation culminates in a final oral examination (“dissertation defense”) which must be passed before the student can graduate from the PhD program.

Dissertations

Every HPM PhD student completes a dissertation, in accordance with UCLA policy. Dissertations demonstrate the student's ability to perform original, independent research and constitute a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.

The structure of each HPM PhD student’s dissertation is determined through consultation with the dissertation chair and committee members. The “three-paper option” generally consists of an introduction chapter, three separate chapters that each contains a complete project, and a concluding chapter. The “traditional” option generally contains four to six chapters about a single project. Hybrid structures are also possible.

Here is a selection of recent dissertation titles, by cognate.

  • Health Outcomes Research

“The Effects of the Affordable Care Act Medicaid Expansions on Out-of-pocket Spending, Healthcare Utilization, and Health Outcomes” (Gotanda, 2020; chair: Kominski)

“Understanding Clinician Decision-Making around Opioid Prescribing” (Keller, 2019; co-chairs: Needleman and Heilemann [School of Nursing])

“Primary and Secondary Prevention of Cervical Cancer among Ethnically Diverse and Low-Income Populations” (Nonzee, 2019; chair: Bastani)

 “Effects of Mexico's Seguro Popular Program on Health-Related Outcomes: Ten Years After its Implementation” (Garcia-Appendini, 2018; chair: Vargas-Bustamante)

“Assessing Health-Related Quality of Life and Subjective Well-Being in Adults with Spinal Cord Injury” (Palimaru, 2018; chair: Hays)

  • Health Economics

“Educational Attainment and Hospital Admissions: New Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study” (Yue, 2020; chair: Ponce)

“The Effects of Three Types of Insurance Benefit Design Features on Specialty Mental Health Utilization” (Friedman, 2017; chair: Ettner)

  • Organizational Behavior and Implementation Science

“Healthcare Use and Outcomes of Homeless Patients: A Multi-State Population Based Study” (Yamamoto, 2020; chair: Needleman)

“Clinical Decision Support: Design Strategies and Quality Outcomes in Primary Care” (Brunner, 2019; chair: Chuang)

“An Evaluation of the Impact of Clinical Pharmacists on Care Transitions in a Non-Integrated Healthcare System” (Sorensen, 2019; chair: Mangione)

“Toward Understanding the Healthcare Value of Veterans Affairs' Primary Care-Mental Health Integration” (Leung, 2018; chair: Escarce)

“Delivering Preventive Health Services through Health Fairs: A Clinical-Community Partnership in Los Angeles County” (Olmos, 2017; chairs: Bastani and Glenn)

  • Public Policy

“Gender Sensitivity in Primary Care: Three Studies” (Than, 2020; chair: Needleman)

“The Effect of Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) on Behavioral Healthcare Utilization: The Role of Race/Ethnicity” (Coles, 2020; chair: Ettner)

 “Mobile Health Technology Use in Vulnerable Populations” (Mak, 2019; Needleman)

“Self-reported Legal Status in the California Health Interview Survey: An Evaluation of Data Quality and Application towards Adolescent Mental Health” (Viana, 2019; chair: Ponce)

  • Other and Self-Structured Cognates

“Causal Inference in Longitudinal Data: Beyond Difference-in-Difference” (Gibson, 2020; chair: Zimmerman)

“Improving Empiric Antibiotic Coverage for Gram-Negative Rod Infections Using Available Clinical Data” (Richter, 2018; chair: Needleman)

“Surgeon Perception of Risk and Benefit in the Decision to Operate Under Uncertainty” (Sacks, 2016; chair: Ettner)