PhD in Health Services Research, Administration, and Policy

PhD Program in Health Services Research, Administration, and Policy

The UNMC PhD program in Health Services Research, Administration, and Policy educates students to be scholars and health services researchers for careers in academia and also in large corporations, insurance companies, government agencies, health care organizations, and consulting firms. Incorporating the core competencies of health services research, the program focuses on methods and application of health services research, health administration, and health policy. Program graduates will be equipped to serve the public and private sectors in Nebraska, the Midwest region, the nation, and the world. Students will gain valuable experience by working closely with faculty whose research interests include health economics, health care finance, organizational behavior, medical geography, policy analysis, program & policy evaluation, health outcomes research, public health informatics, workforce, public health services research, and underserved populations. Program faculty conduct research and service activities through the Center for Rural Health Research and the Center for Health Policy.  

Application Process
The Graduate Program Committee of the Department of Health Services Research and Administration (HSRA) determines the standards for admission into the program. The committee considers the prospective student’s academic qualifications and professional experience.

Students are encouraged to apply by January 1 to receive the highest consideration.

Requirements for admission to the PhD program are listed below.

  • Apply online to UNMC Graduate Studies. Please ensure that you select the Health Services Research, Administration, and Policy program to avoid delaying your application process.
  • Request that official transcripts from all graduate and undergraduate programs attended be sent to the Graduate Office
    • FOREIGN TRANSCRIPTS: Official transcripts or mark sheets of college-level work not in English or in the standard U.S. grading scale must be sent to a foreign educational credential evaluation service for evaluation prior to submission to UNMC. The transcript evaluation must be a course-by-course evaluation that identifies and describes each diploma or certificate with periods of education and equivalency of each document.  The preferred credential evaluation services are World Education Services (WES) and Educational Credential Evaluators, Inc. (ECE). Other services approved by the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) will also be accepted. Transcripts must carry the signature of a responsible official at the academic institution where the work was done and the seal of that institution, or must be certified true copies of the original records. If photocopies are provided, the copies must be certified after duplication as true copies of the original document. Transcripts should clearly indicate the grades received or the standing attained on required examinations. If transcripts do not show the degree earned and the date on which it was conferred, official degree statements must also be provided.
  • Submit official Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores from within the past three years. Many factors are considered in evaluating an individual's application, but many successful applicants will have scores above the 40th percentile.  
  • Submit a resume or curriculum vitae
  • Submit three letters of recommendation from academic and professional references
    • At least one letter should be from a faculty member in your previous academic program
    • It is strongly encouraged that one of the letters be from an individual who knows you in a professional setting
  • Submit a statement of intent no longer than 1,000 words that describes your
    • Interest in and potential for contributing to the field of health services research, administration, and policy
    • Self-assessment of your fit into the PhD program
    • Self-assessment of your qualifications, experiences, and general preparation for succeeding in the PhD program
  • International Applicants:
    • The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score from within the past two years is required for international students and students who have earned their undergraduate degree from a non-English speaking institution. Minimum scores required are 550 on the paper-based TOEFL, 213 on the computer-based TOEFL, and 80 for the Internet-based TOEFL. International students who have earned a graduate degree from a U.S. institution are not required to submit a TOEFL score. Further details about applications instructions for international applicants can be found on the UNMC Graduate Studies website.

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Graduate assistantships are awarded to doctoral students on a competitive basis. The intent of the graduate assistantship is to provide financial support and professional development. The decision to award a graduate assistantship is made by the HSRA Graduate Program Committee and is based on the student’s academic and prior work performance and available departmental funding for assistantships. Doctoral students in the HSRA Department who are awarded graduate assistantships are required to work 20 hours per week on assigned projects under the close supervision of a faculty supervisor. Assistantships are not guaranteed and are renewed annually based on student performance. The HSRA Graduate Program Committee, in consultation with the department chair and the student’s faculty supervisor and academic advisor, makes renewal decisions for graduate assistantships. Additional information about funding options can be found on the UNMC Graduate Studies website.

Program Competencies
Graduates of the PHD in Health Services Research, Administration, and Policy program should be able to:

  • Apply alternative theoretical and conceptual models from a range of relevant disciplines to health services research.
  • Apply in-depth multidisciplinary knowledge and skills relevant to health services research.
  • Utilize the knowledge of the structures, performance, quality, policy, and environmental context of health and health care to formulate solutions for health policy problems.
  • Critically evaluate evidence, synthesize findings, and draw inferences from literature relevant to health services research.
  • Pose innovative and important research questions, informed by systematic reviews of the literature, stakeholder needs, and relevant theoretical and conceptual models.
  • Use a conceptual model to specify study constructs for a health services research question and develop variables that reliably and validly measure these constructs.
  • Select appropriate interventional (experimental and quasi-experimental) or observational (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods) study designs to address specific health services research questions.
  • Know how to collect primary health and health care data obtained by survey, qualitative, or mixed methods.
  • Use appropriate analytical methods to clarify associations between variables and to delineate causal inferences.
  • Appropriately interpret the results of data analysis and discuss the implications for policy and practice, to support public health decision-making.
  • Effectively communicate the findings and implications of health services research through multiple modalities to technical and lay audiences.
  • Implement research protocols with standardized procedures that ensure reproducibility of the science and ensure the ethical and responsible conduct of research in the design, implementation, and dissemination of health services research.

Articulate the importance of collaborating with policymakers, organizations, and communities to plan, conduct, and translate health services research into policy and practice.

Degree Requirements
Students enrolled in the PhD program without a Master’s degree are required to complete a total of 90 credit hours in course and dissertation work, including the following:

Credits Course Work
39 Required courses
15 Area of emphasis courses
12-18 Elective courses
18-24 Dissertation

The required courses are designed to help students build a strong foundation of multidisciplinary knowledge and skills for scholarship in health services research. After completing all required courses, students will then take area of emphasis courses. In addition to coursework, all PhD students are expected to attend the monthly Doctoral Program Seminar throughout their program of study.

Required Courses

 Course Number
US Healthcare System HSRA 810
Health Policy HSRA 874
Health Services Administration HSRA 873
Health Economics HSRA 860
Health Care Organizational Theory and Behavior HSRA 830
Biostatistics I BIOS 806
Biostatistics II BIOS 808
Epidemiology in Public Health EPI 820
Foundations of Public Health HPRO 830
Health Care Finance HSRA 872
Quantitative Methods in Health Services Research HSRA 920
Design of Health Services Research HSRA 930
Qualitative Research Methods HPRO 910
Area of Emphasis Courses (selected—see advisor for more options)  
Integrated Seminar in Economics and Health Services Research HSRA 940
Application of Medical Geography to Health Services Research HSRA 950
Seminar in Health Care Administration HSRA 960
Seminar in Health Policy  HSRA 980
Research Other Than Thesis HSRA 896

New PhD students are recommended to take courses in the following order for the first year, and consult with your academic advisor each semester to register for courses.

BIOS 806 Biostatistics I
HSRA 810 US Healthcare System
HSRA 873 Health Services Administration
HPRO 830 Foundations of Public Health
BIOS 808 Biostatistics II
EPI 820 Epidemiology in Public Health

Transfer Credit Hours
The HSRA Graduate Program Committee may approve transfer of elective courses from previous institutions. The decision on transfer credit hours is made after the student has matriculated into the PhD program and is reviewed by the committee by the end of the student’s first year in the program. Students who have completed a Masters in Public Health or Masters in Health Administration from an accredited (CEPH or CAHME) program in the U.S. are allowed to transfer credits up to a maximum of half of course work (10 courses), provided the course was taken no earlier than 7 years before entry in to the program, and the student has earned a B or higher.

Academic Progress
Students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all courses completed for the PhD. Failure to maintain a 3.0 GPA will result in suspension or termination from the PhD program. In order to graduate, students must also pass a comprehensive exam and the final defense of their dissertation. The study period is expected to be four to five years if the student is admitted to the program with a related master’s degree (e.g., Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Health) and five to six years if the student is admitted to the program with a bachelor's degree. Students are also expected to fulfill the residency requirement (at least one-half of the course requirements, other than dissertation, must be completed within a consecutive eighteen-month period, with the further provision that the courses be taken after receipt of the Master’s degree or its equivalent)

Supervisory Committee
Each student is required to form a Supervisory Committee. The chair of the Supervisory Committee will serve as the student’s primary mentor during the study period. Students are expected to work together with the chair of their Supervisory Committee to identify other committee members. A Supervisory Committee will consist of at least four graduate faculty members (including the chair), with at least one faculty member coming from outside of the HSRA Department. The main responsibility of the Supervisory Committee is to provide guidance and approval for the student’s doctoral study, including the course work plan and dissertation research. The Supervisory Committee is also responsible for developing, administering, and grading the student’s comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive Exam
Once students complete their course work, they must take and pass a comprehensive exam in order to move on to the dissertation research stage. The student’s Supervisory Committee will determine the contents and format of the comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam will be designed to test students’ knowledge and skills related to the program curriculum as well as the core competencies of health services research, administration, and policy.

Dissertation Research
After passing the comprehensive exam, students must conduct and successfully defend their dissertation research by working with their Supervisory Committee. Generally, students are expected to complete their dissertation research within two years. This PhD program is a research-oriented degree program; therefore, a high standard of dissertation research that complies with the core competencies of the health services research discipline is expected. Although not required, students studying in this program are encouraged to complete and/or publish some research products (e.g., peer-review journal articles, policy briefs, or reports to public health agencies) before their graduation from the program.


Office of Graduate Studies
Graduate Studies Bulletin
PhD Timeline
PhD Forms

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Contact HSRA
Department of Health Services Research and Administration
UNMC College of Public Health
984350 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-4350
Denise M. Howard, Department Assistant
Phone Number: 402-559-5260

UNMC Graduate Studies Office
Phone Number: 402-559-6531


Jim P. Stimpson
Associate Professor | Graduate Program Director
Department of Health Services Research & Administration
College of Public Health, MCPH 1014
University of Nebraska Medical Center
984350 Nebraska Medical Center
Omaha, NE 68198-4350
Phone: 402-552-7254
Fax: 402-559-9695

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