PhD in Health Systems and Services Research

P h D in Health Systems and Services Research Brochure Image


The Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health offers a program of instruction leading to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Health Systems and Services Research. The program provides students with the theoretical and methodological foundations necessary to conduct creative and independent research on health systems, with the ultimate goals of identifying pathways to improved health system performance through evidence-based policy and management. The curriculum involves intensive and focused study in the theoretical perspectives and methodological strategies relevant to research on the organization, financing, and delivery of health services, including issues of quality, accessibility, efficiency, and equity within systems of care. Students will develop scholarly expertise in these areas of study, advanced skills in quantitative research methods, confidence in their teaching, and a high standard of scientific integrity and professionalism. Job opportunities exist in university-based and independent health services research centers, health policy institutes, foundations and philanthropic organizations, consulting firms, and professional and advocacy associations working at state and national levels.

The program requires students to select one of three possible discipline areas in which to pursue concentrated study: (1) health economics; (2) quality and health outcomes research; or (3) comparative effectiveness research. The health economics concentration will allow students to master the body of theory and methods for studying the economic behavior of health care providers, insurers and consumers and for evaluating the economic impact of health policies and health care interventions. The concentration in quality and health outcomes research will allow students to develop expertise in the theory and methods for evaluating quality of care and analyzing the outcomes that result from health services and interventions, including disparities in health care and health outcomes. The concentration in comparative effectiveness research allows students to develop expertise in the theory and methods of realistic evaluation to compare health care delivery systems and services in real world settings with an emphasis on patient-centered outcomes and stakeholder engagement.

Additionally, students will be required to select a substantive research or policy area in which to focus their studies. These substantive areas are defined principally by areas of expertise held by members of the program faculty, and include health insurance, access to care, long-term care, aging, rural health care, nutrition policy, health disparities, community-based public health, public health policy and law, child health, and mental health. Students will gain experience in their chosen substantive area primarily through three semester-long rotations (nine hours) of directed research study with program faculty. A student’s chosen disciplinary concentration and substantive area will combine to form a coherent theoretical, institutional, and methodological knowledge base that the student will use to pursue dissertation research.

Read more about our Health Policy and Management Department

How To Apply

Admission Requirements

Students must have received an M.P.H. or related graduate degree (e.g. M.P.A., M.B.A., M.D., J.D.) prior to entry into the proposed program, along with some relevant experience in health policy or health services. Students will be required to describe and substantiate their areas of research and policy interest prior to being admitted to the program in order to ensure a close match between student interests and faculty expertise.

On the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a minimum combined score of 1200 (if taken before August 1, 2011) or minimum scores at or above the 50th percentile in both Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning (if taken on or after August 1, 2011) is(are) preferred for full consideration. The GRE must have been taken within 5 years immediately preceding the requested semester of the commission.

Any individual desiring admission to this program must submit application materials through the on-line centralized School of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS).

A limited number of research assistantships for the Ph.D. in HSSR may be available for qualified students that cover tuition and up to $24,000 a year in stipends.


The Ph.D. Program is designed for full-time study and requires a minimum of seventy (70) semester credit hours of study, which can be completed within a three-year period. Students will spend their first two years in full-time residential study at UAMS completing coursework in four core areas: (1) eighteen (18) semester hours of coursework in health system theory and applications; (2) thirteen (13) semester credit hours of course work in research methodology; (3) fifteen (15) semester credit hours of selective course work to allow for an area of concentrated study; and (4) six (6) semester credit hours of course work scholarship skills. After completing these 52 hours of coursework and passing a doctoral candidate examination, students will focus on the development, conduct, and defense of their dissertation research (of a minimum of eighteen (18) credit hours). Completion of all Ph.D. in Health Systems and Services Research requirements ensures that graduates have attained the Ph.D. in Health Systems and Services Research:

Ph.D. in Health Systems Research Competencies

View Program Curriculum

Candidacy Examination

Students successfully completing the coursework and achieving the minimum grade-point average will be required to pass a written doctoral candidate examination demonstrating mastery of all five core areas of coursework before progressing to dissertation work. Students must receive a passing grade on the examination in order to become a Ph.D. candidate.

Dissertation Research

Ph.D. candidates will be required to complete a minimum of 18 hours of dissertation research in conjunction with a doctoral advisory committee of faculty. As the first step in the dissertation research process, candidates must develop a written proposal of their dissertation research and successfully defend the proposal during an oral presentation to the doctoral advisory committee. Once the proposal has been accepted by the committee, candidates must complete the research as proposed, develop a written monograph of their completed dissertation research, and successfully defend the research during a public, oral presentation to the doctoral advisory committee and other interested parties. The dissertation must represent valid, independent research conducted by the candidate that makes a significant contribution to health policy, health system management and practice, and/or health system research methodology. The dissertation research may include analysis of existing, secondary data and/or analysis of primary data collected by the candidate.

Health Systems Research Dissertation Guidelines – PDF (216 KB)

Grade Point Average

In order to progress to the doctoral candidate examination, students must present a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 on all graduate courses required for the degree. Failing to earn such an average on the minimum number of hours, the student is permitted to present up to six (6) additional hours of graduate semester credit in order to accumulate a grade-point average of 3.0.

For More Information

Program Director:
Holly Felix, Ph.D.
4301 West Markham, Mail Slot 820
Little Rock, AR 72205
Phone: 479-684-5117

Or Contact the Office of Student Services