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Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics
2014-2016 Student Handbook

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

Program Description and Goals

This program is designed to be a research-based multi-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 research and skills needed to address 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 each student from admission through graduation. Each student must have a faculty academic advisor to guide each student through participation in research projects.

The doctoral program in Health Informatics is conceptualized and designed to be inherently multi-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.

The doctoral program in Health Informatics is constructed as a post-baccalaureate degree that not only addresses the knowledge and skills that the student brings at admission, but allows the student to build on previous knowledge and skills in order to attain the research focus needed for the completion of the doctoral program in Health Informatics.

Students admitted to the master program can apply to the doctoral track by meeting the same admission requirements as those who apply directly to the doctoral program.

Formal study of informatics at the doctoral level at UTHealth is designed to accomplish these major goals:

  • Expand the scope of the discipline of Health Informatics
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the health informatics research literature, including in-depth knowledge of a selected health informatics research area.
  • 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.

Each student will be assigned an academic advisor (a full-time SBMI faculty member) and advising committee that will oversee that student’s progress from admission to graduation. The advising committee shall be composed of the student’s academic advisor, at least one other full-time SBMI faculty member, and a third faculty member who represents the student’s interest or discipline area. The student’s academic advisor will chair the advising committee. The advising committee will guide the student in the selection of courses and the development of the student’s research interests. This continuity between the student and the advising committee will allow the faculty to understand the student’s strengths and allow the student to explore areas that need to be strengthened, while allowing the student to meet individual goals for graduate research education. Students will be encouraged to work cooperatively with faculty at other institutions.

The doctoral program is a 93-semester credit hour full-time program developed as a post baccalaureate program. Part-time enrollment requires written approval of the advisor and advising committee.

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Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics Admission Process

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

  1. Official transcripts from every post-secondary school attended, both in the United States and abroad. Courses taken and degrees received at U.S. schools must be from regionally accredited schools. All foreign transcripts must be evaluated by a professional agency (such as Educational Credential Evaluators or World Education Services) on a course-by-course basis. This evaluation is at the applicants’ expense.
  2. A baccalaureate or higher degree in an appropriate area, e.g., science, medicine, nursing, dentistry, MIS, engineering, or computer science.
  3. A resume or curriculum vitae (as appropriate)
  4. A Graduate Record Exam (GRE) score or Miller Analogies Test (MAT) score (required)
  5. Grade Point Average (GPA) in previous degrees
  6. A minimum TOEFL score of 95 is acceptable on the internet based test. A minimum ILETS score is 7.
  7. Submit a brief (no more than three pages single-spaced, 12 point font size) personal statement that addresses the following items:
    1. 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.
    2. A statement of educational goals and how these goals would be advanced through the PhD program.
    3. 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 SBMI educational and research environments.
  8. Three letters of reference from educators and/or employers.

Doctor of Philosophy in Health Informatics application deadlines:

Fall admission - March 15
Spring admission - July 15
Summer admission - November 15

Review by the Admissions, Progression, and Graduation (APG) Committee

Applicant materials will be organized into a portfolio for review by the admissions committee. The admissions committee will review the materials and recommend whether applicants will be offered an interview—the next step in the admissions process. The criteria that the committee considers are the same as for the master’s program including prior research experience. Students who are recommended for an interview will be contacted by Office of Academic Affairs to schedule an interview.


Applicants who proceed to the next level of the admission process will be interviewed by faculty members. The interview will focus on the applicant’s research goals and how they will be achieved in the doctoral program.

Faculty Governance Organization (FGO) Review and Recommendation

All interviewed applicants will be presented and discussed at a Faculty Governance Organization meeting. An admission recommendation by the FGO will be made to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

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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 is 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.

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 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 coursework. Continuous enrollment is required unless approval from the advising committee is obtained. A maximum of one year of an approved leave of absence will be allowed for continuance in the program. If more than one year of leave occurs, the student must apply for readmission to the program.

Each course with an HI prefix in the Health Informatics degree plan is a graduate-level professional course and should 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 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 curriculum of the doctoral degree in Health Informatics includes required didactic courses and elective 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 elective 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, the student will develop and prepare his or her Advance to Candidacy Proposal including: defining the 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 primary advisor and advising committee must approve the focus of the research.

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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 primary advisor votes to pass. The student’s primary advisor 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 primary advisor.

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The faculty believe 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 student’s advising committee votes to award the degree, allow for re-defense of the dissertation, or dismiss the student from the program without a degree.

For further curriculum information, contact:

UTHealth School of Biomedical Informatics Office of Academic Affairs
7000 Fannin Street Suite 650
Houston, Texas 77030
Telephone: (713) 500-3591
Email: [email protected]

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