Public Health Doctor of Public Health Degree Program (DrPH)

The mission of the University at Albany’s DrPH degree program is to prepare students for leadership roles in public health practice in governmental agencies, community-based organizations and other settings. Students acquire analytic, conceptual, and administrative skills while gaining a thorough understanding of the scientific, political, social, cultural, ethical and economic contexts within which public health problems occur and are addressed. The ultimate goal of the program is mastery of evidence-based decision-making and capacity to translate empirical knowledge into effective public health practice. 

The University at Albany’s School of Public Health is unique because of its strong partnership with the New York State Department of Health, one of the largest, most prestigious health departments in the country, frequently on the front lines confronting new emerging infections or threats of bio-terrorism. This collaboration is special because it expedites real-time integration of academic discipline with the every-day practice of public health on the national, state and local levels.

Practicum placements ensure that DrPH students are exposed to on-the-job doctoral training experiences in ways that are unparalleled and cannot be duplicated in other schools of public health. Students work side-by-side in mentoring relationships with senior public health practitioners who solve real public health problems by researching, designing, implementing and evaluating interventions, programs, and policies to alleviate problems confronting communities today. Practicum placements are available in such diverse settings as maternal and child health, epidemiological surveillance, chronic disease prevention, cancer control and treatment, violence and injury prevention, HIV/AIDS and international health to name a few.

Most importantly, practicum placements frequently result in doctoral dissertations, career direction, and even eventual employment in leadership positions upon graduation. In addition to mentoring in the field, faculty members, who are full-time employees in the New York State Department of Health, actively participate as teachers and dissertation committee members to further enrich the educational experience of DrPH students.

In addition to being the only accredited school of public health with a strong affiliation with a state health department, the DrPH program also incorporates a highly successful leadership training institute. The Northeast Public Health Leadership Institute (NEPHLI), housed within the School of Public Health, supports emerging leaders from state and local public health departments and allied public and private organizations to broaden their vision of public health policy, practice and collaboration and foster improved decision making within their organizations. The NEPHLI experience combined with relevant coursework ensures that graduates are prepared to assume leadership positions in public health.

In sum, the University at Albany School of Public Health is a model of excellence in professional education, which should be emulated by other institutions of higher learning. The integration of academic rigor and practical experience guarantees that our graduates are extremely well prepared to face the real world of public health when they graduate.

Student Advisement and Mentoring

After admission to the program, all students are assigned for the first semester to the Program Director who will provide advice regarding initial course selections, plans for practicum placements, and the doctoral project and dissertation. By the end of the second semester students will transition to a DrPH dissertation advisor in their area of concentration, who will guide the student throughout the formulation of the DrPH doctoral project and dissertation.  The dissertation advisor assesses academic and practice background and goals in order to plan an individualized course of study tailored to the student’s interests. Because of the practice orientation of the degree, SPH faculty who are employed by the New York State Department of Health will play key roles in serving as dissertation advisors. New students are assigned mentors from the group of students preceding them in the program. Mentors provide advice on guidance regarding all aspects of life at the SPH. All students must keep track of their progress on the Plan of Study Form. Updated Plans of Study should be submitted and reviewed with the advisor and DrPH Director at the beginning and end of every semester.

Preliminary Assessment

Accepted students undergo a preliminary assessment with the DrPH Program Director, during their first semester to determine how well the student meets the MPH competencies and to identify areas in which the student may require additional preparation. A review of master’s-level coursework and related work experience will be completed. Paperwork will be completed to transfer any appropriate courses from previous graduate study. After the assessment, the advisor may recommend readings or online modules to supplement knowledge. For example, if the student is found to be deficient in the MPH competencies in epidemiology, he/she will be assigned readings or other supplemental work. This may be desirable, for instance, if a master’s level course to be transferred was taken years earlier and is deemed lacking in recent developments in the field. The DrPH Program will provide guidance to First Year Advisors and provide them with appropriate resources to assess and advise students. The assessment process will assist the student and advisor with determining the student’s preparedness to take the Comprehensive Qualifying Examination at the end of the first year.

Competency-Based Learning Objectives:

The Association of Schools of Public Health adopted the following DrPH Competencies in 2008. The DrPH curriculum at the University at Albany School of Public Health is designed to expedite mastery of these competencies.

1. Advocacy:
Public health advocacy is the ability to create and sustain active support for a cause or position with the intent of influencing the public and/or decision-makers regarding policies, practices and beliefs that advance public health goals. In addition it includes the ability to incorporate scientific knowledge and ethical considerations to impact issues at local, tribal, state, national, and international levels.

2. Communication/(Education):
Communication is the study and use of strategies, both written and oral, to inform and influence individual and community decisions that enhance health. The DrPH graduate must be able to teach academic and professional audiences, as well as conduct health promotion and education to health and human services providers, as well as lay audiences in communities, with varying degrees of literacy.

3. Community/Cultural Orientation:
Cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence is comprised of four components: (a) Awareness of one's own cultural worldview, b) Attitude towards cultural differences, (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and (d) Cross-cultural skills.

Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. This orientation is fundamental to successful community services and critical for intervention oriented, community-based participatory research.

4. Critical Analysis (Research/Evaluation):
Critical analysis encompasses knowledge and skills required to: (1) analyze, synthesize, and translate evidence-based research and theory from a broad range of disciplines and data sources; (2) develop, manage, and assess data systems that monitor the health of the population; and (3) apply evidenced-based approaches to the design, implementation and evaluation of complex, multi-level interventions and epidemiological studies to improve health.

5. Leadership:
A DrPH graduate should embrace an ethical orientation focused on improving access, health protection, prevention and promotion for all citizens.

He/she must demonstrate behaviors that include: 1.)Working collaboratively to create a shared vision of a positive future for a project, organization or community that enhances essential public health service delivery and improves the health of communities;  2.) Communicating a shared vision to critical stakeholders; that influences, through collaboration and partnering, the development and implementation of change strategies to achieve the shared vision; 3.) Developing the capacity of others, who will accomplish the shared vision, including the development and use of teams; and 4.) Motivating others to achieve and maintain high standards of performance for essential public health services.

6. Management/ (Policy):
Management is the ability to provide strategic and operational guidance, within the bounds of fiscal responsibility, for the separate and collective organizational functions pertaining to core functions of public health for the ultimate purposes of achieving high health status and high quality care for individuals and communities.

7. Professionalism & Ethics:
This competency refers to the ability to: 1.) Identify an ethical issue and balance the claims of personal liberty (e.g., human subjects) against concerns about population health or research; 2.) Consider the full spectrum of the determinants of health, identify the range of options for interventions, demonstrate values and professional behaviors which form the basis of public health practice; 3.) Understand and act upon the ethical concepts of social justice, virtue, and human rights; model accountability; and formulate and commit to personal and institutional development plans.


The program leading to the DrPH degree requires the following: a minimum of 51 credit hours of course work (including 15 MPH core credits); a passing grade on the Comprehensive Qualifying Examination; satisfaction of the Research Tool requirement, two 6 credit hour (12 total) practicum placements; and completion of a 12-credit doctoral project, which culminates with the DrPH dissertation.

Students may apply for admission with advanced standing, based on previous graduate work, and be allowed a maximum of 30 credits for courses applicable to the DrPH. Of the 75 total credits required for the degree, at least 39 credits must be completed at the University at Albany. Courses presented for transfer must be appropriate to the student's graduate program, must be graduate-level courses and have been given by an accredited institution authorized to grant graduate degrees. Courses presented must be completed with grades of B or better. Courses presented for transfer credit will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Full-time study is encouraged. Most grants and scholarships are available only to full-time students. Part-time study is permitted. However, in accordance with University guidelines, all students enrolled in doctoral programs must maintain continuous registration for each fall and spring session (except for periods of official leave of absence prior to candidacy) until they have completed all program requirements. Minimum registration consists of 3 credits of approved course work or practicum, or 1 credit of registration for dissertation work after advancement to candidacy (899 courses only).

ACADEMIC PHASE (51 credits)

MPH core courses (15 credits)

Introductory graduate-level courses in the 5 core areas of public health (epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and management, social and behavioral science, environmental health) or their equivalent:

EPI 501            Principles and Methods of Epidemiology (3 credits)
EPI/STA 552   Principles of Statistical Inference (3 credits)
HPM 500         Health Care Organization, Delivery and Financing (3 credits)
HPM 525         Social and Behavioral Aspects of Public Health (3 credits)
EHS 590           Introduction to Environmental Health (3 credits)

Note: Equivalent MPH core courses may have been completed as part of a previous graduate program, in which case the appropriate credits may be transferred in to the DrPH program. Students with a master’s degree other than an MPH degree, who have not previously taken these MPH courses, will be required to take them.

DrPH core courses (12 credits) - 4 of the following

EPI 502 Principles of Epidemiology
STA 553 Principles of Statistical Inference II
HPM 627 Public Health Education and Promotion
Management (e.g., HPM 641-approval of advisor)
Leadership (e.g., SPH 569-approval of advisor)
Policy (e.g., HPM 501-approval of advisor)


Health Policy, Management and Behavior:

HPM 511         Economic Analysis for Health Policy and Management
HPM 650         Strategy and Leadership Applications in Health Management
                          (or approved alternative if pre-requisite HPM 541 not taken)
HPM 520         Fundamentals of Research Design
HPM 521         Introduction to Family and Community Health
or HPM 530     Introduction to Maternal & Child Health
or HPM 625     Introduction to Public Health in Aging
HPM 647         Program Evaluation

Choice of 600-level or above electives in any department as approved by advisor

Epidemiology and Biostatistics:

STA 554         Introduction to the Theory of Statistics I
STA 555         Introduction to the Theory of Statistics II
STA 558         Methods of Data Analysis I
STA 559         Methods of Data Analysis II
EPI 601          Advanced Epidemiological Methods

Advanced level methods course in epidemiology, biostatistics or another department as approved by advisor.

600 level or above electives as approved by advisor

Note: Individuals who took equivalent courses during their master’s degree program may transfer those credits, up to a maximum of 30 credits, or substitute other advanced courses with approval of advisor. All students must complete at least 39 graduate credits in residence at the University at Albany. Students are encouraged to take 700-level courses, when possible.


  • All DrPH students are required to enroll in SPH 701: Doctoral Seminar: Topics for Public Health Practice (3 credits). Topics include: ethics, research design, sampling, program evaluation, proposal development, leadership etc.  (Note:  Students register for 3 credits during spring semester of the first year although attendance is mandatory during both fall and spring semesters throughout the first academic year.)
  • All DrPH students must enroll in SPH 780, Doctoral Practicum Presentations  (0 credit for ONLY the two semesters in which student is scheduled to make their own practicum presentations.
  • EPI 514: Computer Programming for Data Management and Analysis in Public Health (3 credits).  This course fulfills the research tool requirement.

PRACTICUM PHASE (12 credits)

Two 6-credit (12 total) DrPH practicum placements are required

Students use the practicum experiences to acquire a broad exposure to public health by completing practicum rotations in more than one setting.  Practicum rotations should also demonstrate integration of multiple disciplines.           

The intent of the DrPH practicum placement is to demonstrate mastery of evidence-based public health decision-making and capacity to translate empirical knowledge into effective public health practice. The practicum experiences help students develop by demonstrating leadership, independence and originality in a project with significant public health impact. Examples include: design and implementation of an epidemiological study or surveillance system, leading a workgroup to develop a policy or strategic plan, and/or evaluation of effectiveness of a behavior change intervention.

The practicum placements are supervised by both the student’s faculty advisor and a mentor, who is a public health practitioner, either with a doctoral degree, or with substantial expertise and experience in the field.

 Evaluation of practicum:

  • Before the placement can begin, the student, mentor and advisor must agree on, and sign, a written practicum registration plan, including a brief proposal that outlines causes and consequences for the public health problem to be addressed, a project plan, including measures and methods, expected results/outcomes and intended use for the findings.
  • There will be a one month and final review (completed by student, mentor and advisor together) to confirm placement is working as planned or to make changes to meet student’s and/or agency’s needs. At the one-month review the student will identify activities associated with mastery of specific DrPH competency-based learning objectives.
  • For the final assessment of the practicum experience the student will develop a written report (approximately 20 pages) summarizing the project’s background, methods, results, and implications with suggested recommendations for next steps. He/She will also prepare and deliver a 30 minute presentation to an audience of colleagues to fulfill the requirement for SPH 780: Doctoral Practicum Presentations. The presentation must be accompanied by a set of hand-outs or Powerpoint slides. The faculty mentor and advisor must be in attendance for the presentation.

Students must register for 6 credits during the semesters of their practicum placements, SPH 790 for the first practicum and SPH 791 for the second.


The research tool requirement for the doctoral degree is met by satisfactorily demonstrating computer literacy.  Satisfactory completion of EPI 514 (i.e. a grade of B or better) fulfills this requirement.


A comprehensive examination will be required after all core DrPH coursework is completed and must be passed before the Doctoral Project is begun.  The exam will consist of a week-long take home exercise designed to evaluate core public health competencies.  Students will write a project proposal that develops, implements, and evaluates the impact of an evidence-based intervention to combat a particular public health problem. The DrPH Advisory Committee (composed of 5 faculty members, one from each department) will administer and grade the exam. The exam will be graded pass/fail. If a student fails, he/she can retake it within one year or next scheduled administration of the exam.  A second failure will result in dismissal from the program.                


Doctoral candidates write proposals describing: the public health significance of the project, detailed description of the work-plan, specification of relevant DrPH competencies, and how the project is integrative by demonstrating translation of empirical data into effective public health practice and evidence-based decision-making. The proposal should be a minimum of 10 pages, excluding the bibliography.  There will be an open meeting with faculty and the student’s dissertation committee at which the student must defend the proposal.

The Doctoral Project and Dissertation will be a methodologically sound, substantial practice-oriented project in which the student puts existing knowledge into practice and which becomes the basis for the student’s doctoral dissertation. This can be an extension of a practicum. Students will be advised by a DrPH Dissertation Committee which will consist of a minimum of four people, including the Chair, from within the student’s area of concentration, mentor from the field with substantive expertise and involvement with the Dissertation; the DrPH Program Director, and a faculty member from another discipline to serve as an outside reader.

To conform to University at Albany requirements, the chair of the dissertation committee must hold an unqualified appointment at the University. The chair and two other members must hold an earned doctorate or full professorship. Two members must be faculty of the School of Public Health and the third member should have an academic appointment external to the School of Public Health. If the dissertation project is conducted in a public health practice setting with a mentor that does not meet the degree or faculty requirements, it will be necessary for the committee to include an additional member. The doctoral committee must be formally approved by the Director of the DrPH Program.

Students will register for SPH 898 (two 3-credit units) before completion and successful defense of the doctoral dissertation proposal and admission to candidacy.  After admission to candidacy they will register for SPH 899 for a maximum of 6 additional credits which may be taken one per semester at a time.

Assessment of Doctoral Project and Dissertation:

Per University guidelines, doctoral students must have a dissertation committee to guide their dissertation project and to approve each stage of the process.  Responsibility for the final evaluation and acceptance of a dissertation rests with the programfaculty and the candidate’s dissertation or doctoral committee.  While students must be given an on-going evaluation of their dissertation by their dissertation committee as various sections are completed, final approval shall be given only to a completed work.  

The DrPH Dissertation will be a comprehensive description of the student’s Doctoral Project, suitable for publication, and must include an introduction to the public health problem, comprehensive literature review, project description, methods, data analysis, and discussion of results, including policy implications.  Each student will defend the dissertation in a final oral defense, which will be an approximately one hour long presentation followed by a question and answer period.  The presentation and question and answer period will be open to all members of the University community, and this will be followed by a closed discussion between the student and his/her dissertation committee.

Admission to Candidacy:

A student will be admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Public Health upon completion of the following:

1. Satisfactory record in course work and practicum placements (minimum grade
    of B in each course within Department of concentration).
2. Satisfaction of the residence requirement.
3. Satisfaction of the research tool requirement.
4. Satisfactory performance on the comprehensive qualifying examination
    (both parts).
5. Approval by the dissertation committee of the Doctoral Project and 
    Dissertation proposal (Dissertation committee form completed).

Evaluation of Students:

Throughout their tenure in the DrPH program, students will be evaluated based on the following:

Course grades:  Students must maintain a minimum grade of B across all courses. However, if a student receives a grade lower than a B in a required course they must re-take the course. If the low grade is in an elective, the course will not count toward the degree but must be balanced with a higher grade to maintain the overall B average.

Comprehensive Qualifying Exam:

(2 parts-General and Departmental Concentration).

DrPH Doctoral Project and Dissertation: 

Students will be evaluated based on the written proposal and its defense, the DrPH dissertation and its oral defense (See section describing doctoral project and dissertation.)