Global Health Sciences (PhD)

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Degree Offered: PhD
Program Leadership:
Elizabeth Fair, PhD, MPH, Director
Ali Mirzazadeh, PhD, MD, MPH, Associate Director
Admissions Inquiries:
Rachel Cox, Education Program Officer

Program Description

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree program in Global Health Sciences provides students with a deep knowledge of important global health issues, as well as a high level of skill in health research methodology and practice.

This interdisciplinary program trains doctoral students on methods and modes of inquiry drawn from public health, public policy, economics, development studies, implementation science and the social sciences to explore and address global health problems. Students graduate with comprehensive skills, training and experience in global health research and practice.

The program is structured as a four-year degree. Students typically spend the first two years in residence at the UCSF Mission Bay campus, completing coursework and engaging in research rotations and teaching residencies with the faculty at UCSF. After completing the core curriculum and passing the qualifying examinations, students spend the next two years focused on conducting their dissertation research and engaging in other research and professional activities under the guidance of research advisers and faculty mentors.

Admission Requirements

Admissions Criteria

Applicants must have the following qualifications to apply:

  • A master’s degree or terminal professional degree with at least a 3.0 GPA
  • At least two years of experience working in global health and/or with underserved populations
  • Prior exposure to scientific research

The program places a very high value on the diversity of students who matriculate and reviews all applicants in a holistic manner. Applicants who come from traditionally underrepresented populations and students who have faced hardships are encouraged to apply. See our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Education statement.

How to Apply

Submit the following required materials to the UCSF Graduate Division online application, where you will find more detailed instructions:

  • Three letters of recommendation: All recommendations must be submitted electronically via the UCSF application. Contact your recommenders to ensure they receive the automated email request and they submit their letters before the deadline. You can monitor the status of your recommendations on your application.
  • Résumé or curriculum vitae: Summarize your education, professional experience, publications, languages spoken, honors and awards, local and international experience, extracurricular interests, and special skills.
  • Statement of Purpose (2-page limit): Address your reasons for applying to the UCSF PhD program in Global Health Sciences, describe why you chose the field of global health for your doctorate, and describe your professional and academic goals.
  • Transcripts from all academic institutions you attended: Upload unofficial transcripts from each institution you attended, even if you did not receive a degree. The program does not require official transcripts until the interview stage. See additional details on the FAQ page.
  • Application fee: U.S. citizens or permanent residents may qualify for an application fee waiver. See guidelines on Application Fee Waivers to determine eligibility for this exemption. To request the waiver, select the “application fee waiver” option in the payment area of the online application.
  • Test scores: Graduate-level tests are not required for entry to this program, but if you have taken the GRE you may choose to self-report your scores. To do so, you may email a copy of your score report to education@globalhealth.ucsf.edu. You do not need to send official GRE score reports to UCSF through the GRE system.
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores: If you are a non-native English speaker, you must demonstrate English proficiency in one of two ways:
  1. Submit an official transcript showing you completed at least one year of full-time academic coursework at an accredited college or university in the United States with a minimum GPA of 3.0.
  2. Submit TOEFL or IELTS scores that are no more than two years old. Please submit official scores to UCSF’s institutional code 4840 and email a copy of your score report to education@globalhealth.ucsf.edu.

The program accepts the following minimum scores based on the type of test:

Test Type Minimum Score
Paper-based TOEFL 550
Computer-based TOEFL 213
Internet-based TOEFL iBT 80
IELTS 7

Learning Outcomes

The doctoral program curriculum provides students comprehensive global health knowledge and research skills to prepare for diverse careers and leadership in the field of global health.

Research Methods

Students receive fundamental training in research methodologies critical to conducting and comprehending global health research, including:

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Implementation science
  • Demography
  • Qualitative and Mixed-Methods research

Students then take advanced coursework in at least one methodology most applicable to their research interests.

Global Health Proseminars

Students take core coursework in the principles and challenges of global health and study the key institutions, frameworks, and approaches for facing those global health challenges through a doctoral-level global health Proseminar Series. Students explore and analyze in-depth the topics that are cross-cutting to all work in the field of global health. The Proseminar Series serves as the backbone of the PhD curriculum:

  • Global health development and inequity
  • Comparative health systems and financing
  • Global health policy
  • Research ethics and practice in global health
  • Global health economics
  • Global health architecture and diplomacy

Doctoral Seminar

The global health doctoral seminar is designed to provide professional development skills and career training/mentorship in global health research. The doctoral seminar focuses on enabling students to advance their academic and research skills, with the ultimate goal of facilitating the development of the doctoral student’s capacity to conduct research in global health. Seminar consists of several types of class sessions, including but not limited to:

  • Guest speaker presentations on their work in global health, from across UCSF and beyond;
  • Novel methods seminars to expose students to an array of research methods in which they might want to gain further training;
  • Writing workshops focused on scientific writing, peer review and publication procedures, and grant writing to help prepare students for successful careers in global health research; and
  • Student “works in progress” (WIP) presentations, in which faculty and students provide feedback to presenters on their research.

Doctoral seminar is led by the Program Directors and meets weekly in the fall, winter, and spring quarters in the first two years of the program, while students are completing their coursework and specifying their dissertation research.

Mentorship

Doctoral students work closely with teaching faculty, academic and research advisers, and program leaders to receive one-on-one mentoring as they progress through coursework, qualifying exams, and dissertation research and writing.

Research Rotations

During the first two years of coursework, students complete two research rotations with mentors of their choice. Research rotations provide an opportunity for experiential learning: Students apply the concepts they have studied in the classroom to real-world situations, where they learn practical aspects of conducting global health research and are exposed to new areas of research and methodologies. In addition to expanding students’ education, research rotations are excellent opportunities for students to get to know faculty who may serve as future mentors or members of their doctoral committee. Students also may arrange for research rotations in global health settings outside of UCSF, for example, with the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or other public or private organizations.

Teaching Residencies

Doctoral students are required to complete two teaching residencies during their time in the program. Teaching residencies help further develop student’s skills in specific areas under the tutelage of experienced faculty, which in turn prepares them for future educational roles, including as faculty.

Additional Information

Program Core Faculty

An extensive network of faculty, researchers, global health practitioners and staff works with the Institute for Global Health Sciences to teach, advise, mentor and support students in the PhD program. Many of the faculty and mentors are leaders in their fields. They come from the UCSF Schools of Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing, as well as from other UC campuses, Bay Area universities, and the wider global health community.

Career Outcomes