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Master of Public Health and PhD in Health Informatics Dual Degree Program
2012-2014 Student Handbook

Program Description and Goals Dual Degree Application Process
Transfer Credit Financial Assistance
Degree Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Course of Study for the Doctor of Philosophy
Advanced Preceptorship Advance to Candidacy
Research in Health Informatics Dissertation

Program Description and Goals

The MPH/PhD dual degree programs combine the MPH from the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston with the PhD degree from the University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics at Houston. The training and curriculum in the dual degree program will provide students and future leaders in public health the necessary skills to be leaders in the field of Public Health Informatics. The dual degree program provides an integrated curriculum that includes a number of shared courses as well as a practicum experience and/or the thesis topic in the area of public health informatics. The selection of specific academic programs and scheduling of specific courses, fieldwork, and practica for individual students is guided by an advising committee, which includes faculty from both UTHealth schools.

Students in the dual degree program must satisfy admission requirements and be admitted separately to each program. Students must meet the requirements of each program for its respective degree. Admission to one program does not ensure admission to the other. Students in the dual degree program will receive a diploma from each degree program after meeting the individual requirements of each program.

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Dual Degree Application Process

The application process for the Master of Public Health is determined by the School of Public Health. The application process for the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics is determined by the School of Biomedical Informatics. Refer to the standard PhD program application process.

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Transfer Credit

Transfer credit for courses taken at other universities or institutions, submitted to meet part of the degree requirements, may be awarded following review and written approval by the student’s faculty academic advisor and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The maximum number of transferable credit hours for the doctoral program is 36 semester credit hours.

Credit for courses taken at other universities or institutions that are offered at SBMI are granted only through Petition for Equivalency Credit. Credit for support courses taken at other universities or institutions is approved by the students’ advising committee. Contact the Office of Academic Affairs for more information.

Applicants who are presenting coursework from universities or colleges outside the United States in order to meet graduation requirements should refer to the section on International Applicants for additional requirements.

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Financial Assistance

Financial assistance packages and research assistantships will be available to all students on a competitive basis to facilitate full-time doctoral education.

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Degree Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics

Academic Requirements

A total of 93 semester credit hours listed in the sample curriculum matrix for Health Informatics must be completed prior to graduation. 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 science and 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 and biostatistics from the University of Texas School of Public Health at Houston.

A full-time student in the Program in Health Informatics has up to eight years from the time of entry to complete the required coursework. Continuous enrollment is required unless an exception is recommended by advising committee and approved by the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. A maximum of one year of approved leave will be allowed for continuance in the program. If more than one year occurs, the student must seek readmission to the program.

Each course with an 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. Only one course grade of “C” is allowed. The minimum GPA required for graduation is 3.0 on all HI courses.

Other Requirements

In Residence Requirement: The term “in residence” refers to the requirement that a student completes 57 semester credit hours over the course of the program at UTHealth. A student must fulfill his or her in residence requirement in order to receive a doctoral degree from the School.

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Course of Study for the Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics Program

The doctoral degree is a post baccalaureate program. The curriculum of the doctoral 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, advanced informatics and support courses. The preceptorship courses are designed to give students the opportunity to apply theory and techniques in the hospital, research, or private laboratory setting.

Each student will develop his or her curriculum with approval of the advising committee. A degree plan will be filed with the approval of the advising committee that includes a minimum of:

  • 6 semester credit hours in foundational courses,
  • 9 semester credit hours in basic informatics,
  • 12 semester credit hours in research,
  • 9 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 advising committee. The advising committee must approve all courses as part of the degree plan.

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Advanced Preceptorship

Advanced Preceptorship is required for all PhD students. During Advanced Preceptorship you will develop and prepare your Advance to Candidacy Proposal including: defining your proposed research agenda; a review of the literature; research design, procedure and data analysis; collecting preliminary data; and scientific contribution to the discipline. The student’s faculty academic advisor and advising committee must approve the focus of the research. See the SBMI Student Handbook for further details.

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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 student will submit the written proposal to all Health Informatics faculty at least 10 working days prior to the oral presentation. The oral presentation will be open to all students, faculty, adjunct faculty, and interested parties. The exam must be completed at the 58 hour limit or a defense will be scheduled the morning of the posters session of the semester in which the student earned the 58th hour.

All faculty present at the oral presentation cast a vote to pass or fail the student. A student passes if the majority of the faculty present vote to pass and the student’s mentor votes to pass. The student’s mentor is included in the number of faculty present when calculating the number of votes needed to achieve a majority. If the student passes, he or she is admitted to candidacy. If the student fails, the faculty can recommend failure without another attempt or failure with the opportunity to re-defend within 30 days. If the student again fails the exam, he or she will be given the option of completing a Master of Science in Health Informatics degree, but will otherwise be dismissed from the doctoral program.

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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. The student will use this time to develop a unique research focus under the guidance of the academic advisor.

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Dissertation

The 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 accepted for publication. Publication must be in journals or proceedings, which are both, peer reviewed and indexed for academic retrieval. The three papers are combined with an introduction and summary and bound as a dissertation. The second option requires the student to write a monograph or dissertation. 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 that 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. After the presentation, the students’ advising committee votes to pass or fail the student. If the student passes and all degree requirements have been met, the advising committee makes its recommendation to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs whether to award the degree.

Program Required Semester Credit Hours
Doctorate in Health Informatics (PhD) 93
Master’s in Public Health (MPH) 45
Total Semester Credits 138
Shared Courses -16
GRAND TOTAL FOR COMBINED DEGREES 122



Sample Curriculum: Full-Time MPH / PhD Student  
Course No. Course Title Semester Credits
Fall Semester  
HI 5310 Foundations of Health Information Sciences I 3
HI 5380 Principles and Foundations of Public Health Informatics 3
PH 1110 Social and Behavioral Aspects of Community Health (shared course) 3
Total 9
Spring Semester  
PH 1690 Introduction to Biostatistics (shared course) 4
HI 5311 Foundations of Health Information Sciences II 3
Total 7
Summer Semester  
HI 5352 Statistical Methods in Health Informatics 3
Total 3
Fall Semester  
HI 5312 Foundations of Health Information Sciences III 3
Support Course 1 3
Total 6
Spring Semester  
HI 7000 Preceptorship in Health Informatics 3
HI 7301 Grant Writing 3
Total 6
Summer Semester  
HI 6301 Health Data Display 3
Total 3
Fall Semester  
HI 7000 Preceptorship in Health Informatics 6
Support Course 2 3
Total 9
Advance to Candidacy Exam  
Spring Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 6
HI 6002 Directed Studies 3
Total 9
Summer Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 3
HI 6309 Healthcare Interface Design 3
Total 6
Fall Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 6
HI 7150 Research Seminar 1
PH 9997 Practicum 3
Total 10
Spring Semester  
HI 7050 Research in Health Informatics 6
Total 6
Summer Semester  
HI 9999 Dissertation 3
HI 6312 Project Management in Healthcare 3
Total 6
Fall Semester  
HI 9999 Dissertation 3
HI 7150 Research Seminar 1
HI 6001 Special Topics 3
Total 7
Spring Semester  
HI 9999 Dissertation 3
HI 7150 Research Seminar 1
PH 9998 Written Paper 3
Total 7
Grand Total 94

Application Information for Health Informatics Degree

Applications are accessible at https://www.uth.edu/registrar. If further assistance is needed contact:

Office of the Registrar
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
7000 Fannin, Suite 2250
Houston, Texas 77030
Telephone: (713) 500-3388
Email address: registrar@uth.tmc.edu

For Public Health Informatics, contact:

Keith Burau, PhD
1200 Herman Pressler Drive
RAS-W1042
Houston, Texas 77030
Telephone: (713) 500-9472
Email: SBMIAcademics@uth.tmc.edu
Juliana Brixey PhD, RN
7000 Fannin Street
Suite 600
Houston, Texas 77030
Telephone: (713) 500-3643
Email: SBMIAcademics@uth.tmc.edu

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