VCU Bulletins

Healthcare Policy and Research, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Graduate program director
Andrew Barnes, Ph.D.
Assistant professor, Department of Healthcare Policy and Research

Additional contact
Kate A. Grant
Education coordinator
(804) 828-5329

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Healthcare Policy and Research, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

of entry:


Jan 15 (Applications received prior to this date given priority consideration.)

GRE, TOEFL if international

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants must meet the following minimum qualifications.

  1. Applicants must have completed a college-level course in calculus with a minimum grade of B.
  2. Applicants must have graduated from an accredited university or its equivalent, with a master’s degree in a related discipline (e.g., economics, public health, public policy, health administration, public administration). Applicants must have completed relevant course work (including microeconomics and introductory statistics) or have professional experience in a health-related field (two years minimum) that provides an appropriate background for graduate-level study in healthcare policy and research.
  3. Applicants must have taken the Graduate Record Exam within the past five years; scores in the 75th percentile preferred.
  4. Applicants from countries where English is not the primary and official national language must complete one of the following:
    1. English proficiency verification through official TOEFL score 550 or higher
    2. Graduate with a master's degree following two years of study at a U.S. institution
    3. English language proficiency certification through appropriate English training programs at other U.S. institutions, or English language proficiency certification by passing the English Language Proficiency Examination and/or the corresponding English Language Institute courses

      VCU policy also requires that prospective students who have studied outside of the U.S. must provide an official WES or ECE external credential evaluation as a required part of the admissions process.

  5. Applicants must present three letters of recommendation from individuals who are in a position to judge their ability to engage in interdisciplinary graduate study in healthcare policy and research. At least one recommendation must be from an individual who can comment on the applicant’s academic qualifications (e.g., former instructor or adviser).
  6. A written statement of professional intent that includes the proposed area of research interest is required.
  7. Applicants must present a curriculum vitae or resume
  8. A recent writing sample, such as a first author, peer-reviewed publication; a master’s thesis; a book chapter; a policy brief or report; or a graduate course paper is required. An undergraduate course paper may be substituted if none of the above is available.
  9. Prospective students must be available to interview either in person or teleconference via technology such as Skype.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university.  These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

Program goal

The doctoral program in healthcare policy and research will equip students with an understanding of economic, political and social factors that affect access to care and the quality and cost of health care. Graduates of this program will have strong methodological and theoretical skills that will prepare them to make important contributions to the fields of health care policy and public health. Their training will enable them to add to scientific knowledge about how health policy, social factors, financing systems, organizational structures, care processes, health technologies and personal behaviors affect health care outcomes. Program graduates will also be able to formulate and analyze health care policy and to plan, implement and evaluate health programs and policies. Finally, program graduates will have experience working with colleagues in public health, medicine and other disciplines to help them translate research findings into practice rapidly.

Train students as health policy researchers

Students in the doctoral program in healthcare policy and research will acquire the skills to conduct independent research into economic, political and social factors that affect access to care and the quality and cost of health care. The program will provide students with the training required to advance to positions as health policy researchers in academia, government or the private sector.
The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of design and implementation of research and the ability to synthesize this information in ways that are policy-relevant.

In addition, students will develop the various means of communicating fundamental economic and policy knowledge and particular study designs, results and interpretations to a variety of audiences.
The program relates the above framework to the skills needed to address a wide range of issues in the health services research, economics and policy areas.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Knowledge of the development and implementation of health policy: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of health care policy and economics as related to disciplinary specialization and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications and theoretical and conceptual models, as measured by rubric.
  2. Critical thinking: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of ability to interpret information relevant to health policy and health services research, to connect theoretical frameworks to study design and evidence, to draw reasonable conclusions, and to generate and evaluate alternate explanations, as measured by rubric.
  3. Specialized knowledge: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the issues, research literature, conceptual frameworks and research tools in one or more content domains within the field of health policy and health services research, as measured by rubric.
  4. Study design and implementation: Students will demonstrate the ability to design and conduct original health services and health policy research that draws from economic theory, from the initial conception of an idea to research question development, study design, data collection and selection, as measured by rubric.
  5. Quantitative skills: Students will demonstrate the application of appropriate analytic methods and interpretation of results, as measured by rubric
  6. Oral communication skills: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of skill in the oral communication of health care policy subject matter with respect to content, organization, logical flow, presentation, use of language and incorporation of visual aids to both technical and lay audiences, as measured by rubric.
  7. Written communication skills: Students will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling, vocabulary and use of figures, tables and citations to effectively present health services research and health care policy information, as well as translate research findings into publication-quality manuscripts, as measured by rubric.

Degree requirements

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, a cumulative GPA of 3.0 must be maintained. Students must receive a minimum grade of B for all required courses. A student who receives a grade of C in a required course shall repeat the course. A second grade of C in a required course shall result in dismissal from the program. At the discretion of the HCPR committee, a student who is retaking a required course may still be eligible to take the comprehensive examination and to start the dissertation prior to repeating the course.

At the end of the second year of required course work, students will take a written comprehensive examination designed to evaluate the student’s ability to:

  1. Integrate course material
  2. Demonstrate critical thinking and evaluation of the literature in health care policy and research
  3. Demonstrate quantitative analysis skills

After passing the written comprehensive examination, the student will schedule the proposal defense within six months. Following successful defense of the proposal, the student will prepare three manuscripts of publishable quality that will comprise the body of the dissertation and will orally defend the dissertation. It is anticipated that students will complete the program in four to five years. All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within six years from the date of admission to the degree program. Extensions may be approved in extenuating circumstances.

Curriculum requirements

Courses Credit hours
Required courses 38
ECON 501 Introduction to Econometrics (BIOS 553 may be substituted with approval) 3
ECON 612 Econometrics 3
ECON 642 Panel and Nonlinear Methods in Econometrics (BIOS 625, 631 or 647 may be substituted with approval) 3
EPID 650 Epidemiologic Methods for Research 3
HCPR 699 Departmental Seminar (one-credit course repeated for four credits) 4
HCPR 701 Health Services Research and Policy I 3
HCPR 702 Health Services Research and Policy II 3
HCPR 703 Health Economics: Theory and Principles 3
HCPR 730 Survey Research Methods and Analysis for Health Policy 3
HCPR 732 Research Design and Proposal Preparation 3
HCPR 733 Statistical Methods in Analysis of Healthcare Research 3
HCPR 734 Economic Evaluation and Decision Analysis in Health 3
OVPR 601 Scientific Integrity, OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research 1
Research 9
HCPR 899 Directed Research (variable credit) 9 (minimum)
Electives 12
Choose 12 credit hours from the following approved list or other courses approved by the program director.  
BIOS 554 Analysis of Variance 3
BIOS 615 Advanced Inference 4
BIOS 616 Advanced Inference 4
BIOS 625 Categorical Data Analysis and Generalized Linear Models 4
BIOS 631 Multivariate Analysis I 4
BIOS 647 Survival Analysis 3
ECON 604 Advanced Microeconomic Theory 3
ECON 616 Advanced Public Finance 3
ECON 631 Labor Market Theory and Analysis 3
ECON 641 Econometric Time-series Analysis 3
ECON 682 An Economic Approach to Environmental Issues 3
EPID 571 Principles of Epidemiology 3
EPID 606 Epidemiologic Methods 3
EPID 618 Public Health Law 3
EPID 620 Cancer Epidemiology 3
EPID 622 Maternal and Child Health 3
EPID 651 Intermediate Epidemiologic Methods for Research 3
EPID 652 Advanced Epidemiologic Methods and Data Analysis 3
GVPA 672 Social Equity and Public Policy Analysis 3
HADM 607 Financial Management in Health Organizations 3
HADM 610 Health Care Management Decision Support Systems 3
HADM 611 Health Care Law and Bioethics 3
HADM 701 Organizational Behavior for Health Services Research 3
HADM 702 Health Care Financing and Delivery Systems 3
HADM 705 Advanced Health Service Organization Theory 3
HADM 760 Quantitative Analysis of Health Care Data 3
HADM 761 Health Services Research Methods I 3
HADM 763 Health Program Evaluation 3
HCPR 720 Economics of Health Disparities 3
OPER 641 Stochastic Simulation and Monte Carlo Methods 3
OPER 643 Decision and Risk Analysis 3
OPER 645 Queuing Theory 3
OPER 647 Multi-objective Decision Analysis 3
OPER 741 Advanced Stochastic Simulation 3
OPER 743 Decision Analysis II 3
PHAR 651 Medical Access and Care for Underserved Populations 3
PHAR 671 Applied Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research 3
PHAR 689 Pharmaceutical Policy Analysis 3
PPAD 712 Seminar in Public Policy II 3
PPAD 715 U.S. Political Processes and Institutions 3
PPAD 716 Public Policy Economics 3
PPAD 717 Law and Public Policy 3
PPAD 721 Survey of Applied Research Methods in Public Policy 3
PPAD 723 Survey Research Methods 3
PPAD 730 Seminar in Health Policy 3
SBHD 605 Introduction to Social and Behavioral Health 3
SBHD 610 Behavioral Measurement 3
SBHD 632 Health Disparities and Social Justice 3
SBHD 633 Structural Equation Modeling 3
SBHD 637 Program Evaluation 3
SOCY 603 Seminar in Population Studies 3
SOCY 645 The Sociology of Health and Illness 3
SOCY 656 Social Network Analysis 3
STAT 645 Bayesian Decision Theory 3
STAT 744 Regression II 3
STAT 745 Advanced Bayesian Statistics 3
URSP 621 Introduction to Geographic Information Systems 3
URSP 622 Community Socioeconomic Analysis Using GIS 3
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 59

Typical plan of study

Many students often end up taking more than the minimum number of hours required for a degree program. The total number of hours may vary depending upon the program, nature of research being conducted by a study or in the enrollment or funding status of the student. Students should refer to their program websites and talk with their graduate program directors or advisers for information about typical plans of study and registration requirements.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Degree candidacy requirements

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Graduation requirements

Other information

Enrolled students may access the program handbook on Blackboard.

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on doctoral programs is available in the Graduate Bulletin at



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