Doctor of Public Health Program

Peter Berman, MSc, PhD

Program Coordinator
Fran Newton

The DrPH program gives students an advanced education in the scholarship and practice of knowledge translation and in leading change. It emphasizes a broad understanding of public health through integration of multiple disciplines and the ability to rigorously apply scientific findings to address complex problems of public health policy and practice. The curriculum is designed to provide mastery of high-level, change-related competencies in leadership, management, innovation, and communications. It also stresses advanced learning in foundational knowledge areas such as health systems, policy analysis, health social sciences, public health analytical methods, and health-sector economics. This professional program seeks candidates who aspire to lead health-focused nongovernmental organizations, health delivery systems, health commissions, or ministries of health. Many likely candidates are professionals considering the next move after demonstrating leadership at a nonprofit, government agency, or private company; others are medical doctors who are ready to advance into organizational leadership.

Successful candidates should plan to pursue leadership roles in the health sector. While some graduates may enter academia for a time during their careers, this is not the goal of the DrPH program. Those interested in academic or research careers should apply to one of the PhD or SD degrees offered at HSPH.

Prerequisites for Entrance
HSPH strives to recruit high-achieving students who are ready to attain the next level of leadership and recognizes that such individuals come from a wide range of backgrounds. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or non-U.S. equivalent and at least two years of full-time public health and/or service experience. A prior public health or health-related professional degree or other relevant master’s degree is encouraged but not required.

Program Requirements
DrPH students undertake intensive, immersive coursework and integrated field experiences over 24 months in residence at HSPH. An essential component of the DrPH is the interaction with faculty and the 25-student cohort during this time. Full-time enrollment is expected during the first 24 months of the program, followed by a third year of a rigorous extended field experience called the DrPH DELTA (Doctoral Engagement in Leadership and Translation for Action). Coursework specifically designed for the DrPH program covers areas such as integrative analytical skills as well as competencies for leading and enabling change. The degree is designed to be completed in three to no more than four years.

The program begins with an intense focus on fundamental theories, concepts, and methods designed to build a strong foundation in theory along three core dimensions — the biological foundations and trajectory of human health, economic sciences, and other social sciences. Students concurrently acquire fundamentals of quantitative and qualitative methods, core biostatistics and epidemiology, and econometrics/multivariate statistics methods to foster more integrative thinking, analysis, and synthesis. Coursework across other core areas includes ethics, environmental health, social behavior, and health policy. DrPH Labs supplement work in existing courses so that DrPH students attain a more advanced level.

The Leading Change Studio, which runs throughout the two years of residency, is an innovative pedagogical program that combines some periods of formal classroom teaching in leadership, management, communications, and innovation with periods of complementary activities, such as participant observation in local organizations, simulations, online education with flipped classrooms, and “co-production” of teaching cases.

The DrPH Culminating Experience
The DrPH DELTA is the culminating experience of the degree, comprising a project, a thesis, and a portfolio. It is the primary focus of the students’ work during the final 10 to 18 months of the program, following successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations that take place not earlier than 23 months into the program and not later than 35 months.

This component of the DrPH DELTA gives degree candidates the opportunity to apply the foundational knowledge and change-enabling competencies they have acquired in the first two years of the program in order to develop a new integrative, translational achievement of results that have a significant impact on public health. This impact may be achieved through direct action to improve outcomes in populations and/or the creation of significant evidence that has high potential to influence such action. The translational output can take the form of substantial policy or program change, impactful documentation of prior achievement of change, or development of strategies for future change that have a high probability of adoption and implementation.

The thesis demonstrates a candidate’s knowledge and analytic competencies. This major written work documents professional qualifications and could be the basis for subsequent publications.

This component is a collection of materials, such as published reports from a variety of media, communications materials, and other outputs deemed relevant by the candidate, together with a self-assessment personal history. The portfolio is rigorously evaluated, and a passing assessment is required for successful completion of the degree.

Each DrPH student is matched with an adviser from the affiliated program faculty. The advisers guide the students’ experiences and the completion of their qualifying culminating experiences, writings, and presentations.

Due to the DrPH program’s interdisciplinary nature, faculty come from multiple domains. Affiliated faculty are primarily from HSPH but also include faculty from the wider Harvard community, such as the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School.

Contact information:
Fran Newton, DrPH program coordinator