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Population Health Program | Research | Doctoral Program

Population Health PhD

Program Overview

The PhD Program in Population Health at Northeastern University integrates interdisciplinary education and experiential learning opportunities to train students to become public health leaders who understand the complex factors that affect the health and well-being of populations.

Close mentoring by distinguished faculty

Focus on solution-based, innovative research

Specialized training in critical population health topics

Curriculum

Our Population Health doctoral students conduct research that addresses five key determinants of health:

Social and Community Context

Environment and Neighborhoods

Health and Health Care Delivery

Education

Economic Stability

All Population Health PhD candidates must earn at least 33 credits by completing core research courses, selecting a concentration, and taking additional electives and directed study courses, as needed and in consultation with their faculty advisors. They must complete a dissertation in order to earn their degree.

Students investigate the underlying causes of adverse health, including disease, disparities, and disability, through training in core population health disciplines.

  • Biostatistics in Public Health (3 credits)
  • Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • Principals of Population Health 1 (3 credits)
  • Principals of Population Health 2 (3 credits)
  • Economic Perspectives on Health Policy (3 credits)
  • Applied Regression Analysis (3 credits)
  • Intermediate Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • Research Skills and Ethics (1 credit)

Students are trained to conduct research examining the social and environmental determinants of health through a cohesive, transdisciplinary program that integrates topics that include the five pillars of public health, including epidemiology, biostatistics, health program evaluation, environmental health, and social determinants of health.

  • Social Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • Advanced Methods in Biostatistics (3 credits)
  • Dissertation preparation classes (exact credits determined in conjunction with faculty advisor)
  • Directed Study (3 credits, can be repeated as needed)
  • Various electives (exact number of courses determined in conjunction with faculty advisor)
    Sample Electives (3 credits)
    • Theoretical Foundations of Personal Health Informatics
    • Health Organization Management
    • Public Health Policy and Administration
    • Strategic Management and Leadership in Health Care
    • Global Health
    • Health Education and Program Planning
    • Advances in Measuring Behavior
    • Social Movements in Health
    • Qualitative Methods in Health and Illness
    • Causal Inference in Public Health
    • Data Mining
    • Statistics for Big Data Sets

Students are trained to conduct highly rigorous research examining the financing, organization, and delivery of health care services through the use of quantitative and qualitative research methods.

  • Microeconomic Theory (4 credits)
  • Evaluating Health Care Quality (3 credits)
  • Dissertation preparation classes (exact credits determined in conjunction with faculty advisor)
  • Directed Study (3 credits, can be repeated as needed)
  • Various electives (exact number of courses determined in conjunction with faculty advisor)
    Sample Electives (3 credits)
    • Theoretical Foundations of Personal Health Informatics
    • Health Organization Management
    • Public Health Policy and Administration
    • Strategic Management and Leadership in Health Care
    • Global Health
    • Health Education and Program Planning
    • Advances in Measuring Behavior
    • Social Movements in Health
    • Qualitative Methods in Health and Illness
    • Causal Inference in Public Health
    • Data Mining
    • Statistics for Big Data Sets

Admissions

The Population Health PhD Program accepts applications through 3/1 for Fall entry only.

Applicants accepted: Domestic and International
Delivery: On campus with some options to take classes online
Student status: Choice of part-time or full-time
Term Start: Fall only*
Application deadline: 3/1

*Requests for a Spring start are considered on a case by case basis by the Program Director and require the submission of a completed application by 10/15.

Apply Here

Admissions Checklist

Click each required application item for more information.

Completed application

Completed application via Northeastern’s “Apply Yourself”

All applications must be submitted through Northeastern’s “Apply Yourself” application system. A fee of $75 by credit card or check is required for each submitted application. Current NU students and alumni do not need to pay this application fee.

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Official transcripts

Official transcripts

For information on sending official transcripts, please review the instructions on the Bouve Graduate Application website.

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Official test scores

Official test scores

GRE scores from the past five years are required. Use code #3629. The GRE requirement cannot be waived under any circumstances. While the PhD Program does not have GRE score cut-offs, we encourage you to submit the best scores you can.

TOEFL scores are required from international applicants who possess degrees from institutions outside the United States. Use code #3629. The PhD Program requires a minimum score of 100 on the TOEFL (official test scores from similar English-language tests may not be substituted in place of the TOEFL).

Requests to be waived from the TOEFL requirement are determined on a case by case basis by the Program Director. Email Dr. Helen Suh at suh@neu.edu with your request and relevant materials (eg, CV/resume, transcripts).

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3 letters of recommendation

Three letters of recommendation

Only academic and professional letters of recommendation will be accepted.

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Personal statement

Personal statement

Your personal statement should discuss how your background informs your research interests. It should demonstrate how your training and experience motivates you to pursue a type of research. The type of research doesn’t have to be specific, but it should also not be too general (eg, population health is too general.

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Student Profiles

Click on each student’s photo to read about their research interests and experiences in the doctoral program.

Meredith Milstein

Why did you choose to apply to this program?
I chose to apply to the Population Health program because it is unique in that it combines multiple facets necessary to understand how to approach improving the health outcomes and behaviors of an entire population. This includes statistical and epidemiological methods, social theory and determinants, and how to translate health outcomes into policy recommendations.

What kind of research are you doing?

I am currently evaluating biases associated with different survival analysis methods and censoring techniques, particularly during their use when analyzing multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment cohorts. I aim to identify more efficient means to analyze these data under differing scenarios, resulting in less bias outcomes and more accurate effect measures to inform treatment recommendations.

What kind of research or professional experiences have you had?

I have over 6 years experience implementing clinical trials, including drug trials for asthma treatment and international research assessing tuberculosis treatments. My most current research, evaluating multidrug-resistant tuberculosis treatment outcomes in adolescents, was presented at the 46th UNION World Conference on Lung Health in December 2015.

What are your professional aspirations?

I aspire to be a member of an academic institution, teaching epidemiology and/or research methods courses, to mentor students early in their research careers, and to conduct personal research related to identifying more efficient processes for the diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring of tuberculosis patients worldwide.

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Meredith Milstein

Renee Wurth

Why did you choose to apply to this program?

I chose this program due to its multidisciplinary take on health research.  It lets me merge together my interests and think of translational research.

What kind of research are you doing?

I am focusing primarily on nutrition research, but have been able to work with a wide array of projects that incorporate this component, such as air pollution and the human gut microbiome.

What kind of research or professional experiences have you had?

I have gone to several conferences and also traveled to San Diego to do a research fellowship.

What are your professional aspirations?

I like this program because I do not feel limited in my future career and plan to keep the options open.

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Renee Wurth

Stephen Flaherty

Why did you choose to apply to this program?

I actually started in the Personal Health Informatics program but realized that I was doing most of the course work for Population Health and I switch programs last year. The Population Health program fit my interests in healthcare delivery and quality better, and I am glad I made the change.

What kind of research are you doing?

My research is centered on healthcare delivery, utilization, and quality. I am interested in exploring the challenges in our healthcare system that lead to waste, low efficiency, and poor outcomes. I working on two projects at the moment: one on hospitals in accountable care organizations and how hospitals performed on a variety of measures including quality, community spending, and community benefits; the other is going to explore patterns of diagnostic imaging across Massachusetts with data from a massive claims dataset collected by the state.

What kind of research or professional experiences have you had?

I have worked in healthcare for many years in clinical, managerial, and research settings. I have presented at radiology conferences and quality symposiums on several occasions, and have worked extensively with faculty in research and clinical settings.

What are your professional aspirations?

My goal is to work in an academic setting where I can do healthcare services research and teach.

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Stephen Flaherty

Brianne Mui

Why did you choose to apply to this program?

A mentor of mine and faculty member at NYU advised me to apply here.

What kind of research are you doing?

I am working with Becky Briesacher, an amazing new faculty member.  We are researching nursing home prescribing practices. With a novel dataset she has acquired I hope to be able to investigate prescribing practices among HIV/AIDS nursing home patients.

What kind of research or professional experiences have you had?

The majority of the last 10 years of my professional career were spent in clinical laboratories in NYC, clinical chemistry and genetics specifically. During my MPH, worked at CHIBPS NYU on a study of young men who have sex with men in NYC and their HIV outcomes. After finishing my MPH, I took a data management and analysis position working with the New York City Fire Department studying health outcomes of 9/11 first responders.

What are your professional aspirations?

After completing my PhD here at NEU, my hope is to go on to broaden the scope of literature on HIV/AIDS among under represented populations such as the different sub populations within the LGBT community and the elderly. Teaching is a challenge I would like to take on, but research is my real passion.

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Brianne Mui

Students in the News

Cassidy Griffin

Frequently Asked Questions

Does your program have course prerequisites?

No, our program does not have specific requirements with regard to classes applicants must take or have taken prior to applying.

Do I need to possess an advanced degree to apply?

While competitive applicants typically already possess an advanced degree, we will consider exceptionally qualified applicants with a bachelor’s degree, as well.

Does your program accept transfer credits?

A maximum of 9 semester/12 quarter hours of credit obtained at another institution may be accepted towards the degree, provided the credits consist of work taken at the graduate level for graduate credit, carry grades of 3.000 (B) or better,, and have not been used toward any other degree. These courses must have been taken within 5 years prior to the transfer.

Can I be waived from submitting official test scores?

Admission to the Population Health PhD program is contingent on receiving GRE scores (taken within the past five years) from all applicants, and this requirement cannot be waived. In addition, TOEFL scores are required from all international applicants who have received degrees from institutions outside the United States. Guidelines for submitting a request to waiver the TOEFL requirement are outlined in the Admissions section.

Can I be waived from any classes?

Certain required classes (for example, introductory classes in Biostatistics and Epidemiology) can be waived if you’ve taken equivalent classes in previous graduate programs. Course waivers will be determined on a case by case basis once a student is accepted and officially matriculates into the PhD Program.

How much does the program cost?

Doctoral students in the Population Health PhD program pay per credit taken. The latest cost per credit for Bouve College of Health Sciences programs can be found on Northeastern’s Student Financial Services webpage.

What kind of funding does the PhD Program offer?

Our program offers a select number of graduate assistantships for doctoral students, which covers tuition and includes a yearly stipend in exchange for 20 hours of work each week. You do not need to do anything further than submitting an application to the Program to be considered for a graduate assistantship.

Does your program offer online courses?

Some required courses have online course equivalents that doctoral students may choose to take, but it is not required.

Can I work full time and attend the PhD Program on a part-time basis?

Many courses in the PhD Program meet in the early evenings, and some meet during the day. Most courses meet once a week or twice a week. With enough work flexibility, it is possible to work full time and attend school part-time.

Can I apply to the PhD Program and the MPH Program at the same time?

Yes, you can apply to both programs and be considered for both. Please note the application process is separate for the two programs. Please see the MPH Program page for more information about applying to that program.

Can I speak with faculty in the PhD Program that may share my research interests?

Yes, we would be happy to put you in touch with our faculty. Please send your query to Dr. Heleh Suh, Population Heath PhD Program Director, at h.suh@neu.edu along with a description of your research interests so you can be appropriately matched.

Contact Information

We welcome any questions you might have about our program. Please feel free to send general program inquiries and admissions-related questions to Dr. Helen Suh.

Helen H. Suh, ScD

Professor Suh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Health Sciences at Northeastern. She is also adjunct faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and a Senior Fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago, reflective of the work that she continues to perform in her previous positions.  Dr. Suh is an internationally recognized expert in air pollution health effects, having led multidisciplinary teams in environmental exposure assessment and epidemiology for over 20 years.  Dr. Suh’s research focuses on three general areas within air pollution health effects, including (1) assessment of the impact of lifestyle and neighborhoods on air pollutant exposures and human health, (2) examination of multi-pollutant impacts on human health, and (3) development of GIS-based spatio-temporal modeling tools for epidemiological research. Her work has been published in over 100 papers in leading environmental health journals.  Dr. Suh performs advisory work in environmental health for numerous local, national, and international organizations. Currently, Dr. Suh is a member of the charter US Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and the Institute of Medicine Committee to Review the Health Effects in Vietnam Veterans of Herbicide Exposure.  She is also Associate Editor of the International Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.

Education/degrees:
Sc.D., Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health
MS, Environmental Health, Harvard School of Public Health
SB, Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Specializations:  environmental epidemiology, exposure assessment, air pollution

Research Interests:  exposure assessment, environmental epidemiology, exposome

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Helen H. Suh, ScD
Program Director
316 Robinson Hall
Tel: 617.373.3666
h.suh@neu.edu

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