Religion and Health — D.Sc.

Program director
Jon Paulien

Associate program director
Siroj Sorajjakool

The program leading to the Doctor of Science (D.Sc.) degree in religion and health prepares students in the following areas:

  1. Theological and biblical foundations for the religion and health dialogue
  2. Health-care policy and advocacy implications for religion and health
  3. Interaction of religion and health within a specific arena of health, chaplaincy, religion, or faith/health leadership
  4. Integration and leadership skill development
  5. Contribution to the field of religion and health through practice and research.

The curriculum, both academic and clinical, is specifically designed for individuals who wish to pursue work within the context of religion and health (faith/health leadership, chaplaincy leadership, integrative research). It prepares students to enter the field at the level of associate chaplains according to the Association of Professional Chaplains (APC) and Adventist Chaplaincy Ministries (ACM) if they choose to focus on this area. Other possibilities for the faith and health dialogue include, but are not limited to: bioethics, family counseling, family life education, lifestyle intervention, and leadership.

Settings providing practicum opportunities include, but are not limited to: Loma Linda University Health (LLUH) hospitals; LLUH institutes (Behavioral Health Institute, Global Health Institute, Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, Institute for Community Partnership, Lifestyle Medicine Institute); LLUH centers (Center for Bioethics, Center for Spiritual Life and Wholeness, Center for Health Promotion); LLU schools that offer health concentrations; LLU Campus Ministries; professor-driven research/service opportunities; and entities outside the LLUH system that are approved.

Loma Linda University Medical Center— under the auspices of the Department of Chaplain Services—is an accredited clinical pastoral education (CPE) center. Students who seek chaplaincy as a career may fulfill the practicum requirement with CPE and may apply for this clinical placement. (Separate application procedures are required).

Program objectives

Upon completion of the D.Sc. degree in religion and health, the students will:

  1. Identify how theological and biblical perspectives provide a unique foundation for discussing issues in religion and health.
  2. Understand the implications of health-care policy and advocacy in establishing new behavior, affecting society, and establishing long-term change in relation to religion and health.
  3. Demonstrate how theories around whole person care and wholeness contribute to drawing conclusions and related outcomes in the faith-health dialogue in relation to clinical care and leadership.
  4. Summarize the ways religion and health interact within the latter's specific area (through the concentration).
  5. Demonstrate how to impact the field of health and/or religion from a faith-health perspective.
  6. Demonstrate the capacity to create research questions and agendas in the integration of religion and health.


The faculty represents a balance between academic expertise and clinical experience in the fields of religion and health, counseling, health education, nursing, spirituality, family therapy, pastoral care, chaplaincy, biblical studies, theology, marriage and family therapy, cultural psychology, and ethics.

In addition to Loma Linda University admission requirements, the applicant is expected to present the following requirements:

  1. Graduate record from a regionally accredited institution with a grade point average of 3.30 or better
  2. MS in Chaplaincy, the MA in religion/theology, or master’s degree in a health related field.
  3. Health Sciences Reasoning Test (HSRT) or the GRE test
  4. Three letters of recommendation (two academic and one pastoral)
  5. Interview that includes faculty members in the relational studies area and a representative from the LLUMC CPE program (if the student seeks chaplaincy as a career)
  6. Statement of research interest and sample paper

In order to receive the Doctor of Science (in Religion and Health) degree from Loma Linda University, the student will complete a minimum of 60 units of course work beyond the MS in Chaplaincy (or 84 units beyond the MA in religion/theology or master’s degree in a health related field), with an overall grade point average of B or better.


Those entering with the 72 unit MS in Chaplaincy degree offered at LLU or an MDiv degree meet the prerequisites. For those entering with a MA in religion/theology or a master’s degree in a health-related field, the student must complete an additional 24 units of religion/theology (as co-requisite to the program), 15 units of which must be in theology or Biblical studies. The student may complete the co-requisite units while engaged in the doctoral program. Students entering with specialized training beyond the MA level may apply for advanced standing.           


RELR 500Religion and Global Health4
RELR 508Religion, Health-Care Policy, and Advocacy4
RELT 509Biblical Perspectives in Religion and Health4
RELR 692Seminar in Religion and Health Care Leadership: Current Trends4
Research courses
RELR 591Qualitative Research in Religious Studies3
RELR 590Quantitative Research in Religious Studies3
(See available concentrations listed below)19-24
Choose in consultation with advisor4-9
RELG 596Dissertation Proposal1
RELR 592Doctoral Portfolio in Religion and Health1
RELG 699Dissertation Research11
Total Units60
Clinical internship
Practicum units are in addition to the minimum didactic units required for the degree.
RELG 796Religion and Health Practicum (400-600 hours) 18

The program recommends that this requirement be met by the satisfactory completion of at least one quarter of practicum work at an approved site. If the student seeks chaplaincy as a career, he/she may engage in at least one quarter of clinical pastoral education (CPE) at an accredited CPE center. (Note: Acceptance into the CPE program is at the discretion of the CPE supervisor and must be arranged individually and in advance.) It is recommended that students complete all course work prior to their practicum internship.  1-2 units of CPE encouraged for those seeking a chaplaincy career (in addition to the CPE already obtained before entering the program)


Specific health concentrations

Courses in the concentrations listed below are subject to change as these are dependent on current course/program offerings in the School of Behavioral Health and the School of Public Health.

In lieu of one of the concentrations listed below, students will be able to create a general health concentration in which courses are selected in a specific area of study.  The courses selected must be made in consultation with the student's program advisor and an advisor in the school(s) from which the selectives are chosen.

Religion concentration

Students with a prior background in health may choose this option.  Courses are to be selected in consultation with their program advisor.

School of Behavioral Health

Drug and Alcohol Counseling
COUN 524Psychopharmacology and Medical Issues3
or MFAM 524 Psychopharmacology and Medical Issues
COUN 568Groups: Process and Practice3
or MFAM 568 Groups: Process and Practice
COUN 638Family Therapy and Chemical Abuse3
or MFAM 638 Family Therapy and Chemical Abuse
MFAM 515Crisis Intervention and Client-Centered Advocacy3
MFAM 645Advanced Substance Abuse-Treatment Strategies3
MFAM 635Case Presentation and Legal Issues3
MFAM 636Case Presentation and Client-Centered Advocacy3
MFAM 637Case Presentation and Global Practices3
Total Units24

School of Public Health

Health Geoinformatics
HGIS 522Principles of Geographic Information Systems and Science2
HGIS 524GIS Software Applications and Methods3
HGIS 535Integration of Geospatial Data in GIS2
HGIS 536Spatial Analytic Techniques and GIS3
HGIS 547GIS for Public Health Practice2
Total Units12
Lifestyle Intervention
HPRO 500Stress Management2
HPRO 526Lifestyle Diseases and Risk Reduction3
NUTR 529Health Aspects of Vegetarian Eating3
HPRO 553Addiction Theory and Program Development3
HPRO 573Exercise Physiology I3
Total Units14
Maternal and Child Health
MNCH 520Maternal/Child Health: Policy and Programs3
MNCH 567Reproductive Health3
MNCH 614Seminar in Maternal and Child Health Practice3
NUTR 534Maternal and Child Nutrition3
Total Units12

Portfolio and critical essays

Students will be completing a Doctoral Portfolio in Religion and Health, along with their coursework, which will require 6 critical essays that address all six of the program outcomes. One is required at the completion of the first quarter in the program (RELR 592 Doctoral Portfolio in Religion and Health). The remainder of the Portfolio is due at the completion of the course work and must be completed prior to exams.


Students are required to register for RELG 699 Dissertation Research. To fulfill the requirement for this course, students will select one of the options for dissertations as outlined by LLU.

The dissertation is scheduled after successfully defending the proposal.

Normal time to complete the program

4 years (16 quarters) based on less than full-time enrollment