Epidemiology — Ph.D.

Program director
Michael Orlich

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree program in epidemiology prepares students to effectively conduct epidemiologic research, apply epidemiologic principles and methods to address public health problems, and teach the discipline to others. The major research focus of the faculty in the program has been the epidemiology of chronic diseases linked to exposures such as tobacco use, air pollution, and diet. Studying the effects of diet on health and disease risk in populations is a particular strength of our program. The curriculum is designed to establish competence in classical and modern epidemiologic methods, to promote successful learning and application of emerging methods, and to prepare the graduate for successful interdisciplinary research collaboration with public health and medical professionals, nutritionists, biostatisticians, bioinformaticians, and biological scientists. 

Program learning outcomes

By the end of the program, the graduate should be able to:

  • Apply advanced knowledge of the principles and methods of epidemiology to interpret and critically evaluate the results of epidemiologic analyses.
  • Apply epidemiologic principles to design appropriate studies to evaluate exposure-disease hypotheses, and communicate these study designs in a research grant proposal.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the principles and methods of data collection and management, and obtain epidemiologic data and prepare it for analysis.
  • Analyze complex data using appropriate statistical methods and computer programming resources to answer epidemiologic questions.
  • Effectively communicate epidemiologic science, orally and in writing, to the scientific community and the public, advancing the field and promoting public health.
  • Use best-practice modalities in pedagogy to deliver educational experiences in an academic setting.
  • Apply the principles of scientific and professional ethics in research, teaching, and practice.

Educational effectiveness indicators

  • Assessments from required courses.
  • Comprehensive examination.
  • Dissertation proposal defense (qualifying examination).
  • Dissertation manuscript.
  • Submission of three manuscripts from the dissertation to peer-reviewed journals, one of which must be published or accepted for publication.
  • Oral defense of dissertation.
  • Teaching assistantship.
  • Presentation at a scientific conference.


Doctoral-level health professional degree or master's degree in epidemiology or in a related field.

The following courses or equivalents:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pathology
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics or molecular biology

A G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher is preferred.

A GRE or equivalent is required (above the 40th percentile in each section is favorable).

Individuals who may benefit from the program

Those who may benefit from the program include individuals seeking careers in:

  • Academic epidemiology (research and teaching).
  • Research in private industry, governmental agencies, or nonprofit organizations.
  • Public health epidemiology with a research focus.
EPDM 509Principles of Epidemiology3
EPDM 510Epidemiologic Methods I3
EPDM 520Data Collection Methods3
STAT 515Grant- and Contract-Proposal Writing3
STAT 521Biostatistics I4
STAT 548Analytical Applications of SAS and R2
Total Units18
Advanced standing from previous degrees considered.
Public health core
PHCJ 606Public Health Fundamentals4
PHCJ 608ADoctoral Seminar for Public Health1
PHCJ 608BDoctoral Seminar for Public Health1
PHCJ 608CDoctoral Seminar for Public Health1
PHCJ 614Pedagogy: The Art and Science of Teaching2
PHCJ 618Transformative Communication2
Epidemiologic methods
EPDM 610Advanced Epidemiologic Methods4
STAT 522Biostatistics II4
STAT 523Biostatistics III3
Applied epidemiology
EPDM 635Epidemiological Studies of Adventists1
EPDM 645Epidemiology of Tobacco Use and Control2
EPDM 664Epidemiology of Cardiovasular Disease2
EPDM 665Epidemiology of Cancer2
EPDM 668Molecular Epidemiology2
NUTR 634Concepts of Nutritional Epidemiology3
RELE 525Ethics for Scientists3
RELR 540Wholeness and Health 13
RELT 617Seminar in Religion and the Sciences (or approved alternate course)3
Select from the following recommended electives or in consultation with advisor12
Introduction to Bioinformatics
Epidemiologic Methods III
Epidemiology of Infectious Disease
Health Policy Analysis and Research
GIS Software Applications and Methods
Spatial Analytic Techniques and GIS
Health Behavior Theory and Research
Qualitative Research Methods
Advanced Topics in Nutrition
Advanced Applications in Nutritional Epidemiology
Vegetarian Nutrition: Person, Population, Planet
Overview of Research Methodologies
Concepts and Practical Issues of Secondary Data
Research and dissertation
EPDM 685Preliminary Research Experience2
EPDM 698Dissertation12
PHCJ 624AScientist Forum1
PHCJ 624BScientist Forum1
PHCJ 624CScientist Forum1
Total Units72

Fulfills service learning requirement

Additional requirements

Further details regarding non-course degree requirements are found in the SPH Doctoral Handbook.

Teaching assistantship

Ph.D. students are expected to assist faculty members with the teaching of epidemiology and/or biostatistics courses. It is the responsibility of doctoral students to obtain documentation from faculty members they have assisted. 

Comprehensive examination

Doctoral students must pass a comprehensive examination prior to advancement to candidacy.

Dissertation proposal and proposal defense

After passing the comprehensive examination, each student will prepare a formal dissertation proposal.  Successful defense of this proposal will lead to advancement to candidacy for the degree.

Presentation at scientific conference

The student must present one research project in poster or oral form at an appropriate professional conference.

Culminating experience

As a part of the culminating experience, the student must submit three manuscripts from the dissertation research to appropriate peer-reviewed journals, successfully defend the dissertation, and submit a committee-approved dissertation manuscript.

Scientific publication

The student must submit and have accepted for publication one of the three dissertation papers in an appropriate peer-reviewed journal prior to graduation. The two remaining dissertation papers must have been submitted to peer-reviewed journals prior to graduation. 

Normal time to complete the program

Three to five (3-5) years — based on full-time enrollment