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Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics Programs
2007-2009 Student Handbook

Program Description and Goals Qualifications
Degree Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics Course of Study for the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics
Sample Curriculum  

Program Description and Goals

This program is designed to be a research based trans-disciplinary program involving students with a variety of backgrounds. Students will work together in teams to research real clinical and biomedical health problems. They will gain both the scientific background for such research and also skills needed to address the problems. The program is designed to meet the unique needs of each student by using a matrix curriculum plan with an Advising Committee to guide them from their admission in the program through graduation. Each student must have a faculty research mentor to guide the student through participation in research projects.

As issues in healthcare become more complex, the amount of data collected and stored escalates, and the need for facilitated retrieval of pertinent information continues, there is a widespread, generally acknowledged need for Health Informatics researchers. The Health Informatics doctoral program is conceptualized and designed to be inherently trans-disciplinary and integrative. This means that the fundamental informatics concepts that transcend and apply to all traditional healthcare disciplines will be emphasized in the doctoral program. This program will identify and teach the major informatics concepts that integrate and link diverse health disciplines creating a focus on patient healthcare.

The doctoral program in Health Informatics is constructed as a post-baccalaureate degree. The post baccalaureate approach simplifies the construction of a matrix for the student which both addresses the knowledge and skills that the student brings at admission, but also allows the student to build on previous knowledge and skills to attain the research focus needed for the completion of the doctoral program in Health Informatics.

Students admitted to the masters program can apply to the doctoral tract by meeting the same admission requirements as those who apply directly to the doctoral program. Full admission to the doctoral program occurs only after admission to candidacy.

Admission will be limited to students who are matched with faculty members’ area of research, scholarship, and teaching expertise.

Formal study of informatics at the doctoral level at UTHSC-H is designed to be a trans-disciplinary approach to accomplish these major goals:

  • Expand the scope of the discipline of Health Informatics
  • Research and evaluate new regions or domains in Health Informatics
  • Lead interdisciplinary teams in the search for solutions to Health Informatics problems
  • Effectively communicate research findings to peers and to practitioners who can use the research findings.

The curriculum is conceptualized as a matrix. Each doctoral student will take basic, research and advanced informatics courses in Health Informatics. In addition each student will select a supporting area outside of the focus area and complete an extensive preceptorship, all with a clear research focus. Each student must have a mentor and an Advising Committee that will oversee that student’s progress from admission to graduation. The student’s mentor, a Health Informatics faculty member, will chair the Advising Committee. The Advising Committee will guide the student in the selection of courses, selection of supporting area, designation of a preceptorship site and the development of the student’s research interests. This continuity between the student and the Advising Committee will allow the faculty to understand each student’s strengths and allow the student to explore areas which need to be strengthened while allowing the student to meet the student’s individual goals for graduate research education. Students will be encouraged to work cooperatively with faculty at other institutions such as cognitive science at Texas A&M University, telehealth at UT MD Anderson or biomedical computing through the Keck Institute.

The doctoral program is a 93-semester credit hour program developed as a post baccalaureate program. Each cell of the matrix represents a learning experience in each of the four areas: basic informatics, research informatics, advanced informatics, and area of research interest.

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Financial Assistance

Substantial financial packages and research assistantships will be available to all students to facilitate full time doctoral education.

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PHD Admission Process

Presentation of Qualifications
The applicant should present a completed application and official documentation of the following to the Registrar’s Office:

  1. a baccalaureate or higher degree in an appropriate area, e.g., science, medicine, dentistry, MIS, engineering, or computer science
  2. a statement of Informatics related work experience
  3. a Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score over 1140 or Millers Analogy Test (MAT) score, over 432 (required)
  4. Grade Point Average (GPA) in previous degrees of 3.7 or greater
  5. a minimum TOEFL score of 550 on the paper test, on the internet based test writing 26, speaking 23, reading 21, listening 17, total 87 or a minimum score of 213 on the computer test is required for international students
  6. Submit a brief (no more than three pages single-spaced, 12 point font size) personal statement that addresses the following items:
    • A brief summary of your background in all relevant fields, such as biomedicine, mathematics, and computer science, describing research experience and any results that were generated in research work. Provide dates, research advisors, project titles, and references to publications.
    • A statement of educational goals and how these goals would be advanced through the PhD program.
    • A statement of short- and long-term career objectives, including specific information regarding short-term objectives, (any projects you may have in mind for your PhD work). Be sure to include how those objectives fit the opportunities provided by the SHIS educational and research environments.
  7. Satisfy a criminal background checks if offered admission.

As part of the admission process, applicants are to submit relevant materials in a portfolio manner. The portfolios are then forwarded to an admission subcommittee, which will then review the materials. Applicants are required to take either the GRE exam or the MAT exam for admission. The categories that will be considered for admission are:

  • Health, MIS, Computer or Engineering related degree
  • Health-care work experience
  • Database work experience
  • Informatics work experience
  • Demonstrated expertise in programming
  • GRE over 1140-1239/MAT over 432
  • GPA in previous degree> 3.7 (adjusted for grade inflation)
  • GPA in previous degree 3.5 - 3.69 (adjusted for grade inflation)
  • Success in overcoming social, ethnicity, gender, economic or educational disadvantages
  • Prior research experience

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Interview

The second component for admission is a personal interview. Applicants will interview with at least three members of the Advising Committee; the student’s proposed mentor must be one of the members. The Admissions Committee will have a broad membership of full-time and adjunct faculty who will also represent cooperating schools and potential employers. One committee member would be the student’s mentor, another faculty member in the Health Informatics and a representative of the field of the applicant and/or the applicant’s prospective work, e.g., nursing, medicine, telehealth, public health, dentistry, genomics, or computational biomedicine. Separate interviews may be conducted due to scheduling. The interview would focus on the applicant’s research goals and how they can be achieved in the SHIS doctoral program. The applicant is expected to bring to the interview an essay describing the applicant’s goals and objectives in Health Informatics.

Applicants who are presenting course work from universities or colleges outside the United States to meet admission or graduation requirements should see the section on International Applicants in this catalog for a listing of additional requirements.

Students who wish to transfer must meet all admission requirements. A maximum of thirty-six semester credit hours can be accepted toward a doctoral degree. However, the student’s advisory committee may have the flexibility to determine whether comparable courses have been taken at other institutions. If equivalent courses have been taken at other institutions, the student will not be required to repeat the equivalent course in this program. If the semester credit hours are transferred from another institution, they will not count toward the degree. However, if the student has more than six semester credit hours that parallel courses in this program, six semester credit hours will be counted toward the degree. Other courses may be taken as equivalent courses but they will not affect the total number of semester credit hours that must be taken for the completion of a degree. The selection of any courses must be with the approval of the student’s advisory committee.

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Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics Degree

Academic Requirements

Credit hours must total at least 93 semester hours for all courses in the degree plan. Six of those semester credit hours will be in support courses not offered by the School. The support courses could include areas such as cognitive sciences from Texas A & M University, computer science from Rice University, mathematics from the University of Houston, measurement courses from the University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston or courses studying healthcare outcomes from The University of School of Public Health at Houston.

A total of 93 semester credit hours listed in the sample curriculum matrix for Health Informatics must be completed prior to graduation.

A full-time student in the Program in Health Informatics has up to eight years from the time of entry to complete the required course work. Continued enrollment is required unless approval from the Advisory Committee is obtained. A maximum of one year of approved leave will allow for continuance in the program. If more than one year occurs, the student must seek readmission to the program.

Each course with a HI prefix in the Health Informatics degree plan is a graduate level professional course and must be passed with a grade of “B” or better. The minimum GPA required for graduation is 3.0 on all HI courses.

If a student in the Health Informatics program fails a course in the curriculum, the student may enroll in that particular course one more time (a total of two enrollments for the same course). If the student makes lower than a B in that particular course the second time, the student cannot continue in the program. If a student fails two academic courses in one semester, the student will be dismissed from the program for academic reasons. If a student fails an overall total of three or more courses, the student will be dismissed from the program for academic reasons.

Other Requirements

In Residence Requirement: The term “in residence” refers to a total of 57 semester credit hours that must be taken at The University of Texas School of Health Information Sciences at Houston. A student must fulfill his or her in residence requirement in order to receive a doctoral degree from the School.

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The Professional Course of Study of the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics Program

The doctor of philosophy degree is a post baccalaureate program. The curriculum of the doctor of philosophy degree in Health Informatics includes required didactic courses and preceptorship courses. Didactic courses (lecture/discussion, demonstration and student laboratories) are presented to provide facts, concepts, and theories related to the techniques and procedures of health informatics. They include instruction in basic informatics, research, and advanced informatics and support courses. The preceptorship courses are designed to give the students the opportunity to apply theory and techniques in the hospital, research or private laboratory setting. A full-time student in the Program in Health Informatics has up to four years (12 semesters) from the time of entry to complete the required course work.

Each student will develop his or her curriculum with approval of his or her Advisory Committee. A degree plan will be filed with the approval of his or her advisory committee that includes a minimum of nine semester credit hours in basic informatics, fifteen semester credit hours in research, 21 semester credit hours in advanced courses, 6 semester credit hours in support courses, 9 semester credit hours in preceptorship courses, 21 semester credit hours in a specific research area approved by the mentor, 3 semester credit hours of research seminar, and 9 semester credit hours of dissertation. Changes to the degree plan must have the written approval of the Advisory Committee.

Basic Informatics courses include:

  • Foundations of Health Information Sciences
  • Information Systems in the Delivery of Health Care
  • Decision Making in Health Care
  • Cognitive Science in Health Informatics
  • Advanced Database Concepts in Health Informatics
  • Legal Ethical Aspects of Health Informatics
  • Health Information Systems Security
  • Systems Analysis for Health Informatics
  • Introduction to Object-Oriented Systems Development in Health Informatics
  • Introduction to Computational Biomedicine
  • Introduction to Learning Environments in the Health Sciences
  • Biomedical Signal Processing
  • Image Processing

Research courses include:

  • Evaluation of Health Care Systems
  • Research Design and Evaluation in Health Informatics
  • Statistical Methods in Health Informatics
  • Health Informatics Data Analysis
  • Cognitive Engineering in Health Informatics I
  • Triangulation Methods in Health Informatics
  • Learning Environment Development in the Health Sciences
  • Methods in Computational Biomedicine
  • Grant Writing

Advanced informatics courses include:

  • Advanced Health Information Systems
  • Health Data Display
  • Introduction to Telehealth
  • Consultation in Health Informatics
  • Social Dynamics and Health Information
  • Comparative Taxonomy
  • Cognitive Engineering in Health Informatics II
  • Consumer Informatics
  • Knowledge Modeling and Engineering in Health Informatics I
  • Healthcare Interface Design
  • Knowledge Modeling II
  • Advanced Decision Analysis I
  • Introduction to Computational Aspects of Bioinformatics
  • Applied Computational Biomedicine
  • Project Management in Healthcare
  • Advanced Topics in Computational Biomedicine
  • Datamining in Bioinformatics
  • Computational Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Computational Structural Biology
  • Bimolecular Modeling

Support courses may include topics in:

  • Cognitive science
  • Mathematics
  • Measurement
  • Computer science
  • Healthcare outcomes
  • Public Health

The advisory Committee must approve support courses before being taken unless they are transferred in at the time of admission. Approval of the transferred courses must be completed at the time of transfer to the program. Only 6 semester credit hours of support courses will be accepted toward the degree requirements.

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Advance to Candidacy

The student must have completed 36 semester credit hours before taking the exam. The exam must be completed before the student takes more than 58 semester credit hours. The candidacy exam will consist of a written and oral presentation of the student’s proposed research topic. The written proposal will be submitted to all Health Informatics Faculty. The oral presentation will be open to all students, faculty, adjunct faculty and interested parties within the University. The exam must be completed at the 58th hour limit or a defense will be scheduled.

Advanced Preceptorship

As part of the preceptorship, students will be expected to apply theoretic knowledge to research Health Informatics problems in the student’s area of interest. The student’s faculty mentor and Advisory Committee must approve the focus of the research application.

Research in Health Informatics

The research in Health Informatics will be based upon the proposal that the student submitted for the advance to candidacy exam. The student will obtain a clear understanding of the domain of knowledge and research methods needed to complete the dissertation research. During this phase the student should complete the work needed to write the first two papers that will be part of the dissertation. The student should submit these papers for publication in a refereed journal. The student will use this time to activate a unique research focus under the mentor’s guidance.

Dissertation

The Health Informatics faculty believes that communication and dissemination is a critical aspect of the research process. The student will have two options available for the dissertation. The first option will consist of three articles that are submitted for publication. Publication must be in journals or proceedings, which are both, peer reviewed and indexed for academic retrieval. The three papers would be combined with an introduction and summary and bound as a dissertation.

The second option requires the student to write a monograph. The monograph will review the literature, research approaches and options, the data design and gathering processes. The findings and data will be discussed in the context of the published literature. The monograph will be bound. The dissertation must be presented at an oral defense, which is open to the public. All research papers, theses, and dissertations authored by degree candidates are available to interested members of the general public upon request.

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Sample Curriculum

Course No. Course Title Semester Credits
Fall Semester  
HI 5310 Foundations of Health Information Sciences I 3
HI 5352 Statistical Methods for Health Informatics 3
HI 5354 Cognitive Engineering in Health Informatics 3
Total 9
Spring Semester  
HI 5351 Research Design and Evaluation in Health Informatics 3
HI 5304 Advanced Database Concepts 3
HI 5307 Systems Analysis 3
Total 9
Summer Semester  
HI 5308 Introduction to Object-Oriented Systems Development in Health Informatics 3
HI 6307 Cognitive Engineering in Health Informatics II 3
Total 6
Fall Semester  
HI 6301 Health Data Display 3
HI 6308 Consumer Informatics 3
Support Course 1 3
Total 9
Spring Semester  
HI 7000 Preceptorship in Health Informatics 6
Support Course 2 3
Total 9
Summer Semester  
HI 6311 Advanced Decision Analysis I 3
HI 6309 Healthcare Interface Design 3
Total 6
Fall Semester  
HI 7301 Grant Writing 3
HI 6351 Triangulation Methods in HI Research 3
HI 6302 Knowledge Modeling I 3
Total 9
Advance to Candidacy Exam  
Spring Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 6
HI 9999 Dissertation 3
HI 7150 Research Semester 1
Total 10
Summer Semester  
HI 9999 Dissertation 6
Total 6
Fall Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 9
HI 7150 Research Seminar 1
Total 10
Spring Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 9
HI 7150 Research Seminar 1
Total 10
Grand Total 93

Applications are accessible at registrar.uth.tmc.edu. If further assistance is needed
please contact:

Office of the Registrar
The University of Texas
Health Science Center at Houston
7000 Fannin, Ste 2250
Houston, Texas 77030
Telephone: (713) 500-3361
email address: registrar@uth.tmc.edu

For further curriculum information, please contact:
School of Health Information Sciences
Attn: Todd R. Johnson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
7000 Fannin, Ste 600
Houston, Texas 77030
Telephone: (713) 500-3921
email: Todd.R.Johnson@uth.tmc.edu
web address: shis.uth.tmc.edu/

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