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2021-22 Doctor of Public Health Handbook

Penn State’s public health program aims to advance theory and practice that prepare future public health leaders, improve population health, and reduce health disparities – across Pennsylvania’s communities, the nation, and the world – through excellence in education, research, and service.

Faculty in the Penn State Public Health Program should seek to positively influence and inspire lifelong learning in their students through encouragement of student engagement in learning by serving as practitioners, educators and role models. Faculty should regularly participate in faculty development assessments and activities in order to learn and implement additional educational methods that improve student learning opportunities. Faculty and students should continually develop relationships with community organizations, regionally and globally, to foster engagement and practice-based educational opportunities. Students should take a leadership role for their own active learning in order to become independent critical thinkers both inside and outside of the classroom. Administration should continue to support flexibility and autonomy for faculty educational and student learning styles.

The current handbook for the Doctor of Public Health program appears below. Students in earlier years of the DrPH program should consult their handbook from matriculation or contact the program office for details.

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General Information

Contacts Expand answer

PHS Contacts for Students

College Contacts for Students

Campus Safety and Security Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine takes safety and security seriously. Campus Security can be reached 24 hours a day by phone by dialing 717-531-8711 (ext. 8711 if using on-campus phone) for non-emergent issues. For emergencies on campus, call 717-531-8888 (ext. 8888 on on-campus phones).

Learn more about safety and security, including how to access the annual report titled “Policies, Safety & U”.

Getting Involved in Campus Life Expand answer

Public Health Association for Service and Education (PHASE)

PHASE is the Penn State Public Health Program’s student-led public health service organization. PHASE offers student excellent leadership opportunities. The mission of PHASE is to increase public health literacy through education, advocacy, PHASE-sponsored events, and community outreach within the Penn State College of Medicine and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center as well as the greater Central Pennsylvania community. Additionally, PHASE provides members with the opportunity to engage with and give back to community members, as well as to develop professional skills and experience.

PHASE is a formally recognized student organization at Penn State and a voting member of the Student Assembly at Penn State College of Medicine. While the organization is student-led, full membership in PHASE is open to all faculty, staff and degree-seeking students at Penn State College of Medicine. Non-degree students also may participate in PHASE as non-voting, ad-hoc members.

Learn more about PHASE

Penn State College of Medicine Graduate Student Association (GSA)

The GSA is a group of students made up of elected and appointed students who help run student life at Penn State College of Medicine. The GSA helps to facilitate communication between the student body and program administration, as well as coordinate events such as the annual Research Forum to provide educational opportunities for all members of the Penn State College of Medicine community. Members of the GSA also try to help new students adjust to graduate school life through social and academic services. The GSA executive and committee chairs are available to help you with any questions you may have. The GSA can assist you with most services available at Penn State. They can help you navigate campus and various offices around campus, or help find other student or local organizations.

Learn more about GSA

Penn State Graduate and Professional Association (GPSA)

The GPSA stands as the oldest continuously existing student governing organization at Penn State. The primary goals of the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) are to represent and support the interests of the University’s current and future graduate and professional student community.

For ways to get involved in GPSA, please contact email gpsaoffice@gmail.com.

Learn more about GPSA

Graduate Student Oath Expand answer

Each year since 2009, Penn State College of Medicine has welcomed its incoming graduate students with the Graduate Student Oath Ceremony.

Learn more about the Graduate Student Oath

Penn State Policy on Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Expand answer

Penn State is committed to fostering an environment free from discrimination, including sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct. It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination, including harassment. Penn State prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identify or veteran status.

The Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response ensures compliance with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the sex or gender of employees and students. Behaviors including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as well as retaliation for reporting any of these acts violate Title IX and are not tolerated.

Learn more about Title IX, including how to report

Learn more about bias-related incidents

PHS contacts

The Public Health Sciences contacts for discrimination and sexual misconduct are Betsy Aumiller (baumille@phs.psu.edu) and Carol LaRegina (claregina@phs.psu.edu).

Religious Diversity Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine is committed to religious diversity and an inclusive educational and work environment. The Office of Graduate Education, graduate program directors and course directors have made a concerted effort to avoid significant religious celebrations when constructing the academic calendar and when planning academic deadlines.

In instances where unintended overlap is identified by the student, we will work to provide flexible scheduling and/or alternative assignments. When possible, we will honor requests for time away from class and other academic activities pursuant to University’s religious accommodation policy. Students should notify and discuss accommodations with the appropriate faculty member.

See policies on religious observances

Student Disability Resources Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine is committed to diversity and inclusion and, out of that commitment, supports the success of students with disabilities in all aspects of the University’s educational programs.

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in this course, contact Disability Services, the College of Medicine Disability Services Coordinator, at disabilityservices@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or at extension 283693. For further information visit the website for the Office for Disability Services.

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact the College of Medicine Disability Services Coordinator (DSC) and provide documentation (see the documentation guidelines). If the documentation supports the need for academic accommodation, the College DSC will provide a letter identifying appropriate accommodation. The DSC coordinator will work directly with you and with your instructors to arrange to provide this accommodation for you.

If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in any course, please contact the College of Medicine’s disability services coordinator through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at disabilityservices@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or (717) 531-0003, extension 283693.

The disability services coordinator will share with you the documentation guidelines to be considered for academic accommodation. If the documentation you provide supports the need for accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), the disability services coordinator will provide you a letter identifying appropriate accommodation(s), and work directly with you and your instructors to implement approved accommodations in the classroom, laboratory, clinical, and/or examination settings.

Learn more about student disability services.

Student Ombudspersons Expand answer

The College of Medicine has an ombudsperson for medical and graduate students. The role of an ombudsperson is to enhance communication and clarify possible misunderstandings in situations which involve potential disputes, to advise as to appropriate courses of action, and to help settle matters before they become hardened into serious disputes.

Learn more about ombudspersons.

Title IX Expand answer

The Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response ensures compliance with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the sex or gender of employees and students. Behaviors including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as well as retaliation for reporting any of these acts violate Title IX and are not tolerated.

Learn more about Title IX, including how to report

Travel Policy Expand answer

Students’ attendance at regional or national conferences is valued and encouraged as part of the educational experience at the Penn State College of Medicine. To support these activities, the Department of Public Health Sciences will consider providing supplemental support for registration and travel costs through the Student Travel Award program, if funds are available.

There are two deadlines to submit Student Travel Award applications in each academic year:  1/15 and 7/15. Students will need to plan in advance to meet Travel Award submission deadlines as seen in the chart below. Many conferences have abstracts due six – eight months in advance of the actual conference dates; students will need to account for this in their planning.

Deadlines

For conferences/travel occurring in March through August, the deadline to apply for funding is the previous January 15. For conferences occurring in September through February, the deadline to apply for funding is the previous July 15.

Criteria

Students can only apply for a maximum $500 per academic year if they are presenting a poster or making a presentation at the event. Preference will be given to these students.

  • Students not presenting a poster or making a presentation will be limited to a maximum of $300 in support.
  • Students must submit a one-page Student Conference Summary to their administrative and academic advisors one week after the event reflecting what was learned at the event, presentation/poster experiences and other pertinent information about networking opportunities, etc.
  • The awarding of travel funds are not guaranteed and are dependent on departmental budgetary constraints.

To be considered for the travel award, students must complete the Graduate Student Conference Travel Award Application and submit it by one of the two dates listed above. The application includes:

  • Description of conference/event and anticipated type of presentation (i.e., oral, poster);
  • An itemized listing of anticipated expenses including lodging, meals, registration, transportation, miscellaneous (specify);
  • A letter of support/approval from the student’s academic/administrative advisor/mentor;
  • A 250-word essay describing (1) the primary reason for attending the event, (2) personal and/or professional benefits to be gained from developing better skills and knowledge of public health issues, and (3) a description of skills, experiences, characteristics and personal qualities that make them a strong candidate for representing Penn State at the event; and
  • A list of all other scholarships the student has applied for, making sure to include whether or not these have been rejected, funded or application is pending review. Students must have approached their respective mentors about financial support prior to submitting an application.

Programs and Services

Cognitive Skills Program Expand answer

The Cognitive Skills Program (CSP) provides comprehensive cognitive skills development and learning support to medical, graduate, and physician assistant students on the Hershey campus of Penn State College of Medicine.

The CSP offers workshops, interactive learning sessions, and individual support for exploring content, processes and thinking skills to maximize student success. The CSP serves all students in the College of Medicine by providing programs to help promote effective and efficient lifelong learning.

In addition, remediation services are provided for students who are struggling academically.

Services Provided (All services are offered for free to students of the Penn State College of Medicine.)

  • Learning Strategies Consultation for Individuals and Small Groups
    • These appointments/services are voluntary and available to all students.
      Past Topics include:

      • Study Skills and Learning Strategies
      • Test-taking Strategies & Dealing with Test-Anxiety
      • Time Management & Organizational Skills
      • Improving Memory/Retention and Concentration
      • Active Reading Strategies
      • Small Group Learning – strategies for successful collaboration
      • Note-taking and Review Strategies
  • Workshops
    • Workshops are voluntary and offered several times to allow for students to attend the session that works best for their schedules.
      Past Graduate Program Topics Include:

      • How to Read Scientific Articles
      • How to Write in the Sciences
      • Giving Effective Oral Presentations
      • Learning Strategies for Success
      • Concept Mapping

Learn more about the Cognitive Skills Program.

Crisis Services Expand answer

Students experiencing an acute crisis should go or be taken to the Emergency Department and/or call 911.

Penn State College of Medicine offers professional counseling services to all graduate students at this campus. These services include counseling for personal and academic difficulties. There is NO COST to students who use these services and all records are confidential. The records are NOT part of a student’s academic record. They are treated as health records and are therefore protected under federal law from being disclosed without a student’s permission.

To learn more about scheduling appointments, fees and other information, visit the link below.

Learn more about student mental health and counseling services.

Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) Program Expand answer

Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) is a mandatory research ethics training program that all Penn State University graduate students must complete prior to graduation.

Learn more about SARI Requirements here.

After completing the required CITI online training, PHS students are required to email a copy of your certificate of completion to Justine Shultz at jshultz@phs.psu.edu.

DrPH SARI requirements and deadlines

  1. Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI): Penn State DrPH students are required to complete the Protection of Human Research Subjects – Biomedical Course. (Deadline: First semester)
  2. All graduate students must complete five hours of discussion-based Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) ethics education.
    DrPH students automatically will fulfill this requirement through the successful completion of required core DrPH courses, PHS 806: Public Health Ethics and PHS 892: Directed Studies in Public Health. (Deadline: Prior to graduation)

CITI Training Instructions

  1. Go to citi.psu.edu
  2. Choose ‘Hershey Medical Center and College of Medicine’
    1. For first-time registrants, a new CITI account will be created that is linked to your PSU ID as part of a single sign-on process.
    2. If you have duplicate CITI accounts affiliated with PSU or HMC, ask CITI Support to merge them into one single sign-on PSU-Hershey account, so you can access all of your courses in 1 menu and avoid repeating modules.
  3. Choose the Human Subjects Research learner group for IRB training.
    1. The required Protection of Human Research Subjects (HRS) course will automatically load.
    2. Also select the Good Clinical Practice and ICH (GCP) course if you will be involved in FDA-regulated research. You can select to add a Course at any time from the main menu.
  4. You will be required to complete multiple pre-selected modules based on your course selection. The HRS course will require you to also select and complete one (1) elective module.
  5. You may exit and enter the course as needed, reviewing the modules as time permits. (The modules take 15-30 minutes each, and the courses require 2-4 hours to complete.)
  6. Students must earn a grade of 80 percent or higher. If you do not pass, you may repeat the course until you pass. Students who pass will receive a printable certificate at the end of the course.
  7. Please print a copy of the certificate to show proof of completion.
  8. Email a copy of your certificate of completion to Justine Shultz at jshultz@phs.psu.edu

Academics

Academic Accommodations Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine is committed to diversity and inclusion and, out of that commitment, supports the success of students with disabilities in all aspects of the University’s educational programs.

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in this course, contact Disability Services, the College of Medicine Disability Services Coordinator, at disabilityservices@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or at extension 283693. For further information visit the website for the Office for Disability Services.

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact the College of Medicine Disability Services Coordinator (DSC) and provide documentation (see the documentation guidelines). If the documentation supports the need for academic accommodation, the College DSC will provide a letter identifying appropriate accommodation. The DSC coordinator will work directly with you and with your instructors to arrange to provide this accommodation for you.

If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in any course, please contact the College of Medicine’s disability services coordinator through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at disabilityservices@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or (717) 531-0003, extension 283693.

The disability services coordinator will share with you the documentation guidelines to be considered for academic accommodation. If the documentation you provide supports the need for accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), the disability services coordinator will provide you a letter identifying appropriate accommodation(s), and work directly with you and your instructors to implement approved accommodations in the classroom, laboratory, clinical, and/or examination settings.

Learn more about student disability services.

Academic Integrity Expand answer

“Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, the University’s Code of Conduct states that all students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.

Academic integrity includes a commitment by all members of the University community not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.”

From Penn State’s University Faculty Senate Policy 49-20

Examples of Academic Dishonesty

  • Plagiarism
  • Cheating on a test
  • Buying/selling a paper
  • Having someone take a test for you
  • Taking a test for someone else
  • Unauthorized possession of a test
  • Submitting work previously used without permission
  • Unauthorized collaboration
  • Fabrication of citations

Academic integrity is taken very seriously in Penn State public health programs. All instances of academic dishonesty in the program will be reported through the official Penn State process. This process and the potential consequences of academic dishonesty are briefly outlined here. Please see the Penn State Graduate School Policies page for more detailed information, or access the Penn State Academic Integrity Training Module.

When Academic Dishonesty is Suspected

  • The faculty member informs the student of the allegation and provides the student an opportunity to respond.
  • When evidence suggests that an academic misconduct has occurred, the faculty member will enter a charge and academic sanction on an Academic Integrity (AI) form.
  • The student will have the choice to accept or contest the charge. If the student fails to sign the AI form by a specified deadline, the charge and sanction will go into effect.
  • In some cases, if the academic violation is considered extreme, the faculty member may also opt to pursue a disciplinary action in conjunction with both the AI Committee and Office of Student Conduct (OSC).
  • In situations where the allegation is referred to the OSC, the academic sanctions will be carried out by OSC in consultation with the campus or college Academic Integrity Committee.
  • Once a student has been informed that academic dishonesty is suspected, the student may not drop the course during the adjudication process. A student who has received an academic sanction as a result of a violation of academic integrity may not drop or withdraw from the course at any time. Any such drop action of the course will be reversed.

Consequences for Violations of Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty cases which result in academic sanctions only will not be reported out to others with the exception of when a subsequent academic dishonesty violation occurs. When an academic dishonesty case results in disciplinary action assigned by the OSC Designee, the charge and sanction become part of the student’s record which will be reported out following the guidelines outlined in our records policy.

Academic Sanctions

  • Redo Assignment
  • Warning
  • Reduced Grade for Assignment
  • “0” for Assignment
  • Reduced Grade for Course
  • Failing Grade for Course
  • Dismissal from Academic Program

Disciplinary Sanctions

  • “XF” – A notation that is placed on a student’s transcript for a period of time, or until specified conditions have been met. At that time, the “X” will be removed and the “F” will remain on the transcript. The notation is reserved for the most serious breaches of academic integrity which may include repeat misconduct.
  • Educational Programs
  • Disciplinary Warning
  • Disciplinary Probation
  • Disciplinary Probation with Transcript Notation
  • Disciplinary Suspension
Academic Performance Policy Expand answer

Graduate School

The Penn State School of Graduate Education requires a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University is required for graduation and to maintain good academic standing.

Procedures for Termination of the Degree Program of a Graduate Student for Unsatisfactory Scholarship

When a program head, program committee, or, in the case of a doctoral student, the doctoral committee determines that the program of a graduate student must be terminated for unsatisfactory scholarship, the student must be given advance notice, in writing, which in general terms shall advise the student of the reasons for the termination.

Examples of unsatisfactory scholarship may include, but are not limited to, failure to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards; inadequate grade-point average; failure to obtain satisfactory grades in required courses for the program; failure to make satisfactory progress in research or other activities related to the culminating experience; or failing the qualifying, comprehensive, or final oral examination for doctoral students. Upon receipt of this notice, the student has the opportunity to seek a review of the decision. If the student desires such a review, the student must, within ten days of receipt of the notice, submit a written appeal to the program head.

Please see the Graduate School’s policies for more about these requirements.

DrPH Program Policy

Students in the Penn State DrPH program are expected to maintain satisfactory scholarship. In addition to the Graduate School Policy on satisfactory scholarship, students admitted to the Penn State DrPH program must follow the guidelines below:

  • Successfully complete all courses (required and elective) with a grade of C or higher
  • Required core and concentration courses in the DrPH program may only be repeated one time.
  • A student who fails to obtain a C or higher in a required core or concentration course after two attempts will be dismissed from the DrPH program.
  • A student who fails to obtain a C or higher on their first attempt in two different required core or concentration courses will be dismissed from the DrPH program.
  • A student who falls below a cumulative GPA of 3.0 will have one semester to increase their GPA to at least a 3.0 and resume good academic standing.
  • A student who has a cumulative GPA below 3.0 for more than one semester will be dismissed from the DrPH program.
  • A student who falls below a GPA of 3.0 in their final semester will be unable to graduate and will have one semester to increase their GPA to above a 3.0.
  • A student who falls below a cumulative GPA of 2.0 will be dismissed from the DrPH program.

Additional Information

Students are encouraged to contact their academic and/or administrative advisor if they believe their GPA may fall below a 3.0, or if their GPA has fallen below a 3.0.

There are many services available to help students maintain their academic performance, including the Cognitive Skills Program. Your administrative adviser will also be able to connect you to additional resources that may help you to improve your academic performance.

Students with special circumstances should inform their administrative adviser. Special circumstances will be considered by the administrative adviser and DrPH Program Director on a case-by-case basis.

Adding\Dropping Courses Expand answer

Adding a Course

Students may add a course during the regular add period without having to pay a fee. The add period for full-semester courses ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on the seventh day of the fall/spring semester and is a calculated proportional length for all other courses. Students can add a course after the regular add period. There will be a fee for each transaction.

See complete policies and procedures.

Dropping a Course

Students may drop a course during the regular drop period (up until the late drop period begins) without having to pay a drop fee. However, there may still be a reduction in the tuition refund. The length of the drop period is six calendar days during fall/spring for full-semester courses, and is a calculated proportional length for all other courses.

Students can drop a course after the regular drop period and before the late drop deadline with certain restrictions and requirements. There will be a fee for each transaction, and courses will be recorded on the student record.

There are financial implications to consider when dropping courses. Tuition penalties may apply and financial aid may be impacted. Students who receive financial aid are strongly encouraged to consult with the Office of Student Aid.

If a student drops a course during the first week of class in the fall or spring semesters, there will be a full tuition refund. After the first week of the semester, the tuition refund decreases by 25 percent each week. After the fifth week of the semester, a student dropping a class will get no tuition refund for a dropped class. This is especially important for students who are on financial aid and who are responsible for paying that money back. This policy is the same for full semester summer courses, but for 6-week summer courses students must drop the course within two days to receive the full tuition refund.

See complete policies and procedures.

See information on tuition penalties.

See information on financial aid adjustments.

Grade Remediation Expand answer

The basis for grades, as stated in Senate Policy 47-20, is “…the instructor’s judgment of the student’s scholastic achievement…” Occasionally, a disagreement arises in the assignment of a grade. A student who wishes to question or challenge the grade assigned in a course must first discuss grading practices and assignments with the instructor. It is expected that the student and instructor will try to eliminate any misunderstandings and will attempt to work out any disagreements over grades.

On the rare occasion that a student and instructor fail to resolve the grade dispute through informal means, the student may request that the head of the academic program offering the course act as a mediator. If this mediation does not resolve the dispute, the student who is a graduate student may request further mediation from the associate dean for graduate studies.

Learn more about Grade Mediation

Public Health Sciences Information

Feedback and Reporting Expand answer

The Public Health program greatly values the opinions of our students. We strongly encourage students to provide feedback on any issues, concerns, or helpful program components that they encounter during their time in the program.

The sooner you let us know of a concern, the sooner we can address it. For this reason, students are encouraged to report any issues as soon as they arise. These issues can be reported in person to any member of our faculty or staff. Students can also report incidents online. Two online reporting systems exist for this purpose. They are described in more detail below.

To Leave Feedback about Public Health Sciences (PHS)

If you are a Public Health Sciences student, please share your thoughts with us relating to the program’s curriculum, resources, advising, teaching and facilities.

To provide feedback on the DrPH or MPH program, use this online form.

To Report Mistreatment Within the College of Medicine

Mistreatment, as defined in the Penn State College of Medicine Student Handbook, arises when behavior shows disrespect for the dignity of others and unreasonably interferes with the learning process. This could include behaviors performed by faculty, nurses, residents/interns, other institution employees, staff or other students.

Your well-being is important to us. If you are a student, who wants to report mistreatment within the College of Medicine, please file a report through the Office for Respect in Student Learning. Their reporting process is entirely independent of the Department of Public Health Sciences (PHS), though PHS will be informed of any reports related to our programs.

To report mistreatment, use this online form.

Public Health Program Mission, Vision and Value Statements Expand answer

Mission Statement

Faculty in the Penn State Public Health Program will seek to positively influence and inspire lifelong learning in their students and themselves by serving as practitioners, educators and role models. Faculty and students will continually develop relationships with community organizations, regionally and globally, to foster engagement and practice-based educational and research opportunities. Our Public Health Program will continually strive to recruit and support a diverse student body while promoting diverse learning opportunities.

Vision Statement

Penn State’s Public Health Program aims to advance theory and practice that prepare future public health leaders, improve population health, and reduce health disparities – across Pennsylvania’s communities, the nation, and the world – through excellence in education, research and service.

Statement of Values

The Penn State Public Health Program will instill in its students several values.

Students completing degree programs should embody the following:

Leadership

  • Competent leaders with skills in evidence-based public health practice and research
  • Mediators of diverse partnerships, who communicate across a range of sectors and settings, synthesize findings, and generate practice-based evidence

Science

  • Builders of evidence designed to improve health of communities and populations
  • Translators of evidence into reducing health disparities

Collaboration

  • Valuable partners in public health promotion with non-profit, governmental and/or commercial stakeholders
  • Team members in multi-disciplinary teams

Social Responsibility

  • Promoters of respect, fairness and equity
  • Thoughtful practitioners with an understanding of the social, economic and environmental complexity of disease etiology and prevention

Professionalism

  • Examples of effective leadership using evidence-based practice
  • Promoters of ethical public health practice within the discipline and related disciplines

Health and Wellness

  • Effective translators of scientific evidence to policy and law
  • Practitioners in prevention and intervention programs that improve the public’s health

Diversity

  • Facilitators of diversity across the educational, research and service environments
  • Builders of a culturally sensitive and competent workforce
Public Health Student Group (PHASE) Expand answer

PHASE (Public Health Association for Service and Excellence) is the Penn State MPH program’s student-led public health service organization.

Learn more about PHASE here.

Student Study Area in ASB Expand answer

The Department of Public Health Sciences provides a student area for our public health students within the department’s office suite. The space is located in Suite 2300, on the second floor of the Academic Support Building.

The space contains several computers and collaboration space for students. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of this space if you need somewhere to study, or just relax before an evening class. The student area is also located next to a small kitchenette where you can heat up your meals, if needed.

While we expect everyone in the student area to be respectful and considerate of others, the student area is not a silent study space. We set up the student area as a shared space to foster collaboration and provide you all with an area to congregate. There will be times when students are working silently in the space, but there will also be times when students are collaborating on group projects or just chatting before class.

If you would like a guaranteed silent study space, the library would be the best place for this.

DrPH Information

Doctor of Public Health Leadership Philosophy Expand answer

The Penn State DrPH Program encourages its students to effectively lead teams through exhibiting transformational and situational leadership attributes through its curriculum, extracurricular offerings and field experience opportunities.

Transformational leaders identify needed change, create a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and execute the change with the commitment of their teams.

Transforming leaders serve their teams by setting an example of working towards the benefit of the team, organization and/or community (Bass and Bass, 2008). Situational leaders seek to enhance the maturity of the team from dependence to independence. In this style of leadership, the leader changes from a “telling” style in which team members are dependent on specific tasks to a “delegating” style in which the responsibility for completing a task is given to a team member trusted with an area of responsibility rather than a specific task. In this model, team members gain confidence and learn how to become leaders within their own areas of responsibility (Hersey, Blanchard and Johnson, 2007).

Admission Requirements Expand answer

DrPH applicants must have a graduate (e.g., masters) or advanced professional (e.g., MD) degree, preferably related to health or biomedical sciences. Applicants who have not earned a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from a CEPH-accredited institution may be required to complete prerequisite courses in the five discipline-specific MPH competency domains listed below. Applicants may have full time positions elsewhere, but should consider that per Penn State Policy, completion of the DrPH must occur within eight (8) years of starting the program. Applicants declare their track of academic study at the time of application. Please see the Graduate Bulletin for a full description of doctoral degree requirements.

Learn more about the DrPH program’s admission requirements here.

Information on tuition and financial aid is available here.

Prerequisite courses

Students not having an MPH from a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)-accredited school are required to take prescribed MPH core courses before and/or concurrently with the DrPH program requirements or pass a written exam demonstrating foundational public health knowledge as defined by CEPH criteria (D1). Students wishing to take the written exam should contact Dr. Betsy Aumiller at bba104@psu.edu. Students will be advised of any additional required core courses upon receipt of their DrPH program acceptance letter.

Master of Public Health (MPH) Core Courses 

PHS 809 Principles of Public Health (3 credits)
PHS 504 Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies (3 credits)
PHS 520 Principles of Biostatistics (3 credits)
PHS 550 Principles of Epidemiology (3 credits)
PHS 571 Introduction to Health Services Organization & Delivery (3 credits)

No other degree requirement credits may be waived based upon credits earned via a pervious master’s degree per Penn State Policy.

DrPH Curriculum Expand answer

The Penn State DrPH is a 60-credit professional degree program that provides advanced public health education and training to prepare its graduates for evidenced-based practice and leadership in the application of translational science and implementation of research findings. Full time and part time enrollment is allowable. All students must complete the DrPH Core Courses and any MPH core requirement deficits identified upon admission to the program. In addition to the Core Courses, students select one of three tracks in which to specialize: 1) Community and Behavioral Health, 2) Epidemiology and Biostatistics, or 3) Health Systems Organization and Policy. In addition, students take 9 credits of focused study plan electives, Advanced Field Experience, and Integrative Doctoral Research.

The Penn State College of Medicine DrPH curriculum is designed to provide advanced public health education and training.

DrPH students must complete a minimum of 45 credits of coursework plus 15 credits of doctoral research and advanced field experience beyond a master’s degree (total 60 credits).

  • 27 credits in prescribed, core classroom-based courses
    • 18 credits in core courses
    • 9 credits of track elective courses
    • 9 credits of general elective courses
  • 15 additional credits
    • 6 credits of advanced field experience
    • 9 credits of integrative doctoral research

DrPH Core Curriculum

The core curriculum provides knowledge and skills in leadership, analysis and policy. Prior to their Qualifying Examination, students are expected to have completed the core DrPH curriculum as well as have already attained a master’s level competency in the five core areas of public health (biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health services administration, and social and behavioral sciences).

Integrative Public Health Leadership (PHS 575, 3 credits)

Public Health Leadership is at the core of the DrPH core competency model of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). This course examines the dynamic nature of leadership in the public health sector. It will introduce students to major theories and concepts of leadership and ways to apply these to public health issues requiring leadership. Helping to lay the foundation for issues in other DrPH public health courses, topics will include major theories and models of leadership, leadership competencies, current public health issues and challenges, ethical issues in leadership, and approaches to leadership at the team, organizational and community level. The aims of this course include the education of public health leaders in communication, strategic planning, and decision making skills and capabilities that are necessary for the creation of a sound, efficacious, and ethical organizational culture both inside and outside the classroom.

Integrative Seminar in Social & Behavioral Determinants of Health (PHS 577, 3 credits)

Within a DrPH program, it is important to “train future leaders of public health practice to direct and advance societal efforts that address socially rooted causes of health and illness” (Northridge & Healton, 2012, p. 17). This seminar examines in depth the contribution of multiple determinants of population health, including social, environmental, and behavioral factors, as well as the types of interventions and policy initiatives that could improve population health and reduce health disparities. Topics to be covered include theories of multiple determinants of health; the importance of sociocultural and community context; research on the relative impact of multiple determinants of health; the extent and causes of persistent health disparities; mechanisms by which sociocultural factors get “into the body;” approaches to disease prevention involving behavior change and community engagement; linkages between prevention approaches and the health care delivery system; and evidence for effective interventions and policy initiatives to improve population health. Students will gain a deeper understanding of public health perspectives and initiatives, in the United States and globally, to improve population health by focusing on modifying social and behavioral determinants. The course will be structured as an advanced seminar to allow for student facilitation of discussions and active exchange of ideas.

Integrative Seminar in Public Health Policy (PHS 576, 3 credits)

This course will provide training in the analysis, planning, and advocacy of effective public health policy at the institutional, local, state, and federal levels. Students will learn to identify and apply existing multi-disciplinary research in economics, finance, sociology, epidemiology and political science through the review of major public health case studies in order to develop research policy briefs, policy memoranda, and other means of effective communication. Learning about planning and effective health policy at federal, state, local, national and international levels, students will also be provided with a historical context of various governmental institutions related to health policy as well as the functioning of private and not- for profit health related organizations, and their impact on population health (both de facto and de jure) – related to policy, administration, and education and research. Students will learn through didactic and situational learning methods. Students will work with policy stakeholders in at least one organization or agency in order to analyze, propose and debate public health policy options. The students’ experience in this course will culminate with a term manuscript on a comparative international public health policy issue to be completed in consultation with stakeholders at either an institutional, local, state, national or international level.

PHS 806: Public Health Ethics (3 credits)

According to the ASPPH, professionalism and ethics are “the ability to identify and analyze an ethical issue; balance the claims of personal liberty with the responsibility to protect and improve the health of the population; and act on the ethical concepts of social justice and human rights in public health research and practice” (ASPPH, 2009). Applied Public Health Ethics will introduce students to the tenets that apply to health care delivery, experimentation, research and human behavior as guided by principles developed over time to apply to government over sight of public health. Many of these principles are the results of specific cases or phenomena that have arisen over time and led to social interventions as a result. The course will look at several seminal events and the ethical principles derived from them. In many cases, principles are still being debated and the lines between ethical and unethical behavior drawn. The course will examine differences between morals, ethics and laws, as well as the consequences of violating them. As scientific research grows in size and complexity, new principles will be needed. Students will also demonstrate a sound sense of scholarship and research integrity (SARI) by participating in ongoing discussions about Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). How should these be formulated by concerned and caring individuals? The course will give some answer. We will use readings, videos, guest presentations, case studies debate and analysis to accomplish this.

Survey Research Methods (PHS 536, 3 credits)

This course provides instruction on conducting surveys for health research, including surveys of patients, community members, providers, and organizations. Topics covered include: basic elements of surveys; steps in the survey research process including IRB processes; the advantages and disadvantages of different survey modes; selecting a sampling approach; current challenges in attaining adequate response rates; developing questionnaires, including selecting measures, question formatting, pretesting the questionnaire, and data collection database development (REDCap); best practices for survey administration; preparing data for analysis (cleaning and coding); and ethical issues in conducting surveys.

Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

It is important for DrPH graduates to have contextually-grounded research and practice-relevant skills including program evaluation, data acquisition, analysis, interpretation, translation, and dissemination (Calhoun, 2012). DrPH students will be competent in quantitative and qualitative data collection, analysis, and interpretation and gain advanced research expertise to perform and evaluate the performance and impact of evidence-based public health practice. At a minimum, methods courses will include two quantitative courses and one qualitative course.

Statistical Methods in Public Health I: Observational Studies (PHS 554, 3 credits)

This course covers the biostatistical aspects of design and analysis in epidemiological (observational) studies. Students are expected to understand the basic research principles of epidemiological studies, and be able to collaborate with researchers on the design and analysis of such studies. This is a course on biostatistical methods in the design and analysis of epidemiological studies. The course addresses design issues with respect to (1) basic epidemiological (observational) studies, such as case-control, cohort, and cross-sectional studies, and (2) more complex studies, such as nested case-control, case-cohort, and case-crossover designs. Next, the course develops basic statistical inference for risk measures according to the nature of the outcome variables (binary and ordinal, continuous, rate, time-to-event). Confounding and interaction issues are discussed, along with statistical methods for handling them, such as stratification, standardization, and matching. More advanced methods are described based on multiple regression models that are specific to the outcome variables. Finally, computer-intensive analyses are considered, such as bootstrapping, permutation tests, and multiple imputations for missing data.

Statistical Methods in Public Health II: Intervention Studies (PHS 555, 3 credits)

This course will focus on methodologies surrounding randomized clinical trials. The first section is intended to provide an overview including topical areas such as eligibility criteria, Phase, I, II, III, and IV trials, blinding/masking and randomization, control groups, and Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statements, among others. The second section of this course focuses on ethical issues, clinical research questions and outcome variables, randomization, sample size calculations, non-inferiority and equivalence study designs, factorial study designs, and crossover study designs. Students will be introduced to the basic theory of survival analysis and will be able to apply their knowledge in order to analyze longitudinal data. The last section of this course addresses linear mixed-effects models for longitudinal data analysis of continuous outcomes, generalized linear mixed-effects models for the longitudinal data analysis of binary, event rate, and other outcomes from the exponential family of distributions, nonlinear mixed-effects models, bioequivalence trials, adaptive designs in Phase II and III clinical trials, cluster randomized trials, systematic reviews and meta-analyses, N-of-1 trials, and methods associated with medical diagnostic testing. This course will also provide a forum for graduate students to develop their own hypotheses and projects within an environment of which values the positive, open exchange of ideas. Elementary knowledge of statistical theory and methods from the entry-level course in biostatistics in addition to basic skills in computer programing with MatLab, SAS, R, or any statistical language supported by the course instructors, will be required.

Qualitative Research Methodologies for Adult Education (ATED 550, 3 credits)

This graduate level course is designed to provide participants with an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of different types of qualitative research in education, the social sciences, and in related areas. Some of these strands include basic interpretive research, narrative inquiry, phenomenological qualitative studies, ethnography, and qualitative action research. It also provides students with some practical experience in actually doing qualitative or action research, by conducting a pilot study of an individual or collaborative inquiry project. The first part of the course focuses on qualitative research design in light of the purpose of a particular study and its research questions. The second part of the class will focus more on the practice of qualitative and action research including the collection and analysis of data and the writing of the inquiry report. Other qualitative courses offered via other departments may be considered with approval of administrative advisor.

Other methods courses may be selected based on developing skills needed to undertake integrative doctoral research.

Directed Studies in Public Health (PHS 892, 3 credits)

The purpose of this course is to engage students in developing their publishable manuscripts and DrPH portfolio. Students will develop a better understanding of how to design, conduct and evaluate research. This will include reviewing and practicing processes for developing a purpose statement, rationale, theoretical/conceptual framework, and a plan for the implementation of a research design for publishable manuscripts. Students will demonstrate a sound sense of scholarship and research integrity (SARI) by participating in ongoing discussions about Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR). Students will also participate in readings and discussions that reflect on their courses, advanced field experience, and other experiential learning as they have informed their leadership style and approach to integrating evidence-based research into public health practice. This seminar-type course is explicitly designed not only to clarify students’ research questions for manuscripts, leadership style, and translating public health research to practice, but also to provide co-learning opportunities in which critical reflections and constructive feedback can be exchanged.

All core DrPH courses are offered at the Penn State Hershey campus, with the exception of ADTED 550 Qualitative Research Methodologies for Adult Education which is offered jointly at the Penn State Harrisburg Campus, located 9 miles from the Hershey campus, as well as Hershey campus during the spring semester. Courses available at other campuses (e.g., Harrisburg and University Park) may be taken as electives within the DrPH students’ planned area of focus. Students may but will not be required to take courses at all 5 regional Penn State campuses.

Advising Expand answer

All Penn State Doctor of Public Health (DRPH) students have two advisers: an administrative adviser and an academic adviser.

Administrative advisers and academic advisers have different roles in the DrPH program. However, in general, both the administrative adviser and academic adviser are relied upon to provide expertise as a mentor to students. Successful mentors will continue to provide valuable career advice to students even after they have graduated.

Administrative Adviser

Prior to the first semester, students are assigned an administrative adviser. Administrative advisers are designated Penn State DrPH Program Executive Committee faculty members. Students meet with the administrative adviser within their first semester or before in order to complete the DrPH Plan of Study form and file it with the DrPH Program. Administrative advisers serve as a liaison between the student, other faculty, and the administration. As part of the leadership skills required as part of the DrPH degree, DrPH students must develop advanced competencies in clear communication and problem-solving. As such, if problems arise, DrPH students will be expected to investigate and identify what they see as the possible ways to address the problem and presenting these solutions to the administrative adviser in order to receive further guidance. Demonstrating leadership skills both in and out of the classroom is of key importance for DrPH students. DrPH students are responsible for maintaining and following their own Plan of Study on file and completing amendments to this plan in consultation with their administrative and academic advisers.

Academic Adviser/Integrative Doctoral Research (IDR) Committee Chair

Within the first year, students will identify and be matched with an academic adviser, with assistance of the administrative adviser. Ideally, this faculty member’s research expertise should be in alignment with the student’s research focus area and will be willing to serve as the IDR Committee Chair. Prior to applying to the program, students are strongly encouraged to identify faculty that they are interested to work with. In most cases, the IDR Chair must be a member of the DrPH Program Faculty and a Graduate Faculty member. The role of the IDR Chair is to mentor students in academic, research and career choices. In partnership with the DrPH Program Director, the IDR Chair will assist the student in completing their DrPH Program Plan within the first semester of courses. The IDR Chair may also choose to serve as the course director for PHS 896 Individual Studies in which the IDR Chair assists the student with preparatory materials for the DrPH Comprehensive Exam. In partnership with the DrPH Director of Public Health Practice, the IDR Chair may also help students identify an Advanced Field Experience location(s) which will ideally position the student well to complete their IDR project. The IDR Chair will help the student identify other faculty members to serve on of the IDR Committee.

DrPH students should distinguish themselves by setting clear goals and timelines with their IDR Committee Chair at every meeting. For the Advanced Field Experience, DrPH Portfolio, and two required manuscripts, DrPH students are expected to set their own timelines, with clearly stated goals at each time period. The IDR Committee Chair provides guidance and approves the final project timeline. However, students should demonstrate that they can direct and manage their own projects efficiently and on time. The IDR Chair is not responsible to set up the IDR Committee—this is an important aspect of leadership and DrPH students must communicate with potential faculty and complete these kinds of tasks on their own.

DrPH Study and Advisor Agreement

DrPH students are expected to identify an academic advisor that will serve as their research mentor and chair of their IDR committee. To ensure a positive and fruitful relationship, all students are asked to meet with their academic advisor/mentor soon after the relationship is formed to complete the following agreement.

Expectations of students and advisors/mentors

Good mentoring practice entails active participation of both the academic advisor/mentor and the student. When a student enters a doctoral program, that student commits time and energy necessary for research leading to a final project that makes a substantial and original contribution to knowledge. It is the responsibility of the student to conform to University and program requirements and procedures. Although it is the duty of the advisor/mentor to be reasonably available for consultation, the primary responsibility for keeping in touch rests with the student.

The student’s responsibilities include the following:

  • Becoming familiar with, and adhering to, the rules, policies, and procedures for the DrPH program and the Final Integrative Research Project as outlined in the DrPH student handbook.
  • Selecting and planning an original research topic that can be successfully completed within the expected time frame for the degree program; this will be done in consultation with your academic advisor/mentor.
  • Learning and adhering to responsible conduct of research standards for your field. Acquiring the necessary health and safety skills for undertaking the proposed research.
  • Meeting with the advisor when requested and reporting regularly on progress and results.
  • Establishing a dissertation committee, with the assistance of the advisor, early in the dissertation stage, as required by the graduate group following all Graduate School procedures.
  •  Keeping your advisor/mentor informed of any significant changes that may affect the progress of the research.
  • Maintaining good records of each stage of the research.
  • Being a good citizen of the research group, laboratory, department, or other entity that requires cooperation from its members.
  • Thinking critically about career trajectory and mindfully pursuing opportunities to support career goals, for example, through teaching, publishing, presenting, externships, etc.

Responsibilities of the Academic Advisor/Mentor:

Within the context of their role as advisors/mentors, their primary task is to guide and inspire students to reach their scholarly potential. The advisor should promote conditions conducive to a student’s research and intellectual growth and provide appropriate guidance on the progress of the research and the standards expected.

  • Guiding the student in the selection and planning of an original research topic that can be successfully completed within the expected time frame for the degree program.
  • Establishing with the student a realistic timetable for completion of various phases of the program.
  • Being accessible to give advice and provide feedback, while also establishing for the student a realistic timeline for receiving feedback. Feedback should be professional and constructive and provide concrete guidance for improvement.
  • Ensuring that students have an understanding of the relevant theories and the methodological and technical skills necessary for the research, including provision of information through an ethical review process where applicable. Ensuring that students adhere to responsible conduct of research standards for your field.
  • Establishing with the student a dissertation committee early-on in the dissertation stage (ie. after the qualifying exam).
  • Encouraging participation in graduate group seminars and colloquia.
  • Encouraging and assisting students to attend and present work at local, national, or international conferences and to publish their work in appropriate journals.
  • Contributing to the student’s professional development through letters of reference and general advice.
  • Ensuring that the research environment is safe, equitable, and free from harassment and discrimination.
  • Being sensitive to academic needs and concerns that may arise for international students, students from underrepresented groups, students with disabilities, and/or students with family responsibilities.
  • Communicating in a timely manner if the student’s academic performance is not meeting expectations, providing an outline for what actions need to be taken in order to return to academic good standing, and a timeline for doing so. While dealing with inadequate academic performance can be difficult, it is in no one’s best interests to prolong a program of study if success is unlikely.
  • Serving as an advocate for the student on a bi-annual basis at the end of each semester.

The mentoring relationship will be evaluated on an annual basis. Students and Advisors should complete the assessments in Appendix 1 each year and plan a meeting to discuss. Both evaluations should be also be submitted to the DrPH Program staff.

Communication

Communication is key to successful mentoring relationship. Students and advisors/mentors are expected to develop plans for communication.

Competencies Expand answer

The Penn State DrPH Program is competency-based. Competencies are the skills that students should have through successful completion of the program. Two types of competencies are built through the program:

  • Core Competencies: The skills that all DRPH students should build through the degree program. This category includes competencies in each of the five core areas of public health. It also includes cross-cutting areas that are relevant to all public health professionals regardless of core area or specialization.
  • Track Competencies: The skills that students in a specific track should build.

Core competencies are primarily gained in the core curriculum. Track competencies are primarily gained in the track-specific courses. To clearly communicate expectations to students, each DrPH course syllabus will present the competency or competencies that will be gained through the course, along with the assignment(s) that will be used to assess the student’s proficiency in the given competency or competencies.

Because Penn State’s DrPH Program is competency-based, students should be aware that while all core competencies are met by core courses, track-specific competencies are met only with various combinations of track elective courses. There are various combinations of courses available, but not all combinations of track electives meet the track-specific competencies. Students should take note that their plan of study will not be approved if the combination of track courses that they select do not meet all track-specific competencies.

Note: The plan of study will not be approved if the combination of track courses that students select does not meet all track-specific competencies.

See all core and track-specific competencies

Declaring a Track Expand answer

All students declare a track in which to specialize upon entry to the program: (1) Community & Behavioral Health, (2) Epidemiology & Biostatistics, or (3) Health Systems Organization & Policy. Students are asked to identify a preferred track in the application for admission, and the track selected will likely dictate course sequences – course registration and order – through the duration of the DrPH program. As necessary, any changes of track of study should be declared prior to or immediately after the qualifying examination.

Track Electives: Health Systems Organization and Policy

The track courses listed below are example courses. The track course list is updated regularly and is dependent on course offerings.

  • H ADM 551: Health Care Law
  • HPA 503: Health Services Organization Behavior
  • HPA 545: Introduction to Health Economics
  • HPA 524: Management of Health Services Organizations
  • P ADM 535: Policy Analysis and Planning
  • P ADM 550: Policy and Program Evaluation
  • P ADM 558: Legislative Processes
  • P ADM 571 Seminar in Organizational Theory
  • P ADM 573: Research and Theory in Public Policy and Governance
  • PHS 540: Decision Analysis
  • PHS 573: Advanced Public Health Policy Analysis
  • PHS 896: Individual Studies

Track Electives: Community and Behavioral Health

  • CMPSY 500: Theories and Issues in Community Psychology
  • CMPSY 510: Change Processes
  • CN ED 843 (S PSY 843): Prevention Strategies and Programming
  • HPA 526: Health Disparities
  • PHS 531: Public Health Perspectives of Women’s Health
  • PHS 574: Advanced Methods in Clinical and Public Health Intervention Design
  • PHP 558: Disaster Psychology
  • PHS 578: Advanced Integrative Seminar in Public Health Leadership
  • PHS 896: Individual Studies

Track Electives: Epidemiology and Biostatistics

  • HPA 528: Health Data Analysis for Research
  • HPA 540: Epidemiological Applications in Health Services Research
  • HPA 854: Population Health and Quality Management in Health Services Organization (Managerial Epidemiology)
  • NURS 808: Perspectives on Population Based Health
  • PHS 503: Nutritional Epidemiology
  • PHS 507: Public Health Surveillance
  • PHS 524: Longitudinal Data Analysis
  • PHS 527: Survival Analysis
  • PHS 552: Molecular Epidemiology of Chronic Disease
  • PHS 553: Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • PHS 556: Cancer Epidemiology
  • PHS 558: Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology
  • PHS 562: Environmental Epidemiology
  • PHS 563: Advanced Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • SOC 575: Statistical Modeling for Non-experimental Research
  • PHS 896: Individual Studies
Focused Study Track Electives (9 credits) Expand answer

Students develop a focused study plan with a DrPH faculty advisor for additional coursework in their respective tracks in the following areas (but not limited to): health policy, health services administration, public health policy and law, community health, social and behavioral health, epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, occupational health, health disparities, maternal and child health, evaluation, qualitative methodologies, public health ethics, social marketing and behavior, economics of public health interventions, health communication, nutrition, global health, advanced public health leadership, public health preparedness and emergency response, aging research, cancer epidemiology, prevention and control, evidence- based intervention design and evaluation, tobacco regulatory research, and women’s health.

Track electives must be approved by each student’s Administrative Advisor.

General Electives/Areas of Specialization (Cognate/General electives, 9 credits) Expand answer

Students develop a focused study plan with a DrPH faculty advisor for additional coursework in the following areas (but not limited to):

  • Advanced Leadership
  • Aging Research
  • Cancer Epidemiology, Prevention & Control
  • Economics of Public Health Interventions
  • Evidence-Based Public Health Interventions
  • Global Health
  • Public Health Policy & Law
  • Public Health Preparedness & Emergency Response
  • Regulatory Science
  • Social Marketing and Behavior
  • Women’s Health

NOTE: In addition, students will be required to complete six (6) advanced field experience credits and nine (9) IDR credits. Future program expansion may allow for other areas of emphasis drawing from other disciplines. Students should be taking focused study electives that will also complement their Advanced Field Experience and inform their IDR project.

Certificate Specializations Expand answer

DrPH students may choose to pursue a Global Health Certificate as part of their DrPH studies with the advisement of their Administrative Adviser. The Certificate requires 12 credits that must be compatible with their program plan and total credits (60) of the DrPH degree.

  • PHS 803: Principles of Global Health (3 credits)
  • PHS 557: Global Impact of Infectious Disease (3 credits)
  • PHS 890: Global Health Exchange Program: International Perspectives of Health Care System (3 credits)
  • PHS 577: Integrative Seminar in Social and Behavioral Determinants of Health (3 credits)

See more about the Global Health Certificate here.

DrPH Program Plan Worksheet Expand answer

The Penn State DrPH is a 60-credit professional degree program that provides advanced public health education and training to prepare its graduates for evidence-based practice and leadership in the application of translational science and implementation of research findings. Full time and part time enrollment is allowable. All students must complete the DrPH Core Courses and any MPH core requirement deficits identified upon admission to the program.

In addition to the Core Courses, students select one of three tracks in which to specialize:

  • Community and Behavioral Health
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Health Systems Organization and Policy

In addition, students take 9 credits of focused study plan electives, Advanced Field Experience, and Integrative Doctoral Research.

DrPH Core Courses (24 credits)

  • PHS 575: Integrative Public Health Leadership – 3 credits – on College of Medicine campus in Hershey
  • PHS 577: Integrative Seminar in Social & Behavioral Determinants of Health – 3 credits – Hershey
  • PHS 576: Integrative Seminar in Public Health Policy – 3 credits – Hershey
  • PHS 554: Statistical Methods in Public Health I: Observational Studies – 3 credits – Hershey
  • PHS 555: Statistical Methods in Public Health II: Interventional Studies – 3 credits – Hershey
  • Qualitative Methods – ADTED 550: Qualitative Research Methodologies for Adult Education – 3 credits –
    Penn State Harrisburg
  • PHS 806: Public Health Ethics – 3 credits
  • PHS 892: Directed Studies in Public Health – 3 credits – Hershey

Track Courses

Students choose one track below.

  • Community and Behavioral Health – 9 credits
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics – 9 credits
  • Health Systems Organization and Policy – 9 credits

Other Courses

  • General Electives (cognate) – 9 credits – multiple campuses
  • PHS 895B Advanced Field Experience – 6 credits – Hershey
  • Integrative Doctoral Research – 9 credits – Hershey
    • 896A Integrative Doctoral Research I – 6 credits – Hershey
    • 896B Integrative Doctoral Research II – 3 credits – Hershey

Program Milestones

  • Qualifying exam
  • Comprehensive exam
  • Proposal defense
  • Final defense

Total credits: 60

Course Progression Example - Full-Time Expand answer

This course progression example is intended to reflect a full-time student’s coursework and timing of Qualifying Examination, Comprehensive Exam, IDR Proposal Defense and Final IDR Research Defense. Timing of exams may vary, subject to limitations. Part-time enrollment is allowable.

Course progression example – Full-time students (9 credits per semester)

Fall 1

  • PHS 575 Integrative Public Health Leadership
  • PHS 577 Integrative Seminar in Social & Behavioral Determinants of Health
  • PHS 554 Statistical Methods in Public Health I

Spring 1

  • PHS 576 Integrative Seminar in Public Health Policy
  • PHS 555 Statistical Methods in Public Health II
  • ADTED 550 Qualitative Research Methods
  • Qualifying Examination (timing/numbet of credits may change)

Fall 2

  • PHS 892 Directed Studies in Public Health
  • PHS 536 Survey Research Methods
  • PHS 806 Public Health Ethics
  • Comprehensive Exam (timing may vary depending on student’s completion of core courses)

Spring 2

  • Track Elective 1 of 3
  • Track Elective 2 of 3
  • Qualifying Examination (timing/number of credits may change)
  • Focused Study Plan Elective 1 of 3
  • Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal Defense (timing may vary depending on student’s completion of track courses)

Fall 3

  • Track Elective 3 of 3
  • Focused Study Plan Elective 2 of 4
  • Focused Study Plan Elective 3 of 4

Spring 3

  • Focused Study Plan Elective 3 of 3
  • Advanced Field Experience 2 of 2
  • PHS 896A Integrative Doctoral Research 1 of 2

Fall 4

  • PHS 896A Integrative Doctoral Research 2 of 2
  • PHS 896B Integrative Doctoral Research
  • Final Integrative Doctoral Research Defense

Prerequisite Offerings:

  • PHS 809 Principles of Public Health – Offered Fall – Online Only
  • PHS 504 Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies – Offered Fall – Online Only
  • PHS 520 Principles of Biostatistics – Offered Fall – Online and In Residence
  • PHS 550 Principles of Epidemiology – Offered Fall – In Residence; Offered Spring – Online Only
  • PHS 571 Introduction to Health Services Organization & Delivery – Offered Spring – Online Only

 

Course Progression Example - Part-Time Expand answer

Course Progression Example – Part Time Students (6 credits per semester)

Fall 1

  • PHS 575 Integrative Public Health Leadership
  • PHS 577 Integrative Seminar in Social & Behavioral Determinants of Health

Spring 1

  • PHS 576 Integrative Seminar in Public Health Policy
  • ADTED 550 Qualitative Research Methods
  • Qualifying Examination (timing/number of credits may change)

Fall 2

  • PHS 554 Statistical Methods in Public Health I
  • PHS 536 Survey Research Methods

Spring 2

  • PHS 555 Statistical Methods in Public Health II
  • Track Elective 1 of 3

Fall 3

  • PHS 892 Directed Studies in Public Health
  • PHS 806 Public Health Ethics
  • Comprehensive Exam (timing may vary depending on student’s completion of core courses)

Spring 3

  • Focused Study Plan Elective 1 of 3
  • Track Elective 2 of 3

Fall 4

  • Track Elective 3 of 3
  • Focused Study Plan Elective 2 of 3
  • Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal Defense (timing may vary depending on student’s completion of track courses)

Spring 4

  • Focused Study Plan Elective 3 of 3
  • Advanced Field Experience 1 of 2

Fall 5

  • Advanced Field Experience 2 of 2
  • PHS 896A Integrative Doctoral Research 1 of 2

Spring 5

  • PHS 896A Integrative Doctoral Research 2 of 2
  • PHS 896B Integrative Doctoral Research
  • Integrative Doctoral Research Final Defense
Graduate Assistantships and Funding Expand answer

A limited number of competitive Graduate Assistantships including stipend and tuition are available. Applicants are considered for these assistantships at the time of application, if they so indicate within the SOPHAS system. The information provided in a student’s Statement of Purpose and other application materials will be used in the competitive review process for Graduate Assistantship nominations. Other fellowships and research positions may be available. For more specific information about Graduate Assistantships, please see the Graduate School Graduate Assistant Fact Sheet.

  • If noted during the SOPHAS application process, any incoming DrPH student offered admission may be considered for a Graduate Assistantship position. Accepted students who choose to defer their program start to another semester may also be considered in the competitive application process.
  • Accepted students interested in fellowships and assistantships are strongly encouraged to contact the program with an updated copy of their CV shortly after acceptance. To be considered for work-study opportunities, students should be sure to check the “work study” box on their FAFSA forms.
  • Assistantships are provided by Penn State as aids to completion of advanced degrees. As such, they should be related to the graduate student’s disciplinary field and wherever possible tied to the student’s program of study so as to contribute in a relevant manner to the student’s professional development. To effectively make such a contribution, the supervisor of the assistantship necessarily serves in a mentoring role, which requires regular interaction, close communication, and feedback with the graduate assistant, including clear expectations for satisfactory fulfillment of the assistantship duties. Assistantships may require work in the classroom or the laboratory, in research, or in other areas on campus, with the opportunity for professional development further benefiting from and enriched by the scholarly environment of the University. As such, assistantships are limited to degree-seeking students enrolled in residence. Reappointment to an assistantship is based on availability of positions and the quality of the student’s performance. For further information, see the Graduate School Teaching and Research Assistantships page.
  • The essential elements of residency, particularly with respect to research degree programs, are: interaction between faculty members and students above and beyond direct instruction (e.g., “journal clubs,” “coffee hour” discussion groups, hallway conversations, etc.) interaction between peers (i.e., among students in a given program) access to information and instructional resources (such as libraries, laboratories, and research facilities) exposure to and socialization in the field of study, including but not limited to seminar series, workshops, research exhibitions, discussions with professional peers, informal departmental activities, and other shared experiences ready access to suitable academic advising and support services contribution of graduate students to the degree program, the college, and the University, particularly with respect to the research and scholarship of the institution as a research-intensive university identification with Penn State. While remote completion of doctoral programs is at times possible, it is reserved for students after they have passed their comprehensive exams whom require specialized resources only available at off campus locations. The academic goal of the Penn State Doctoral Residency Requirement Policy is for students to be “immersed in the scholarly life of their disciplinary community”. For details, see the Graduate School Research Doctoral Degree (PhD) Residency Requirement.
  • Students in the DrPH Program pay the standard Penn State graduate student tuition. In addition, most students apply for federal financial aid. See other external sources of funding.
  • As part of receiving a stipend, students are expected to work for their Public Health Program-assigned Mentor for 20 hours per week. The Mentor must be a member of the Penn State Graduate Faculty. Students will be assigned to one or more faculty members to support the research and teaching missions of the department. This could, for example, include working as a research assistant in a faculty member’s lab for a few months, followed by serving as a teaching assistant for a course, followed by working on a collaborative grant. During this time, students also are encouraged to discuss areas of research interest with their various faculty mentors and course instructors.
  • It is not in the best interest of a graduate student on an assistantship to exceed 40 hours of work per week. Please see the Graduate School Graduate Assistant Fact Sheet, as well as the current NIH policy that informs Penn State’s stance on this issue.
  • Circumstances occasionally occur that prevent graduate assistants from performing the duties of their appointment. Find more information on graduate assistant leave policies.
    Please see here for policies related to graduate assistant performance and remediation.
Transfer Credits Expand answer

A maximum of 10 credits of high-quality graduate work done at a regionally accredited U.S. institution or an officially recognized degree-granting international institution may be applied toward the requirements for a master’s or doctoral degree. However, credits earned to complete a previous master’s degree, whether at Penn State or elsewhere, may not be applied to a second master’s or doctoral degree at Penn State.

Approval to apply any transferred credits toward a degree program must be granted by the student’s academic adviser, the program head or graduate officer, and the Graduate School. See more information through The Graduate School.

Non-Degree Students and Credit Transfer Expand answer

Students wanting to take courses within the DrPH Program as a non-degree student must seek permission to do so from the Program Director. Prior to approval, a student must submit a CV, GRE Scores and all prior academic transcripts to the DRPH Director of Admissions for review.

If approved, a student must then register as a non-degree student and seek course selection advisement from a DrPH Administrative Adviser. Please note that non-degree student status approval by the DrPH Program does not guarantee admission into the DrPH Program.

Approval to apply non-degree and certificate graduate credits toward a degree program must be granted by the student’s academic adviser, the program head or graduate officer, and the Graduate School. A maximum of 15 credits earned as a non-degree student or as a certificate student prior to being accepted into a degree program may be applied to a degree program. See details through The Graduate School.

DrPH Portfolio

Overview Expand answer

Development of students’ online DrPH Portfolio will begin on the first day of the program and will be built upon with every course, semester, and academic milestone students accomplish in the program.

The DrPH Portfolio is intended to:

  • provide a platform in which students may showcase their work using images and interactive content in unique ways that standard resumes and curriculum vitae do not allow
  • give students tools to promote their professional career both inside and outside of Penn State
  • provide evidence that DrPH competency goals are met as part of the Qualifying Examination, Integrative Doctoral Proposal Defenses, and Integrative Doctoral Research Final Defense

Students should exhibit professionalism and keep their DrPH portfolio up to date. Students will also be asked to provide important feedback on ways they think the DrPH Portfolio system may be improved in the future.

Portfolio development will include the following pieces:

  • Development of personal/professional profile
  • Development of work philosophy or mission statement and career goals
  • Contributions to research and manuscript development
  • Contributions to the community and service
  • Teaching experiences
  • Reflections on integration of research, teaching, and community service in relation to manuscript development
  • Reflections on translation of research into practice
  • Development of resume/CV
  • Identification of references
  • Inclusion of artifacts pertaining to formal and informal education and training
  • Inclusion of artifacts pertaining to data collection and analysis, communication, systems thinking, leadership, critical thinking, problem solving and manuscript development
  • Reflection on in-class and out-of-class experiences
  • Other demonstration of students’ broad public health knowledge, specialized knowledge, translation of this knowledge into evidence-based public health practice, and leadership style
Portfolio Review Criteria Expand answer

The Portfolio is reviewed against the competencies at three levels: understanding, application, and synthesis, based generally on Bloom’s taxonomy for competency based learning.

  • Knowledge and Understanding gained through: (a) successful completion of coursework or formal trainings, and (b) exposure through active participation in work related activities, conferences, or volunteer work.
  • Application demonstrated through: (a) direct application of concepts/tools in a practice setting; (b) use of concepts or tools in analysis or evaluation of a practice example, e.g. serving as a reviewer on a grant proposal review committee, and; (c) making a presentation at a professional conference.
  • Synthesis demonstrated through the integrated use of concepts to: (a) create an original application model, tool or approach; (b) contribute to the evidence base of public health practice; or (c) appraise or critically review methods, practices, or paradigms in the field (e.g. serve as a lead instructor for a graduate level course on the subject matter).
  • At the end of each semester students must upload artifacts demonstrating mastery of the competencies covered in their coursework for that semester. Students will have 10 days after the end of each semester in which to upload these artifacts.
  • The Portfolio is reviewed at the end of each semester by the student’s administrative adviser and at each DrPH milestone to ensure mastery of required competencies for that semester.
  • If the student fails to demonstrate mastery for one or more competencies, the student and the administrative adviser will work together to create a plan to improve the student’s master of the competencies that need attention.
  • An up-to-date portfolio is also required to complete each DrPH milestone. Incomplete portfolios can delay enrollment in these courses.

Advanced Field Experience

Overview Expand answer

Advanced Field Experience (AFE) – PHS 895B (Domestic) or D (International)

The Advanced Field Experience provides students with a unique opportunity to gain professional leadership experience by applying knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-world public health settings and public health issues.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the public health program accrediting agency, requires that each DrPH student be able to demonstrate the DrPH competencies through an advanced field experience. The professional development of a DrPH student is central to the academic experience. The structured involvement of the DrPH students in the community facilitates relevant, actionable translational research and is one differentiating feature of the DrPH from the PhD programs.

The Advanced Field Experience provides the opportunity for students to take on a significant professional challenge, to broaden their leadership perspective and to explore research and career interests. The Advanced Field Experience site preceptor will be an experienced public health professional with expertise in the assigned project areas, experience and status within the organization, and an interest and competence in supervising and mentoring. Practical knowledge and skills are essential to successful practice as public health professionals. Students will have the opportunity to develop and strengthen skills in public health concepts and demonstrate the application of these concepts through an AFE that is relevant to their area of concentration.

The AFE is intended to build upon both prior practice experience and the content of the DrPH Curriculum. It will incorporate higher level skills (policy development, epidemiologic analyses, program management, evaluation, teaching, etc.) compared with the MPH practicum experiences, although the settings may be similar. The principal objective of the AFE is to bridge the academic environment and the field of practice for the student. This objective is achieved by placing the student in a practice environment where he or she has the opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills developed during the initial course of study to produce advanced level academic project work. The student’s AFE allows him/her to observe and participate in a public health environment and to gain a better understanding of what to expect and what is expected of him/her after graduation. In addition, AFE activities and assignments are designed to meet individualized learning goals and skills, and to evaluate progress toward those competencies.

The AFE will be evaluated on an ongoing basis with the DrPH student, site preceptor, and/or faculty member involved in the process.

The AFE is designed to provide doctoral-level field experience. All DrPH students are required to complete 3 credits of an AFE in a public health practice setting. Students are also required to complete an additional 3 credits in an AFE that may include teaching, research and/or service. Students can work on the six required credits incrementally.

  • AFE in public health practice (3 credits)
  • AFE to include education, research and/or service (3 credits)

Before enrolling in AFE, students are required to:

  1. Complete 20 hours of practice-based activities. Practice-based activities can include community-based volunteer opportunities, PSU COM career development training events, PHASE events, or other activities as approved by the Public Health Program. This should be documented in the DrPH Portfolio.
  2. Update their DrPH Portfolio
  3. Complete a Pre-Planning Form. Once completed, send the form to your Administrative Advisor and schedule a meeting to discuss potential AFE sites with the AFE Course Director.

After a potential site is selected, the student will complete the Memorandum of Understanding and Statement of Expectations (See Appendix C). These documents will outline experiences for each student during the AFE, as well as specific academic and professional expectations for both student and site preceptor. Further, these forms summarize particular tasks and job responsibilities to be performed by the student and supervised by the site preceptor. Approved AFE responsibilities are crafted to meet individualized student goals and skills based on their future career or curriculum track. Progress towards these goals will be evaluated at the mid- point and conclusion of the AFE by the student, the site preceptor, and DrPH Associate Director.

Academic work required for the course will be focused on fostering the connection between prior coursework and professional growth and includes assignments such as site-specific research projects, reflective field journals, preparation of scholarly articles, curriculum development, and teaching, among others. Other forms may be required during the AFE as recommended by the AFE course director. Students may choose to pursue a community-service project similar to the AFE in Public Health Practice with the approval of their academic advisor and DrPH Program Director. Assignments completed during the AFE are expected to be incorporated in the DrPH Portfolio.

The AFE provides students with important experience to gain professional experience and to lead their Integrative Doctoral Research (IDR) project to real-world public health issues. The AFE is critical to students’ academic and professional development and their ability to become competent in the practice of public health.

Students complete their AFE experiences at AFE Sites (e.g., public health agencies, organizations, institutions) and work on substantive projects that (1) contribute to their growth as future public health professionals and (2) help advance the mission of the sites at which they are placed. A student completes a minimum of 135 hours for every three semester credit hours at the AFE site. The AFE is for academic credit. However, an AFE site may choose to offer a stipend. The possibility of monetary compensation is to be negotiated directly between the student and AFE site. The Penn State DrPH program is not involved in salary negotiations. Graduate Assistants and international students are limited to working 20 hours/week; special procedures may be required by the Graduate School and/or the Directorate of International Student and Scholar Advising (DISSA) for variations in AFE work schedules, stipends or location.

Students should identify AFE Sites based on their respective academic and professional interests and goals. At each AFE Site, students report to an on-site preceptor. The preceptor supervises the student’s AFE experience, monitors student progress and performance, and serves as the student’s primary point of contact at the AFE site. AFE sites, preceptors, and students are supported by the Advanced Field Experience course director who oversees the AFE requirements and serves as a contact for AFE sites, preceptors, and students’ DrPH program academic advisor.

The AFE organizations that participate in this program have the opportunity to observe and evaluate potential recruits, to expand particular programs and services, to provide better or additional services to their clientele, or to complete special projects or educational programs. They also provide input to the Penn State DRPH program on issues from curriculum relevancy to professional needs and concerns.

Note: Graduate students who have already secured and plan to complete an internship/ teaching experience must submit the required Career Services Internship/Teaching Consent Form and attachments online by the deadlines specified below.

  • Summer experience: May 1 deadline
  • Fall experience: July 1 deadline
  • Spring experience: Nov. 1 deadline

Definition of roles

  • AFE Site: The public health agency, organization, or institution at which the Penn State DrPH student completes the AFE experience.
  • Preceptor: A staff member, employed by the AFE Site, who supervises and mentors the Penn State DrPH student on site during the AFE experience.
  • AFE Director: The course director of PHS 89B or D, the Penn State DrPH program representative who oversees the DrPH program’s AFE requirement.
Competencies for Advanced Field Experience Expand answer

For the Pre-Planning Form and the Advanced Field Experience Memorandum of Understanding, please see the AFE Director. Below is a list of core specific competencies that all students will achieve during their Advanced Field Experience. In addition to the core specific competencies, students may be expected to meet specific competencies for their track. A minimum of five competencies must be met and may include both core and track competencies.

Site Expectations Expand answer

The Advanced Field Experience Site will:

  • Identify an individual to serve as Preceptor to supervise the student’s Advanced Field Experience. The Preceptor will be a faculty or staff member who is in a leadership role and can commit sufficient time to student supervision.
  • Provide the student with resources that are necessary to successfully meet the requirements of the Advanced Field Experience. Resources may include, but are not limited to, work space, office supplies, and use of a computer and telephone on site.
  • Orient the student to workplace policies, culture, and etiquette (e.g., dress code, general standards of professionalism and ethics), and enforce policies as needed.
  • Report any concerns regarding student attendance, performance, or behavior to the Preceptor and the Penn State Director of Public Health Practice.
  • Reserve the right to terminate an AFE experience based on student discrimination and/or ethical issues experienced at the site.

The Preceptor will:

  • Supervise the student’s Practicum experience (135 hours), monitor student progress, and serve as the student’s primary point of contact at the Practicum Site.
  • Work with the student at the start of the Advanced Field Experience to establish a weekly work schedule and to develop a specific project with defined goals, objectives, deliverables, and timelines for completion.
  • Meet with the student in person at regular intervals (bi-weekly, at a minimum) to review student progress, provide guidance, answer questions, and communicate expectations.
  • Submit a mid-term and final evaluation of the student’s performance to the Penn State DrPH Program Practicum Director.
  • Submit a mid-term and final evaluation of the student’s performance to the Penn State DrPH Program Director of Public Health Practice.
  • Enforce workplace policies as needed.
  • Report any concerns regarding student attendance, performance, or behavior to the Penn State DrPH Director of Public Health Practice.
  • Determine if the student will be covered under the site’s liability insurance or if the student will be required to purchase liability insurance.

The Penn State DrPH Student will:

  • Complete 20 hours of practice-based activities prior to enrolling in the Advanced Field Experience course. Activities can include community-based volunteer opportunities, PSU
    COM career development training events, PHASE events, or other activities as approved by the Public Health Program (must be documented in DrPH portfolio).
  • Identify potential Advanced Field Experience and Site Preceptor based on their career goals, research experience, specialization, and areas of interest.
  • Work with their Site Preceptor and Director of Public Health Practice to determine the scope and deliverables of the AFE. Students should produce an outline highlighting which core and track specific competencies will be met, project deliverables, and a Learning Plan.
  • Complete the Advanced Field Experience Pre-Planning Form.
  • Complete the Advanced Field Experience Memorandum of Understanding and obtain signatures from the Site Preceptor, the Director of Public Health Practice, and the Academic Advisor.
  • Complete all other course deliverables required as outlined in the PHS 895B syllabus.
  • Complete the CITI training for human subjects’ protection or update existing certification. This is required of all Penn State DrPH students in the first academic year.
  • Apply to the Penn State Hershey Institutional Review Board (IRB) if determined necessary by the Penn State DrPH Program Director and the AFE Site Preceptor.
  • Confirm with AFE Preceptor if the site provides liability insurance; consider purchasing liability insurance if insurance is not provided by the site.
  • Review and adhere to the Advanced Field Experience Statement of Expectations.
  • Accept and act in accordance with the direction provided by the preceptor, practice professional workplace behavior, and maintain confidentiality.
  • Meet regularly with the Site Preceptor to discuss their progress during the AFE.
  • Maintain a work schedule agreed upon with the preceptor, and inform the Site Preceptor of any anticipated absences or delays in arrival times.
  • Report any absences longer than 2 days to the Director of Public Health Practice.
  • Complete the mid and end of AFE self-evaluations.

The Penn State Advanced Field Experience Director will:

  • Work with the Preceptor to identify Advanced Field Experience projects that are useful to the Advanced Field Experience Site and feasible for DrPH students.
  • Provide the Preceptor with an Advanced Field Experience Preceptor Handbook before the Advanced Field Experience begins. The handbook outlines Penn State DrPH Program policies and procedures related to the Advanced Field Experience requirement, as well as resources needed for student supervision.
  • Communicate to the student, prior to the start of the Advanced Field Experience, Penn State DrPH Program expectations of student attendance, performance, and behavior during the Advanced Field Experience.
  • Conduct one meeting with the Preceptor and the student at the Advanced Field Experience Site prior to the completion of the Advanced Field Experience.
  • Actively address Advanced Field Experience Site, Preceptor and/or student concerns about the Advanced Field Experience.

DrPH Program Progression

Milestones and Intermediate Steps Overview Expand answer

The DrPH degree is designed to be completed in four years by students pursuing full-time studies. However, actual length of time to complete the degree varies depending on the individual student’s time and effort. The DrPH degree consists of three phases involving core course work, course work related to an area of specialization, the DrPH Portfolio, Advanced Field Experience, qualifying and comprehensive examinations, and the writing of two manuscripts that fulfill the Integrative Doctoral Research Requirements.

Develop a DrPH Program Plan Expand answer

Timeframe

Within the first semester (Fall Year 1)
*Should be occurring simultaneously to Academic Advisor Selection.

Purpose

Prior to the first semester, students are assigned an Administrative Advisor. Administrative advisors are designated Penn State DrPH Program Executive Committee faculty members. Students meet with the administrative advisor within their first semester or before in order to complete the DrPH Plan of Study form and file it with the DrPH Program (See Appendix A).

Administrative Advisors serve as a liaison between the student, other faculty, and the administration. As part of the leadership skills required as part of the DrPH degree, DrPH students must develop advanced competencies in clear communication and problem solving (please review DrPH Program Competencies on page 34-35). As such, if problems arise, DrPH students will be expected to investigate and identify what they see as the possible ways to address the problem and presenting these solutions to the Administrative Advisor in order to receive further guidance. Demonstrating leadership skills both in and out of the classroom is of key importance for DrPH students. DrPH students are responsible for maintaining and following their own Plan of Study on file and completing amendments to this plan in consultation with their Administrative and Academic Advisors. Students must have their Administrative Advisor approve their program plan twice each academic year.

Select Academic Advisor Expand answer

Timeframe

Within the first semester (Fall Year 1)

*Should be occurring simultaneously to Program Plan development.

Purpose

Within the first semester, students will identify and be matched with an academic advisor, with assistance of the administrative advisor. Ideally, this faculty member’s research expertise should be in alignment with the student’s research focus area and will be willing to serve as the IDR Committee Chair. Prior to applying to the program, students are strongly encouraged to identify faculty that they are interested to work with. In most cases, the IDR Chair must be a member of the DrPH Program Faculty and a Graduate Faculty member.

The role of the IDR Chair is to mentor students in academic, research and career choices. In partnership with the DrPH Program Director, the IDR Chair will assist the student in completing their DrPH Program Plan within the first semester of courses. The IDR Chair may also choose to serve as the course director for PHS 896 Individual Studies in which the IDR Chair assists the student with preparatory materials for the DrPH Comprehensive Exam. In partnership with the DrPH Director of Public Health Practice, the IDR Chair may also help students identify an Advanced Field Experience location(s) which will ideally position the student well to complete their IDR project. The IDR Chair will help the student identify other faculty members to serve on of the IDR Committee.

DrPH students should distinguish themselves by setting clear goals and timelines with their IDR Committee Chair at every meeting. For the Advanced Field Experience, DrPH Portfolio, and two required manuscripts, DrPH students are expected to set their own timelines, with clearly stated goals at each time period. The IDR Committee Chair provides guidance and approves the final project timeline. However, students should demonstrate that they can direct and manage their own projects efficiently and on time. The IDR Chair is not responsible to set up the IDR Committee—this is an important aspect of leadership and DrPH students must communicate with potential faculty and complete these kinds of tasks on their own.

Action Items

  • Student
    1. Review Penn State Graduate faculty and compile a list of potential Academic Advisors. You should consider the faculty member’s research interests and their location. You should select a faculty member from the Hershey Campus that has a primary appointment in Public Health Sciences.
    2. Schedule a meeting with your Administrative Advisor to review the list of potential Academic Advisors. The Administrative Advisor will help you to negotiate the process of selecting an Academic Advisor.
    3. Once you have an Academic Advisor, please complete the DrPH Student and Advisor Agreement (Appendix B). Submit this form to the DrPH Program Staff and your Administrative Advisor.
  • Administrative Advisor
    1. Meet with the student to help them negotiate the process of selecting an Academic Advisor.
  • Academic Advisor
    1. Please complete the DrPH Student and Advisor Compact (Appendix B) with your student.
  • DrPH Program Staff
    1. Retain a copy of the Student and Advisor Compact.

Qualifying Exam

Overview Expand answer

Timeframe

Full-time and part-time students are expected to take the qualifying examination after completion of 15 credits (or 25% of the required credits). For full-time students, exams will occur the end of Spring 1. For part-time students, exams will occur end of Fall 2.

Students may be terminated from the program if they do not take the Qualifying Examination in the correct timeframe. Students who are terminated for not taking the qualifying examination within the allotted time period will be treated as new applicants, should they desire reinstatement.

Note: Students should be aware that the qualifying examination constitutes a second doctoral admissions process.

Eligibility

To be eligible to take the Qualifying Examination, the student must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 at the time the examination is given for graduate work done at Penn State,
  2. Have no deferred or missing grades, and
  3. Have completed the following courses: PHS 575, PHS 576, and PHS 577

Purpose

The qualifying examination includes two parts: (1) a written exam and preparation of prospectus materials; and (2) oral defense of the written closed-book exam, prospectus materials, and the DrPH Portfolio with the Qualifying Examination Committee. The Qualifying Examination Committee is comprised of at least two DrPH faculty members in the Public Health Program. One of the faculty members is the student’s academic advisor.

The qualifying examination has four purposes. One is to determine the “fit” between the student’s academic and professional aspirations and what the program offers. The evaluation provides an opportunity to discuss the student’s goals and progress and to determine if the Doctor of Public Health Program has the faculty and resources to meet the student’s educational objectives. The second purpose of the qualifying examination is to assess the student’s abilities in areas critical to completion of the dissertation process, including skills of writing, critical thinking, and research. A third purpose is to make recommendations concerning advancement to comprehensive exam in the program and of courses to take to remedy any deficiencies. Finally, the qualifying examination allows opportunity to discuss and make recommendations concerning formation of the student’s Doctoral Committee and potential topics for IDR requirements.

Decision (Pass/Fail)

The Committee asks key questions regarding the student’s presentation and then decides whether the student exhibits sufficient skills needed to continue in the program. The Qualifying Examination Committee Chair summarizes the comments from the Committee and provides a brief summary of comments and the committee’s decision to the student during the Oral Qualifying Examination Defense. A written summary of the Committee’s review and assessment will be completed and given to the student after the Oral Qualifying Examination Defense.

After the oral portion of the qualifying examination, the Qualifying Examination Committee will make one of the following decisions by a majority pass/fail vote by completing the Report on Qualifying Examination Form (Completed by the Program Director). If a majority of the committee is unable to reach a decision, the Vice Dean of Education will cast the deciding vote.

  1. Admit student to candidacy for the DrPH degree. Successful completion of the qualifying examination represents full admission into the program and the student will be officially recognized as a doctoral candidate. From that point on, the student will take the coursework outlined in the plan of studies, as amended by the program committee in light of the proposed research. Doctoral candidates should remember this date; this is the point at which the “clock starts ticking” for the eight year time limitation to complete the degree. Extensions are possible but rare. (See below and page 68 for the program’s Reinstatement and Extension of Time-to-Degree policies).
  2. Not admit student to candidacy. If this option is selected, students will have one opportunity to re-take the exam after a remedial period. For students not admitted to candidacy upon retry, alternative steps that may help the student achieve her/his academic and professional goals will be discussed prior to adjournment.
Prospectus Materials Expand answer

Your prospectus materials should contain the following:

  1. A cover sheet with name; date, time, and place of the qualifying examination; degree being sought (DrPH); the names of the members of the Qualifying Examination Committee; and link to DrPH Portfolio
  2. A brief report (2-3 typewritten, double-spaced pages) of progress to this point and plans for completing the program
  3. A copy of two term papers (at least one from a DrPH course)
  4. A current transcript (obtainable from the program staff assistant)
  5. A copy of the current Program Plan (see Appendix B) and an anticipated schedule for completion of the comprehensive exam and IDR requirements
  6. A short prospectus of initial ideas for a doctoral research idea (5-7 typed, double-spaced pages) that includes:
    • A statement of the proposed topic area
    • A statement of how this research topic is significant to the field of public health
    • An indication of the areas of literature the student plans to review (include key references)
    • An attached bibliography of literature examined to date
    • A discussion of proposed research methods
    • An explanation of how the plan of studies will assist in the accomplishment of proposed research

The prospectus should be well written, coherent, and should demonstrate a logical rationale for the topic area. Writing the prospectus and meeting with the faculty provides the student an opportunity to focus coursework on an area of research.

Written and Oral Qualifying Exam Guide Expand answer

Written Exam

For the written portion of the exam, student’s knowledge of topics from courses PHS 575, PHS 576, and PHS 577 will be assessed. Student’s will be asked to utilize the information learned in these courses to answer questions about leadership, social determinants of health, and policy and how they relate to public health problems and interventions.

The exam is set-up as a series of short-answer questions. On the day of the exam, students will be provided with the exam questions be expected to complete the written examination within four hours, which will be held in a designated room and attended by a proctor.

Students will have access to a computer for the exam, but students will not have access to the internet or any notes. Students will be monitored by a proctor or proctoring service to ensure integrity.

To prepare for the exam, students should review major topics covered in the core courses.

Oral Qualifying Exam Defense

Following completion of the written exam, the Qualifying Examination Committee reviews and critiques the written qualifying examination responses, the prospectus materials and the DrPH Portfolio prior to the oral defense. The Oral Qualifying Examination Defense is scheduled within two weeks of the written exam, and lasts 1.5 hours.

The agenda for this meeting is as follows. Students are required to prepare a presentation that addresses the major components of the exam and other materials. As indicated, English competency will also be addressed at the oral exam.

Oral Qualifying Exam Defense Sample Agenda

  1. 15 Minutes Competencies and Portfolio Defense
    • Please choose 5 competencies to highlight – include some that you have mastered (excel) and some that you feel need further development.
    • Please plan to have your portfolio available during the presentation to present our competency table and associated evidences from courses. Primarily, only core course deliverables can be used to meet core competencies; however, other coursework (i.e., AFE, etc.) can be referenced in the chart as a secondary evidence for a core competency.
  2. 45 Minutes Qualifying Exam Defense (including 30 minutes for committee questions)
    • Plan to highlight your response to each question of the written exam (15 minutes).
  3. 15 Minutes Prospectus Defense
    • Please review the major parts of your prospectus in your presentation as per the handbook.
  4. 15 Minutes Committee Ranking Form and Deliberation (student waits outside)
  5. Conclusion Committee Decision and Discussion with Student
Integrative Doctoral Research (IDR) Committee Formation Expand answer

In the second phase of the doctoral process, the student conducts an in-depth exploration of her/his chosen area of study or practice. During this phase, the student (with assistance from the IDR Committee) sharpens the subject and focus of the research undertaking, and develops theoretical frameworks/perspectives, and research methods and techniques suitable for studying a wide range of problems associated with her/his area of specialization. This is a highly individualized phase; with students pursuing interests that are representative of the faculty’s expertise and of the broader field of Public Health. Students engage in various sequences of advanced courses and seminars, independent study, advanced field experiences, internships, and related research activities. This phase begins with the formation of the IDR Committee and culminates with a comprehensive examination. The term integrative is used to reflect the fact that students are required not only to defend their final research project, but also to defend their competencies achieved throughout the program.

Integrative Doctoral Research Advisor

The doctoral student must designate an IDR advisor. Quite often the doctoral committee chair or co- chairs also serve as the IDR advisor(s). However, the advisor may be someone different from the committee chair. The IDR advisor directs the student’s research. As such, s/he must specialize in the area of the chosen research problem. The IDR advisor may be a member of the Public Health Program/Public Health Sciences or a faculty from another program.

Doctoral Committee Expand answer

Responsibilities and composition

Prior to passing the qualifying examination, the doctoral degree is directed largely by one’s academic advisor. Beyond the qualifying examination, the DrPH experience is directed by the IDR Committee selected by the student. This constitutes a major shift in orientation—requiring the student to consult regularly with at least three faculty advisors instead of one. The IDR Committee approves the graduate study plan, periodically reviews academic progress, advises the student on her/his area of specialization, guides the student’s IDR and DrPH portfolio, prepares and administers the comprehensive and final oral examinations (the IDR defense), and evaluates the student’s IDR and DrPH portfolio. Continuing communication between the student and her/his IDR Committee members is strongly recommended to preclude misunderstandings and to develop a collegial relationship.

According to Graduate School policy, the Doctoral Committee must consist of four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty, which includes at least two faculty members from the student’s major field. The Doctoral Committee is comprised of at least four Graduate Faculty members:

  • Two members from the Public Health Program/Public Health Sciences;
  • One member from outside the Department (“Outside Field Member”); and
  • A fourth member from outside of the IDR Committee Chair’s administrative unit (“Outside Unit member”).
  • In some cases, an individual may have a primary appointment outside the administrative home of the student’s dissertation adviser and also represent a field outside the student’s major field of study; in such cases, the same individual may serve as both the Outside Field Member and the Outside Unit Member.

Establishing the Doctoral Committee

The student should carefully select the Doctoral Committee soon after passing the qualifying examination. In the letter notifying the student that the qualifying examination has been successfully passed, s/he will be reminded to formulate a Doctoral Committee as soon as possible.

Committee members should bring different but complementary strengths. The student should choose individuals who can provide expertise in the chosen area(s) of specialization, the general field of public health, and the research methods specific to the IDR.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the Doctoral Committee is established as early as possible. The doctoral candidate is expected to establish her/his committee within 12 months of passing the qualifying examination, though it is preferred that committee formation occur shortly after passing the qualifying examination.

Committee Chair

The academic advisor serves as the Doctoral Committee chair or co-chair. Immediately after passing the qualifying examination, the student and academic advisor should discuss whether s/he would remain in that role, and hence assume the role of committee chair. If a change of advisor is desired, the guidelines outlined below must be followed. Once the student has designated a committee chair, s/he must begin working with the chair to select the other committee members. Co-chairs may be appointed. Therefore an outside department member with Graduate Faculty status could serve as an “outside member” or co-chair IF the other co- chair is part of Public Health Sciences. Someone external of PSU could be a fifth member of a committee (special committee member below), but could not serve as chair or co-chair. Chairs/Co-chairs MUST have Penn State Graduate Faculty status.

The committee chair or at least one co-chair must be a member of the Public Health Program/Public Health Sciences. A retired or emeritus faculty member may chair a doctoral committee if s/he began chairing the committee prior to retirement and has the continuing approval of the Program Director. The primary duties of the chair are:

  1. to maintain the academic standards of the Public Health Program and the Graduate School,
  2. to conduct an annual review of the doctoral student’s progress,
  3. to ensure that the comprehensive and final examinations are conducted in a timely fashion,
  4. to arrange and conduct all Doctoral Committee meetings, and
  5. to ensure that requirements set forth by the committee are implemented in the final version of the IDR.

The conditions outlined above do not preclude other members of the Graduate Faculty from serving on the committee, and potentially in dual roles, for example, as co-chair.

Special Committee Members

A doctoral student may add to her/his committee a person not affiliated with Penn State who has particular expertise in that student’s research and/or practice area — upon the recommendation of the Program Director and approval of the graduate dean (via the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services). A special member is expected to participate fully in the functions of the Doctoral Committee. If the special member is asked only to read and approve the IDR, that person is designated a special signatory of the IDR.

Graduate School Approval

Once the student has selected her/his committee and has gained the commitment of each member, s/he should complete a Committee Appointment Signature Form (Appendix G). To obtain the form and to get assistance completing it, the student should contact the program staff assistant. After completing and signing the form, it must be submitted to the public health program staff assistant who will forward the form to the appropriate coordinator in Graduate Enrollment Services at University Park. The student will be notified in writing when approval is complete.

Replacing Committee Members

A student has the right to replace any and all members of her/his Doctoral Committee. To make changes to the committee, the student must complete a new Committee Appointment Signature Form, have it signed by the new committee member(s), and submit it to the program staff assistant who will forward it to Graduate Enrollment Services at University Park. Either the student or the incumbent (committee member) may suggest a replacement. Common courtesy dictates that whoever decides that a replacement is in order informs the other prior to making the switch. The student must consult with her/his committee chair before replacing a committee member.

It is the responsibility of the Program Director to periodically review the membership of Doctoral Committees to ensure that its members continue to qualify for service on the Committee in their designated roles. For example, if budgetary appointments, employment at the University, etc., have changed since initial appointment to the committee, changes to the committee membership may be necessary. If changes are warranted, they should be made as soon as possible to prevent future problems that may delay academic progress for the student (e.g., ability to conduct the comprehensive or final examinations).

Reinstatements and Extensions Expand answer

Applicants to the DrPH program must take the qualifying examination after completion of all prerequisites and required core courses.

Full-time students are expected to take the qualifying examination within 18 months of enrollment. Full-time students who have not taken the qualifying examination within 18 months from their first day of enrollment in classes may be terminated from the program.

Part-time students are expected to complete the qualifying examination within 36 months from their first day of enrollment in classes as regular students. Part-time students who have not taken the qualifying examination within 36 months from their first day of enrollment in classes as regular students may be terminated from the program.

Students who are terminated for not taking the qualifying examination within the allotted time period will be treated as new applicants, should they desire reinstatement.

Comprehensive Exam

Overview Expand answer

Additional policies and procedures are found in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin.

Purpose

The doctoral comprehensive examination is a single examination consisting of integrated written and oral portions. The comprehensive exam may not be taken within the same semester as the qualifying examination. Timing of comprehensive exams are determined via consultation with the DrPH program faculty and/or DrPH Program Director. The purpose of the examination is to assess students on the following areas:

  • Knowledge of foundational issues that transect the broad field of public health. This purpose includes students’ recognition of important questions and issues, as well as their resourcefulness, judgment and understanding regarding information acquisition, integration, and synthesis within the field.
  • Mastery of an area of specialization within, or complementary to, the field of public health.
  • Student’s readiness for the research phase, including their knowledge of research methods appropriate to their particular area(s) of specialization.

Timeframe

After completion of all core coursework (Typically Fall 2)

Eligibility

To be eligible to take the examination, the student must meet the following criteria:

  1. Complete all core courses, and other requirements as determined by the student’s IDR Committee including any pre-requisite work;
  2. Have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 at the time the examination is given, for graduate work done at Penn State;
  3. Must be registered for a least one credit during the semester that the comprehensive exam is taken;
  4. Have no deferred or missing grades;
  5. Satisfy the English Competence requirement; and
  6. Be registered as a full-time or part-time student for the semester in which the examination is taken. (See section below titled: “Procedures for Writing the Exam” for information regarding taking the exam during summer.)
  7. At this time, the student needs to provide the proposed IDR committee with documentation that all eligibility criteria for comprehensive exams have been met, which includes the list of all of the courses completed to date. All core and track course requirements must have been completed and students must provide documentation that all of the requirements have been met prior to setting a comprehensive exam date.
  8. Students must create a specific research aims page for their proposed IDR. The aims must be reviewed and approved by the student’s Academic Advisor prior to the pre- comps meeting.

Additional policies and procedures are found in the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin.

Purpose

The doctoral comprehensive examination is a single examination consisting of integrated written and oral portions. The purpose of the examination is to assess students on the following areas:

  1. Knowledge of foundational issues that transect the broad field of public health. This purpose includes students’ recognition of important questions and issues, as well as their resourcefulness, judgment and understanding regarding information acquisition, integration, and synthesis within the field;
  2. Ability to propose appropriate interventions/research plans given a topic including providing logical rationale, methodology, and evaluation;
  3. Student’s readiness for the research phase, including their knowledge of research methods

Decision: Pass/Fail

Immediately following the oral examination, the student is asked to leave the room and the IDR Committee meets to formally assess the student’s work—both written and oral portions—and a vote of (pass/fail) is cast. Faculty members will use a scoring rubric to determine their decision (pass/fail). A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing the comprehensive examination (3 out of 4 for a four- member committee; 4 out of 5 for a five-member committee; 4 out of 6 for a six- member committee, and so on). If a majority of the committee is unable to reach a decision, the Vice Dean of Education will cast the deciding vote. Members of the IDR Committee must also complete the Report on the Doctoral Comprehensive Exam. The IDR Committee Chair will invite the student back into the room and share the results with the student. The program staff assistant will communicate the results to the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services by submitting the Report on the Doctoral Comprehensive Exam form

If the student fails the examination, the IDR Committee determines whether another examination may be taken by a majority vote. In the event of a failure, three options are available:

  1. Retaking the entire examination the next semester
  2. Withdrawal from the program. If the decision is withdrawal from the program, alternative steps that may help the student achieve her/his academic and professional goals will be discussed prior to adjournment.

A student shall not be allowed more than one retake of the comprehensive exam.

Written and Oral Comprehensive Exam Guide Expand answer

Carefully select a Doctoral Committee soon after passing the qualifying evaluation. Details regarding the composition, roles, and responsibilities of the doctoral committee are described in other sections of this handbook. More information may also be obtained in the Graduate Degree Requirements section of the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, and in the Graduate School Committee Procedures.

Meet regularly with the committee chair and IDR adviser to discuss the process of the examination and to help clarify and develop chosen area(s) of specialization.

Tips on Preparing for the Exam

Review papers, readings and assignments from previous courses.

Also, review other pertinent literature and consult with the Doctoral Committee to help sharpen the subject and focus of the dissertation, and develop appropriate theoretical frameworks, perspectives, research methods and techniques suitable for studying a wide range of problems associated with chosen area(s) of specialization. This step may involve taking PHS 896 (Individual Studies) with a student’s academic adviser.

It typically takes students six months of intensive study, after completing core and track coursework, to adequately prepare for the comprehensive examination. Inquire about forming a study group with fellow students. This is often an effective way to share the workload and discuss key concepts from various perspectives.

The Written Exam

For the written portion of the exam, a topic for each student will be selected randomly by the DrPH Executive Committee from important public health issues.

Students will utilize the information covered in their core courses and lessons learned through their research experiences to 1) identify and assess the public health research problem; 2) propose a solution to the problem by developing an intervention and/or study design using a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods approach; 3) Address expected barriers and facilitators to the approach; 4) identify a evaluation plan for the solution; and 5) Discuss ongoing work and public health implications.

On the day of the exam, students will be provided with the exam questions and their topic. Students will be given 72 hours (3 days) to complete the exam.

Students may use their computers with internet access during the exam. Students may also bring any learning resources that may be helpful (e.g., textbooks, class notes, journal articles, etc.). The overall limit for the written exam is 10 – 15 double spaced pages, in 11-point Arial font, with ½ inch margins on each side. Students are required to list references in text using APA style; a bibliography is not necessary.

Oral Exam Defense

Following completion of the Written Exam, your IDR Committee reviews and critiques the written examination responses prior to the oral defense. The Oral Qualifying Examination Defense is scheduled within two weeks of the written exam, and lasts 1.5 hours.

The agenda for this meeting is as follows. Students are required to prepare a presentation that addresses the major components of the exam and other materials. As indicated, English competency will also be addressed at the oral exam.

Oral Qualifying Exam Defense Sample Agenda

  1. 15 Minutes Competencies Defense
    • Please choose 5 competencies to highlight – include some that you have mastered (excel) and some that you feel need further development.
    • Please plan to have your portfolio available during the presentation to present our competency table and associated evidences from courses. Primarily, only core course deliverables can be used to meet core competencies; however, other coursework (i.e., AFE, etc.) can be referenced in the chart as a secondary evidence for a core competency.
  2. 60 Minutes Qualifying Exam Defense (including 30 minutes for committee questions)
    • Please plan to highlight your approach in completing the necessary elements of your written exam. This should reflect the major sections of the exam questions.
  3. 15 Minutes Committee Ranking Form and Deliberation (student waits outside)
  4. Committee Decision and Discussion with Student
DrPH Program Extensions Expand answer

If Completed Qualifying Exam

PSU Graduate Bulletin reads: “A doctoral student is required to complete the program, including acceptance of the doctoral thesis, within eight years from the date of successful completion of the qualifying examination. Individual programs may set shorter time limits” (p. 46). Accordingly, the Penn State Public Health Program adopts the following procedures for doctoral enrollees who wish to be reinstated, who have not completed their degree within the eight-year limit.

  • The student completes and submits a Resume Study form, and includes a current CV with her/his application.
  • A team of two graduate faculty members, appointed by the DrPH Program Coordinator, reviews the student’s application.
  • After reviewing the application the faculty team may, at its discretion, schedule a consultation with the student to gather additional information.
  • Based on the information gathered the faculty team makes one of the following a recommendations:
    • Reinstate Unconditionally: The student is allowed to resume her/his study without having to take a second qualifying examination or to complete additional course work.
      Only students with exceptional scholarship, as demonstrated by publication record covering the previous 3 years, may be granted this option.
    • Reinstate Conditionally: The student is allowed to resume her/his study on one or more of the following conditions:
      • The student is required to pass a second qualifying examination,
      • The student is required to take additional course work, specified by the faculty team, and to maintain a 3.5 GPA in them.

If Completed Comprehensive Examination

PSU Graduate Bulletin reads: “When a period of more than six years has elapsed between the passing of the comprehensive examination and the completion of the program, the student is required to pass a second comprehensive examination before the final oral examination [IDR defense] will be scheduled” (p. 49).

Accordingly, the Penn State Public Health Program adopts the following procedures for doctoral candidates who wish to be reinstated, who have not completed their IDR defense within the six-year limit.

  • The student completes and submits a Resume Study form, and includes a current CV with her/his application.
  • A team of two faculty members, appointed by the DrPH Program Director, reviews the student’s application.
  • After reviewing the application the faculty team may, at its discretion, schedule a consultation with the student to gather additional information.
  • Based on the information gathered the faculty team makes one of the following a recommendations:
    • Reinstate Unconditionally: The student is allowed to resume her/his study without having to take a second comprehensive examination or to complete additional course work.
      • Only students with exceptional scholarship, as demonstrated by publication record covering the previous 3 years, may be granted this option.
    • Reinstate Conditionally: The student is allowed to resume her/his study on one or more of the following conditions:
      • The student is required to pass a second comprehensive examination,
      • The student is required to take additional course work, specified by the faculty team, and to maintain a 3.5 GPA in them.
Resume Study/Change of Graduate Degree or Major Policy Expand answer

Resume Study

Students in the DrPH Program at Penn State who wish to resume study must submit an application for permission to resume graduate study. Contact the Public Health Program staff assistant to have the necessary form completed.

Change of Degree or Major: Doctoral Degree Applicants

Students who are currently enrolled in a doctoral degree program at Penn State may apply to the DrPH Program by submitting an application packet which includes the following:

  • A completed “Resume Study/Change of Graduate Degree or Major” form, obtainable from the Public Health Program staff assistant
  • Transcripts
  • Test Scores
  • Writing Sample – such as a published article; master’s paper; master’s thesis; or a paper from your master studies – if submitting a paper from your master’s studies, this paper must be between 10-100 pages long
  • A statement of purpose describing the applicant’s short- and long-range career objectives. This statement includes an explanation of how the proposed study of adult education relates to the stated career objectives
  • Letters of recommendation – One of the letters must be from either your faculty adviser or faculty member from the program you are leaving, the other two letters may be from professional or academic references
  • A current vitae or resume

The application packet should be sent to:

DrPH Admissions Committee Chair
Penn State College of Medicine
Department of Public Health Sciences
90 Hope Drive, Suite 2200, A210
Hershey, PA 17033

Student Assessment Expand answer

Across the DrPH program, students’ mastery of the program’s competencies will be assessed. This assessment serves two purposes:

  • It helps students track their academic progress across the program.
  • It helps the DrPH program leadership determine the effectiveness of the DrPH program. The assessment includes three main components. Each component is described below.

At every milestone students defend academic knowledge and Penn State DrPH program competencies. The progress of each DrPH student will be reviewed annually by the program and the Graduate School. If it is determined that the student is not making satisfactory progress, then a plan of correction (learning contract action plan) may be required with specific timelines and deliverables. Failure to meet this commitment will cause the student’s record to be formally reviewed and a recommendation may be made by the Program Director for dismissal from the program.

Student self-assessment of mastery of core and track-specific competencies. The online Competency Defense Form will ask students to rate their level of proficiency regarding a list of core and track-specific competencies via an online process. Students will complete this self-assessment four times prior to graduation: at the times of students’ Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams, during students’ Proposal Defense, and during students’ Integrative Doctoral Research and Portfolio Defense.

Faculty Committee assessment of students’ mastery of core and track-specific competencies. The online Competency Defense Form will be completed by the Administrative Advisor four times prior to graduation: at the times of students’ Qualifying and Comprehensive Exams, during students’ Proposal Defense, and during students’ Integrative Doctoral Research and Portfolio Defense. . Faculty committee members will also assess a student’s mastery of core and track-specific competencies through milestone processes.

Assessment of student through the Advanced Field Experience. Preceptors will assess students on the competencies addressed through the AFE experience. Students will assess themselves on the same competencies.

All students are required to complete an online exit survey during their last semester prior to graduating assessing their experiences in the DrPH program.

Specific Aims Guidance Expand answer

Prior to completing Comprehensive Exams, students are required to draft Specific Aims for their proposed IDR topic.

The following should be included:

  1. An introductory paragraph explaining the big picture of the public health problem
  2. A statement of the hypothesis
  3. A description of the proposed studies and their aims, methodologies, and intended data analysis
  4. A description of how these studies address the public health problem

The Specific Aims should be limited to one page with ½ inch margins on all sides. Students should use size 11 or 12 font.

Additional guidance and examples can be found here.

Integrative Doctoral Research

Course Descriptions Expand answer

Integrative Doctoral Research I (PHS 896A)

Integrative Doctoral Research I is the first of two courses required for the integrative culminating experience for Doctor of Public Health students and is delivered on an individualized basis. DrPH students will be required to develop two major components for their DrPH integrative experience that are conceptually linked through production of two publishable-quality manuscripts.

With individualized guidance from their doctoral adviser and doctoral committee, students will develop two manuscripts that comprehensively address, generate, and/or interpret and evaluate knowledge applicable to public health practice. Manuscripts are encouraged to be of an applied nature and must demonstrate students’ abilities to conduct independent research on a contemporary public health issue. Students will demonstrate the application of advanced public health practice skills and knowledge in the design, analysis, interpretation of results, and the application of the new knowledge to advance public health practice.

This work should contribute to the evidence – base of public health practice, be of publishable quality, be linked to the doctoral portfolio contents, and demonstrate critical thinking and rigorous analytic strategies. Manuscripts will build upon work completed in PHS 892 Directed Studies in Public Health. Although not required, a strong student portfolio will link doctoral research to the previously required Advanced Field Experience.

Integrative Doctoral Research I will demonstrate the following competencies:

  • Data collection and analysis
  • Communication
  • Systems thinking
  • Leadership
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving

Written and oral presentation of this work will be required. Work completed in PHS 896A will be included in the Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal and Final Defense.

Integrative Doctoral Research II (PHS 896B)

Integrative Doctoral Research II is the second of two courses required for the culminating experience for Doctor of Public Health students and is delivered on an individualized basis. In addition to two publishable manuscripts, DrPH students will be required to complete the components of their DrPH portfolio.

With guidance from their IDR adviser and IDR committee, students will develop a doctoral portfolio that comprehensively addresses, generates, interprets and evaluates knowledge applicable to public health practice.

The portfolio will build upon work completed in PHS 892 Directed Studies in Public Health, prior coursework, the advanced field experience, and other related integrated doctoral research. Students will develop a doctoral portfolio throughout their program that will document how their advanced field experience and doctoral research has informed their leadership in advancing and integrating research into public health practice.

Components of the portfolio may include, but are not limited to:

  • Research (e.g., publications, conference presentations)
  • Teaching (academic and non-academic, community-based teaching)
  • Field and other service learning experiences

Portfolios will require reflection on in-class and out-of-class experiences and demonstrate students’ broad public health knowledge, specialized knowledge, translation of this knowledge into evidence-based public health practice, and leadership style. Work completed in PHS 896B will be included in the Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal and Final Defense. Students will be required to discuss and defend core and track competencies achieved through their courses, AFE and IDR.

Note: Both 896A and 896B can be repeated for up to 18 total research credits. Students needing to maintain a credit minimum or those needing more time to complete their research may use this option.

Doctoral Committee Expand answer

Committee Responsibilities and Composition

Prior to passing the qualifying examination, the doctoral degree is directed largely by one’s academic adviser. Beyond the qualifying examination, the DrPH experience is directed by the IDR Committee selected by the student. This constitutes a major shift in orientation—requiring the student to consult regularly with at least three faculty advisers instead of one. The IDR Committee approves the graduate study plan, periodically reviews academic progress, advises the student on their area of specialization, guides the student’s IDR and DrPH portfolio, prepares and administers the comprehensive and final oral examinations (the IDR defense), and evaluates the student’s IDR and DrPH portfolio. Continuing communication between the student and their IDR Committee members is strongly recommended to preclude misunderstandings and to develop a collegial relationship.

According to Graduate School policy (GCAC – 702), the doctoral committee must consist of at least three or more active members of the Graduate Faculty:

  • Committee chair/IDR advisor who is within the Graduate Program (primary appointment in Public Health Sciences)

    The academic (IDR) advisor serves as the doctoral committee chair or co-chair. Immediately after passing the qualifying examination, the student and academic advisor should discuss whether they would remain in that role, and hence assume the role of committee chair. Once the student has designated a committee chair, they must begin working with the chair to select the other committee members. Co-chairs may be appointed. Chairs/co-chairs MUST have Penn State graduate faculty status and must have a primary appointment in PHS.

    The primary duties of the chair are:
    (1)To maintain the academic standards of the Public Health Program and the Graduate School;
    (2) To conduct an annual review of the doctoral student’s progress;
    (3) To ensure that the comprehensive and final examinations are conducted in a timely fashion;
    (4) To arrange and conduct all doctoral committee meetings, and;
    (5) To ensure that requirements set forth by the committee are implemented in the final version of the IDR.

  • Two members from Penn State Graduate Faculty (appointment in any department)
  • Special member (if applicable)

    A doctoral student may add to their committee a person not affiliated with Penn State who has particular expertise in that student’s research and/or practice area – upon the recommendation of the program director and approval of the graduate dean (via the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services). A special member is expected to participate fully in the functions of the doctoral committee. If the special member is asked only to read and approve the IDR, that person is designated a special signatory of the IDR.

In some cases, an individual may have a primary appointment outside the administrative home of the student’s dissertation adviser and also represent a field outside the student’s major field of study; in such cases, the same individual may serve as both the Outside Field Member and the Outside Unit Member.

Establishing the Doctoral Committee

The student should carefully select the Doctoral Committee soon after passing the qualifying evaluation. In the letter notifying the student that the qualifying evaluation has been successfully passed, the student will be reminded to formulate a Doctoral Committee as soon as possible.

Committee members should bring different but complementary strengths. The student should choose individuals who can provide expertise in the chosen area(s) of specialization, the general field of public health, and the research methods specific to the IDR.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the Doctoral Committee is established as early as possible. The doctoral candidate is expected to establish their committee within 12 months of passing the qualifying evaluation.

Graduate School Approval

Once the student has selected the committee and has gained the commitment of each member, the student should complete a Committee Appointment Signature Form. To obtain the form and to get assistance completing it, the student should contact the program staff assistant. After completing and signing the form, it must be submitted to the public health program staff assistant who will forward the form to the appropriate coordinator in Graduate Enrollment Services at University Park. The student will be notified in writing when approval is complete.

Replacing Committee Members

A student has the right to replace any and all members of the Doctoral Committee. To make changes to the committee, the student must complete a new Committee Appointment Signature Form, which be obtained from the DrPH Program Staff. Students have the form signed by the new committee member(s), and submit it to the program staff assistant who will forward it to Graduate Enrollment Services at University Park. Either the student or the incumbent (committee member) may suggest a replacement. Common courtesy dictates that whoever decides that a replacement is in order informs the other prior to making the switch. The student must consult with the committee chair before replacing a committee member.

It is the responsibility of the Program Director to periodically review the membership of Doctoral Committees to ensure that its members continue to qualify for service on the committee in their designated roles. For example, if budgetary appointments, employment at the University, etc., have changed since initial appointment to the committee, changes to the committee membership may be necessary. If changes are warranted, they should be made as soon as possible to prevent future problems that may delay academic progress for the student (e.g., ability to conduct the comprehensive or final examinations).

More information may also be obtained in the Graduate Degree Requirements section of the Graduate Degree Programs Bulletin, and in the Graduate Student Committee Procedures.

Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal Expand answer

Developing the Proposal

Formal development of the IDR proposal typically runs simultaneously with preparation for the comprehensive examination. However, the informal process would have begun a year or so earlier when the student started preparing for the qualifying examination. To begin the formal process the student should review all relevant materials they have developed since the qualifying examination (e.g., prospectus, relevant course work and final papers, pertinent conference papers and journal articles authored by the student, and so on). Having conducted the review, the student should start drafting a detailed plan for the research.

This plan is typically reviewed by the IDR adviser several times before it goes to the other committee members.

Communication between the student and the Doctoral Committee members is strongly recommended at this stage and throughout the rest of the research process — to make optimal use of their expertise, to preclude any misunderstandings, and to develop a collegial relationship. The student should consult with their adviser before initiating communication with other committee members.

Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal

The IDR proposal reflects the results of the topic selection and development process described above and should contain the following elements:

  • A discussion of the specific problem or issue being investigated. This should include a clear statement of the problem, why it is important, and to whom.
  • Discussion of a conceptual framework and the relevant research and practice literature, and how that literature will be used within the conceptual framework to investigate the problem. Students should also describe how the proposed work fits in with the existing literature. Does it fill a gap, resolve a discrepancy, advance prior work, or open a new line of inquiry or area of practice?
  • Identification of the public policy/practice leadership issues associated with the subject and a preliminary assessment of how the dissertation work may contribute to resolving such issues.
  • Discussion of the methodology to be used. Students proposing the application of new analytical frameworks or methodologies to previously defined problems should identify alternative ways of approaching their topic and justify the approach they intend to use.
  • Identification of data or information needs, their sources, and methods of collection.
  • Selection of the final IDR product of two publishable papers.

Additionally, the proposal should identify potential obstacles or other issues pertinent to the investigation and how they will be resolved, and should also include a preliminary outline of the completed dissertation.

Sample outline

Note: This is a sample outline. Students should refer to the DrPH Student HUB for current guidelines.

  1. Background and Problem Statement
    1. Study Objectives: a high-level description of the broad issue the thesis will address and the study purpose and scope.
    2. Background and Context: background and contextual factors that will help frame the issue. These may be historical, legal/ethical, population need, political, service delivery, policy, and socio-economic dimensions that are relevant to understanding of issue.
    3. Problem Statement and Study Questions: a more detailed statement of the problem/issue including specific questions presenting research/program hypothesis and rationale.
    4. Leadership Implications and Relevance: factors that make this a leadership issue and the broader relevance for public health policy and practice. This is an important element that partially distinguishes the DrPH thesis from the PhD dissertation and therefore should be an integral part of the work, as opposed to a secondary consideration that gets addressed in a conclusion, as is often the case with traditional research topics.
  2. Conceptual and Analytical Framework
    1. Literature Review: what scholarly and practice literature is relevant to the issue, problem statement, and study questions? Include evaluation criteria for the literature review (i.e. Downs and Black).Developing a large part of the literature review is desirable to help focus the proposal.
    2. Conceptual/Theoretical Framework: How will the literature be used to operationalize the study questions through the development of indicators and measures that will focus data collection and analysis? What theoretical framework will be used? Why was this theoretical framework selected over others
    3. Logic Model: a preliminary logic model that graphically connects key elements of the study.
  3. Study Design, Data, and Methods
    1. Analytical Approach: specify an integrated research type and approach for how data will be collected and analyzed to answer the study questions. This might be a case study, policy analysis, action research, a high-level evaluation or a mixed methods design. Identify the unit of study (e.g. organization, jurisdiction, geographic area). Provide a justification for why this design is effective.
    2. Data Sources, Data collection and Management: describe the data collection instruments, subject selection rationale (sampling), and data collection procedures. Provide sample instruments if possible. A table which maps data collection instruments to research questions is valuable. Describe data collection and management procedures.
    3. Analysis Plan: how will the data be analyzed? What analytical or statistical procedures will be employed? Anticipate and include data table examples where possible.
    4. Validity Considerations: discuss strengths of selected study design. Describe study limitation and threats to validity and how they will be addressed.
  4. Integrative Doctoral Research Products and Work Plan
    1. IDR products will be two publishable papers. What journals will be targeted?
    2. Outline of the IDR product – working draft report of publishable papers.
    3. Work Plan: Major study activities, milestones, anticipated due dates, and committee review points, preferably in Gantt chart format.
    4. Summarize procedures to meet IRB concerns including IRB training, and obtaining approvals
Integrative Doctoral Research Proposal Defense Expand answer

The IDR proposal defense may not be completed within the same semester as the comprehensive exam. Timing of the IDR proposal defense is determined via consultation with the DrPH program faculty and/or DrPH Program Director.

Scheduling and Conducting the Proposal Defense

When the IDR adviser gives approval, the student consults with the rest of the committee members and program staff assistant to schedule a two-hour proposal hearing. The student must submit a copy of the proposal to each doctoral committee member and the program staff assistant at least 14 days in advance of the hearing. Students should include in their proposal a cover sheet with name, title of proposal, the date and time of the hearing, and the names of the committee members. They must also remember to request of the program staff assistant any equipment needed for the hearing.

The purpose of the proposal defense is to evaluate the student’s preparedness and competence to carry out the integrative doctoral research. The examination takes the form of a dialogue between the student and the doctoral committee. Before that dialogue begins, the committee chair gives the student an opportunity to provide a brief (less than 15 minutes) oral presentation of the work, including the DrPH Portfolio. Demonstration of a deep understanding of relevant theoretical and research literature and familiarity with the specific research methods planned to be used is expected during the hearing. It is important that the student is well-prepared for this meeting.

Committee members may attend the proposal defense in person or remotely via phone, Skype, etc. The doctoral committee may, at its discretion, allow other students to attend the proposal hearing.

Immediately following the proposal defense, the IDR Committee meets to formally assess the proposal and a vote is cast. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing. Both student and IDR Committee members must complete the Competency Defense Form. If the student does not pass, the committee determines whether another proposal hearing may be scheduled. A student shall not be allowed more than one retake of the proposal hearing. The program staff assistant will communicate the results to the student.

In the event of a failure, two options are available:

  • retaking the proposal hearing
  • withdrawal from the program

If the decision is that the student withdraws from the program, alternative steps that may help the student achieve their academic and professional goals will be discussed prior to adjournment.

Timeframe

After successful completion of Comprehensive Exams (Fall Year 3)

Eligibility

  1. Successful completion of Comprehensive Exams
  2. Completion of track coursework

Purpose

Integrative Doctoral Research is probably the most challenging and exciting aspect of a DrPH student’s graduate studies. It represents the culmination of coursework and other professional development experiences related to a particular area of specialization. The IDR proposal serves as the first formal step in the doctoral research. It documents a personalized plan for conducting the study, and, in addition, serves as a contract between the student and the Doctoral Committee regarding what is expected in the ensuing research. Led by the IDR advisor, the IDR Committee supervises the development of the student’s proposal, conducts the proposal hearing, and approves the proposal. Regular consultation with committee members is encouraged.

The purpose of the proposal defense is to evaluate the student’s preparedness and competence to carry out the integrative doctoral research. The examination takes the form of a dialogue between the student and the doctoral committee. Before that dialogue begins, the committee chair gives the student an opportunity to provide a brief (less than 15 minutes) oral presentation of her/his work, including the DrPH Portfolio. Demonstration of a deep understanding of relevant theoretical and research literature and familiarity with the specific research methods planned to be used is expected during the hearing. It is important that the student is well-prepared for this meeting.

Oral IDR Proposal Defense Sample Agenda

  1. 15 Minutes Competencies and Portfolio Defense
    • Please choose 5 competencies to highlight – include some that you have mastered (excel) and some that you feel need further development.
    • Please plan to have your portfolio available during the presentation to present our competency table and associated evidences from courses. Primarily, only core course deliverables can be used to meet core competencies; however, other coursework (i.e., AFE, etc.) can be referenced in the chart as a secondary evidence for a core competency.
  2. 30 Minutes IDR Defense (including 30 minutes for committee questions)
    • Please plan to present an overview of all aspects of your IDR outline. You should have a PowerPoint presentation to walk the committee through your plans.
  3. 15 Minutes Committee Ranking Form and Deliberation (student waits outside)
  4. Conclusion Committee Decision and Discussion with Student

Decision: Pass/Fail

Immediately following the proposal defense, the student is asked to leave the room and the IDR Committee meets to formally assess the student’s work—both written and oral portions—and a vote of (pass/fail) is cast. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing the comprehensive examination (3 out of 4 for a four- member committee; 4 out of 5 for a five-member committee; 4 out of 6 for a six- member committee, and so on). If a majority of the committee is unable to reach a decision, the Vice Dean of Education will cast the deciding vote. Both student and members of the IDR Committee must also complete the Report on the Doctoral Proposal Defense Examination form. If the student fails the examination, the IDR Committee determines whether another examination may be taken by a majority vote. In the event of a failure, two options are available:

  1. Revise the proposal and re-defend at a later date,
  2. Withdrawal from the program. If the decision is withdrawal from the program, alternative steps that may help the student achieve her/his academic and professional goals will be discussed prior to adjournment.

A student shall not be allowed more than one retake of the IDR Proposal Defense.

Creating and Submitting the Final Draft Proposal Expand answer

After the proposal is approved by the Doctoral Committee, the student must make any necessary revisions and submit it in final form to the Public Health Program office. If the proposed research involves human subjects, the student must apply for and receive approval by the University’s Office for the Protection of Human Subjects before beginning data collection. Without this approval, the student’s research will not be accepted. The student should work with her/his thesis advisor to complete the approval process.

Time Limitation

A doctoral student is required to complete the program, including passing the Final Integrative Doctoral Research Defense, within eight years from the date of successful completion of the qualifying examination and within six years of successful completion of the comprehensive examination. On the recommendation of the Program Coordinator, extensions may be granted by the Director of Graduate Enrollment Services in appropriate circumstances.

The IDR final defense may not be completed within the same semester as the IDR proposal defense. Timing of comprehensive exams are determined via consultation with the DrPH program faculty and/or DrPH Program Director.

Conducting Integrative Doctoral Research Expand answer

Timeframe

After approval of IDR Proposal

Eligibility

Successful completion of IDR Proposal Defense

Purpose

Conducting and writing the IDR typically takes between one and two full years—depending on the student’s expertise and efforts, and the types of research methods employed. This is facilitated by PHS 892 Directed Studies, and the Advanced Field Experience. Qualitative research typically takes longer than quantitative research. The Public Health Program wholeheartedly endorses mixed-methods research, when it is done well; however, such studies can take considerably more time and resources than either a straightforward qualitative or quantitative study.

Action Items

  • Student
    1. Work with Academic Advisor and IDR committee to execute your proposed research.
      • If the study involves human subjects research, then IRB approval for research must be obtained before starting data collection.
      • Any major changes to the research proposed requires approval of the Doctoral Committee and must be submitted to the IRB for approval, if human subjects research.
    2. At the same time, starting working on the Final IDR Report. The guidelines for the final report are available in Appendix M.
    3. Upon completing your research, draft the two publishable papers. Work with your Advisors and IDR Committee to review and revise the papers and determine the best journals for submission.
    4. Finalize your complete Final IDR Report including the two papers. Send to your Advisors and IDR Committee for review.
    5. Once the IDR Committee has provided approval, you can move forward with scheduling the final Oral Defense. Your Final IDR Report must be in its final stage at this point, including tables, figures, references, etc.
    6. Complete competency defense form prior to oral defense date.
  • Administrative Advisor
    1. Ensure that all required coursework has been completed.
  • Academic Advisor
    1. Work with student to conduct IDR Research.
    2. Help to student develop parts of the Final IDR Report (Appendix M).
    3. Review student’s paper drafts and over IDR Report drafts. Provide comments and suggestions for approval. Once you feel that the work meets requirements, the IDR Committee will review the documents.
    4. With the IDR Committee, approve the student to schedule their Oral Defense. The Final IDR Report must be in its final stage at this point, including tables, figures, references, etc.
  • IDR Committee Members
    1. Work with student to conduct IDR Research.
    2. Help to student develop parts of the Final IDR Report (Appendix M).
    3. Review student’s paper drafts and over IDR Report drafts. Provide comments and suggestions for approval.
    4. Once student sends Final IDR Report to all IDR Committee members, the committee members provide approval for the student to schedule their Oral Defense. The Final IDR Report must be in its final stage at this point, including tables, figures, references, etc.
Preparing and Writing the Integrative Doctoral Research and Portfolio Expand answer

Conducting the Research

Conducting and writing the IDR typically takes between one and two full years, depending on the student’s expertise and efforts, and the types of research methods employed. For this reason, it is strongly encouraged that students make every effort to focus on their research/area/topic by Year 2 of the program. This is facilitated by PHS 892 Directed Studies, and the Advanced Field Experience.

Qualitative research typically takes longer than quantitative research.

The Public Health Program wholeheartedly endorses mixed-methods research, when it is done well; however, such studies can take considerably more time and resources than either a straightforward qualitative or quantitative study.

The student accomplishes the research according to the plan set forth in the proposal. Major changes require approval of the Doctoral Committee and the University’s Office for the Protection of Human Subjects if the study involves human subjects.

While conducting the study, the student should be in regular communication with their IDR adviser and other committee members, as the IDR adviser deems necessary. Typically, students prepare multiple drafts of the IDR for submission to their IDR thesis adviser.

The IDR adviser must ensure that the final draft includes all appropriate sections, is prepared according to an acceptable style, and is ready to be submitted to the other committee members. The student is responsible for the content and style. In addition, the student should know the rules and deadlines of the Public Health Program concerning IDR manuscript preparation and submission to the Penn State Web Portal and posting on the DrPH Student Portfolio.

Preparing the Final Draft of the Integrative Doctoral Research

Both the IDR adviser and the student are responsible for ensuring the completion of a draft of the IDR and for adequate consultation with members of the Doctoral Committee well in advance of the oral examination. Major revisions to the IDR must be completed before the examination. The IDR should be in its final draft, with appropriate notes, bibliography, tables, etc., at the time of the oral examination; both the content and style must be correct and polished by the time this final draft of the IDR is in the hands of the committee.

Part I of the IDR is two publishable manuscripts that will be submitted for publication in a public health related journal. The student’s manuscripts will conform to the format required by the journal to which they will be submitted. Manuscripts must actually be submitted for publication. Students should work with their committee to determine the most appropriate journal to which the manuscripts will be submitted.

Sample Final IDR Outline

Note: This is a sample outline. Please refer to the DrPH Student HUB for current guidelines.

  • Abstract of 600 words or less single sided, double-spaced on a separate sheet(s) to include the title and authorship
  • Introductory chapter to include:
    • Over-arching theme, study questions, or hypotheses which tie the papers together
    • Leadership issues and practice significance
    • Literature review
  • Methods chapter
  • Paper 1 – formatted for journal submission
  • Paper 2 – formatted for journal submission
  • Conclusion – to include a discussion of the impact of the research on practice
  • Appendices (to include, as appropriate, such items as survey instruments, foundational tables, organizational charts, additional tables, and other items not appropriate for a journal article nor the body of the dissertation document)

Typical total page length for all materials is 100 pages but varies depending on topic and writing style.

Oral IDR Defense Sample Agenda

  1. 15 Minutes Portfolio Highlights
    • Please plan to have your portfolio available during the presentation to review major accomplishments.
  2. 45 Minutes IDR Final Project Presentation
    • Please plan to present all major section of your IDR project included a detailed presentation of the resulting 2 papers.
  3. 15 Minutes Public Questions
  4. 15 Minutes Committee Questions (public is asked to leave the room)
  5. 15 Minutes Committee Ranking Form and Deliberation (student waits outside)
  6. 15 minutes Committee Decision and Discussion with Student

Part II of the IDR is the presentation of the DrPH Portfolio.

Final Integrative Doctoral Defense Expand answer

The final examination for DrPH students is an oral examination administered and evaluated by the candidate’s entire Doctoral Committee. The meeting is chaired by the student’s IDR Committee chair.

The exam consists of an oral presentation of the doctoral candidate’s IDR; the DrPH Portfolio; and a period of questions and responses.

These questions (and the dialogue that ensues) relate in large part to the IDR, but may cover the entire field of public health, because a major purpose of the examination is also to assess the student’s general scholarly attainments. The portion of the examination in which the IDR is presented is open to the public, and other students are encouraged to attend.

Scheduling the Final Oral Examination

The length of the exam is two hours and it may be scheduled any time during the semester. However, the examination may not be scheduled until at least 90 days have elapsed after the comprehensive examination was passed. The director of Graduate School may grant a waiver of the 90 days in appropriate cases. The examination is officially scheduled through the Graduate School, on the recommendation of the Program Director of the Public Health Program. Two weeks’ notice is required by the Graduate School for scheduling the examination. The doctoral candidate is responsible for scheduling the examination by completing Examination Request Form. The student must do so on the advice of the IDR adviser.

Final Oral Examination Checklist

To schedule the examination, the candidate must do the following:

  • Ensure that the student is registered and in good standing for the semester in which the final oral examination is taken
  • Ensure that at least 90 days have elapsed between passing the comprehensive examination and the proposed final oral examination date
  • Make sure that all other requirements for the degree have been satisfied
  • Gain the IDR adviser’s approval of the draft elements
  • Negotiate, with ALL doctoral committee members, an examination date that is appropriate to ALL
  • Complete the Examination Request Form
  • Notify the program staff assistant at least four weeks prior to the proposed examination date
  • Obtain IDR format review information from DrPH Administrative Adviser
  • Provide a final copy of the IDR packet to the DrPH Program Director for format review at least one month prior to the examination date
  • Arrange for each committee member to receive a copy of the final IDR packet at least 14 days prior to the proposed examination date
  • Consult the Graduate School Calendar to ensure Final Defense and Intent to Graduate processes have been met; students should be aware of IDR deadlines within each semester, which are available on the Thesis Dissertation Performance Calendar.

Conducting and Evaluating the Final Oral Examination

The student and all committee members (including the IDR adviser or chair) must be physically present at the final oral examination unless prior approval for remote participation is received from the Graduate School. For a four-person committee, one person may participate remotely. For a five-person committee, two people may participate remotely. To request permission to participate remotely, send a memo via email to the program staff assistant. The memo must state the member’s name, the reason they will not be physically present, and the mode of participation (telephone, Skype, etc.). The Final IDR oral exam is a public event and will be publicized for campus–wide and stakeholder attendance.

If a committee member is unable to attend the final oral defense, the member may sign as a special signatory. The program staff assistant within the Public Health Program submits (on behalf of the DrPH Program Director) a revised Committee Appointment Signature Form, removing the faculty member as a regular committee member and moving the member to a special signatory. Ample time should be planned for this to occur (at least 14 days).

If there are then not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty) another Penn State Graduate Faculty member will need to replace that member to constitute a legitimate doctoral committee. (Substitutes are not permitted.) These changes and approvals shall occur before the actual examination takes place.

Immediately following the oral examination, the Doctoral Committee meet to formally evaluate the candidate’s work and a vote is cast. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the committee is required for passing the oral examination (three out of four for a four-member committee; four out of five for a five-member committee; four out of six for a six-member committee, and so on). If the student fails, it is the responsibility of the IDR Committee to determine whether another examination may be taken. A candidate shall not be allowed more than one retake of the final oral exam. The candidate’s Program Director will communicate the results to them.

In the event of a failure, two options are available:

  • retaking the examination
  • withdrawal from the program

The final IDR must be signed by each committee members. Both students and IDR Committee members must complete the Competency Defense Form.

Final Integrative Doctoral Research Documents Expand answer

After passing the final oral examination, doctoral students must make the necessary corrections or revisions suggested by the committee members and prepare the IDR in final form. Students must allow enough time to make revisions in order to meet the deadlines of the Public Health Program. Students must present their final IDR to the Public Health Program office for signature no later than three weeks before the deadline set by the Graduate School.

All signatures of the committee members must be present on the appropriate page in proper form when the IDR is presented to the Public Health Program office. Once signed, the student’s final manuscripts must be uploaded to be made publically available through ScholarSphere and one soft-bound copy submitted to the Public Health Program Office.

Publishing an article in a professional journal is an excellent way to communicate one’s research. Therefore, prior to graduation, all doctoral candidates in DrPH program are required to submit both manuscript articles for publication in a (preferably refereed) professional journal. Although it is not necessary that the article be published, a copy of the letter of receipt from the journal, along with a copy of the article, must be present in the student’s file prior to the scheduling of graduation. If a student submits an article for publication based on their IDR research, it is considered appropriate to include their IDR adviser and others as a co-author if those persons have given substantial input to the article.

Additional Information

Change of Committee Member/Member Unable to Participate Expand answer

If a committee member is unable to participate in any of the doctoral examinations and this results in not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty), another Penn State graduate faculty member will need to be appointed officially to the Doctoral Committee to replace the absent member in order to constitute a legitimate doctoral committee. A revised Committee Appointment Signature Form must be submitted to Graduate Enrollment Services, removing the individual as a regular committee member and requesting the replacement committee member. These changes and approvals must occur before the actual examination takes place (ad hoc substitutes are not permitted).

Options to Retake Milestones Expand answer

In the event of a failure, two options are available: a) retaking the milestone or b) withdrawal from the program. The student’s IDR Committee will make all determinations regarding whether a student can retake a milestone. A candidate shall not be allowed more than one retake of any milestone.

Remote Participation of Committee Members Expand answer

The student and all committee members (including the IDR advisor or chair) must be physically present unless prior approval for remote participation is received from the Graduate School. For a 4-person committee, one person may participate remotely. For a 5-person committee, 2 people may participate remotely. To request permission to participate remotely, send a memo via email to the program staff assistant. The memo must state the Member’s name, the reason they will not be physically present, and the mode of participation (telephone, Skype, etc.).

If a committee member is unable to attend the final oral defense, the member may sign as a special signatory. The program staff assistant within the Public Health Program submits (on behalf of the DrPH Program Director) a revised Committee Appointment Signature Form, removing the faculty member as a regular committee member and moving the member to a special signatory. Ample time should be planned for this to occur (at least 14 days). If there are then not enough members serving on the committee (i.e., four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty) another Penn State Graduate Faculty member will need to replace that member to constitute a legitimate doctoral committee. (Substitutes are not permitted.) These changes and approvals shall occur before the actual examination takes place.