Health Policy and Management

Arnold M. Epstein, AM, MD

Director of Academic Programs and Student Services
Anne Occhipinti


Department Website

The Department of Health Policy and Management is concerned with the mission of improving the health care delivery system and mitigating public health risks in the United States and abroad. It is dedicated to resolving major management and health policy problems through original research, advanced training, and dispute resolution. Research priorities are organized into seven broad areas:

  • Decision science, including the economic evaluation of strategies for the prevention of and therapy for chronic diseases, the economic evaluation of new technology, and the development of new methodological approaches.
  • Health care management, focusing on improving the organizational performance of health care institutions, including hospitals, physician practices, and community health centers.
  • Health economics, including financing health care, provider payment systems, and restructuring entire health systems.
  • Law and public health, involving empirical work at the intersection of law and health policy, including medical malpractice, medical errors and patient safety, research ethics, pharmaceuticals, and clinical ethics.
  • Quality and access, including improving the safety and quality of health care, enhancing access, and reducing disparities.
  • Political policy, including public opinion surveys and better understanding of public knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about major public health and health policy issues.
  • Public health policy, focusing on a range of issues, including injury control and youth violence prevention, negotiation and conflict resolution, and public health preparedness.

The department’s problem-solving orientation is exemplified by its strong ties to leading health practitioners in hospitals, managed-care plans, community health centers, health advocacy groups, corporate medical departments, health and environmental consulting firms, state and local health departments, legislative committees, federal regulatory agencies, and international agencies. Practical skills are emphasized by an interdisciplinary faculty that includes management specialists, decision analysts, accountants, physicians, lawyers, policy analysts, economists, political scientists, and program evaluators.

Degree Programs in Health Policy and Management

The department offers both 80-credit and 42.5-credit SM programs in health policy and management and a nonresidential, part-time SM in health care management for physicians and dental executives. In addition, the department participates in the university-wide PhD Program in Health Policy.

Program Prerequisites and Requirements
All departmental degree requirements are in addition to the schoolwide degree requirements.

SM in Health Policy and Management, 80-credit program
Minimum prerequisites for entrance
: Bachelor’s degree or non-U.S. equivalent and relevant work experience. Students come from a wide variety of undergraduate fields. They are expected to have full-time work experience and an academic record, particularly in quantitative and analytical courses, that suggest outstanding potential in the areas of health policy and management. Applicants need to have at least two years of relevant postbaccalaureate work experience in the health field. Applicants without postbaccalaureate work experience will not be considered for admission.

Program requirements: Of the 80 credits necessary to earn the SM, required courses account for 30 to 35. Students also must satisfy the requirements of at least one of three areas of interest in the department:
Management   This area prepares students for managerial and leadership positions in health care organizations, such as hospitals, sub-acute and long-term care facilities, physician practices, insurers, community health centers, and consulting companies.

Policy    The policy area is intended for those who wish to become involved in the formulation of health policy, including medical care policy, health finance and insurance, access to health care, payment to institutions and practitioners, political analysis and strategy, and Medicare and Medicaid reform.

Research   This area is geared to students seeking doctoral education and research careers in fields such as health economics, quality of care, technology assessment, health decision analysis, and advanced statistical analysis.

The requirements for the management, policy, and research areas of interest are described in the HPM Handbook, available at After the required credits have been completed, students are encouraged to enroll in relevant courses at Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the MIT Sloan School of Management.

The program is designed for students who are building professional careers in health-related fields and who aspire to leadership roles. It emphasizes professional skills and concepts; a solid grounding in the substance of health problems; rigorous quantitative training; and a curriculum that combines professional, academic, and practice activities. Acquired knowledge is applied to practical situations through a required summer internship program and a field research project. Recent graduates have taken positions in local, state, and federal government agencies; consulting companies; public policy research organizations; community health centers; hospitals; health plans; and pharmaceutical companies. Others have gone on to doctoral and fellowship programs.

SM in Health Policy and Management, 42.5-credit program
Minimum prerequisites for entrance
: A graduate medical or other doctoral degree and significant experience in health services. Applicants typically expect to devote a substantial portion of their careers to research in areas such as health services, cost-effectiveness analysis, and clinical decision making.

Program requirements: Up to 10 tutorial credits and an additional 10 credits in courses within the department. Recommended electives include upper-level courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, health economics, health services research, health decision sciences, quality improvement, and program evaluation.

The program is designed for physicians and other candidates with relevant advanced degrees who desire intensive training in analytic and quantitative skills in order to pursue research careers in public- or private-sector health care institutions. This degree is appropriate for students interested in either domestic or international research questions. Recent graduates have taken research positions at academic medical centers and other health care organizations.

For more information about SM programs in health policy and management:
Anne Occhipinti, director of academic programs
Department of Health Policy and Management
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-4511
Fax: 617-432-3699

SM in Health Care Management, 42.5-credit program
Minimum prerequisites for entrance
: Midcareer status as an MD, DO, DMD, DDS, or equivalent with significant management responsibilities and the goal of becoming more effective in the health care sector. The SM in health care management is a two-year, part-time, nonresidential degree program that trains clinicians in the executive skills required for management. Applicants must submit standardized test scores (e.g., MCATs, DATs, or GREs) and demonstrate the potential to learn effectively in a challenging educational environment.

Program requirements: Coursework in strategy determination, financial analysis, negotiation, organizational behavior, operations management, information systems, and quality-of-care management. Degree candidates are required to spend three weeks each summer on campus and five four-day weekends (Friday through Monday) each academic year. Participants should expect 10 to 15 hours per week of assignments when not on campus. A final practicum and quality improvement field project also are required.

This is a closed-cohort program. Attendance at all sessions is mandatory, and previous courses or degrees will not be applied toward degree requirements. No auditing or cross-registration is allowed.

For more information about the SM program in health care management, please contact:
Colin Fleming, program manager
Department of Health Policy and Management
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-7075

PhD in Health Policy
Minimum prerequisites for entrance
: Bachelor’s degree or non-U.S. equivalent. With the possible exception of applicants wishing to pursue a combined degree (see below), preference is given to those with either relevant work experience or prior graduate work.

Program requirements: Approximately two years of coursework; a concentration in one academic discipline (decision science, economics, ethics, evaluative science and statistics, management, or political analysis); specialization in one of four policy areas (health care services, global health, mental health, or public health) at the dissertation stage; general and concentration exams (usually at the end of the second year); a dissertation prospectus and oral examination; a dissertation based on original research; and a dissertation defense.

The program prepares students for tenure-track positions and other research positions at schools of public health, public policy, and medicine; organizations such as the Kaiser Family Foundation, the RAND Corporation, the World Health Organization, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and government agencies such as the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Applicants wishing to combine the PhD in health policy with either the MD program at Harvard Medical School or the JD program at Harvard Law School must apply separately to each program and indicate on the PhD application that they also are applying to the MD or JD program.

Financial aid is available to admitted applicants. Underrepresented minority students with demonstrated need are eligible for aid that includes tuition for five years and a stipend for three years. Additionally, some traineeships are provided by funding sources such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the National Institute of Mental Health.

The PhD in health policy is a collaborative program of six Harvard University faculties: the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, School of Public Health, Medical School, Kennedy School, Law School, and Business School. Because this is an interfaculty program, enrolled students take courses throughout the university. The PhD is awarded by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Applicants must apply through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ( and not through the SOPHAS system. The application deadline is December 13, 2013.

For more information about the PhD program:
Ayres Heller, assistant director
PhD Program in Health Policy
14 Story Street Street, 4th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
Phone: 617-495-1357
Fax: 617-496-2860

Related Offerings: 

For Reference
Schoolwide degree requirements for the SM programs

Online application to the PhD program is required. Use the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences online application form, available at: