Ph.D. in Public Health Genetics

Overview

The Ph.D. program in Public Health Genetics is offered by the interdisciplinary UW Institute for Public Health Genetics (IPHG), and was implemented in 2003.

The overall goals of the interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Public Health Genetics are:

  1. To train highly-qualified individuals for careers and leadership roles in academic institutions, health care delivery systems, public health departments, government agencies and the private sector; and
  2. To provide interdisciplinary education in the core knowledge areas of public health genetics (genetic & molecular epidemiology; ecogenetics & Pharmacogenomics; clinical aspects of genomics; ethics & social science; law & policy; health economics & outcomes research) so that graduates can address scientific and policy questions from a variety of perspectives.

A detailed description of the Ph.D. program is available in these documents:

The program is organized around two "Fundamental Areas of Study": human genetics and public health; and the two "Core Knowledge Areas" shown below. Core faculty members contribute their expertise in one or more of these areas in training the doctoral students.

Public Health Genetics Core Knowledge Areas

A. Genomics in Public Health B. Implications of Genetics for Society
Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology Ethics & Social Science
Ecogenetics & Pharmacogenetics Law & Policy
Clinical Aspects of Genomics Health Economics and Outcomes Research

Details about the Core Knowledge Areas.
 

Learning Objectives for the Ph.D. Program in Public Health Genetics

The doctoral program in Public Health Genetics offers interdisciplinary training for careers in academic institutions, health care delivery systems, public health departments, government agencies, and the private sector. Training takes place through a combination of didactic courses, seminars, and research participation. The interdisciplinary nature of the program prepares graduates to address scientific and policy questions from multiple perspectives. The PhD program involves fundamental areas of study in human genetics and public health along with core knowledge areas of Genomics in Public Health and Implications of Genetics for Society. Students first undertake coursework and a preliminary examination covering the fundamental areas of study and the core knowledge areas. Then, students develop their dissertation project, an original research endeavor focused on one primary and another secondary core knowledge area. A general and a final examination are required to complete the degree.

Upon satisfactory completion of a PhD in Public Health Genetics, graduates will be able to:

  • Meet the generic SPH learning objectives for the MS degree (see Criterion 2.6.a) as detailed in the SPH Competencies for All Degrees section of the SPH website
  • Meet the generic SPH learning objectives for the PhD degree (see Criterion 2.6.a) as detailed in the SPH Competencies for All Degrees section of the SPH website;
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge in one of these core knowledge areas through coursework and dissertation project research;
  • Demonstrate effective integration of the two core knowledge areas while conducting independent, interdisciplinary research in public health genetics;
  • Demonstrate the ability to identify resources needed to stay current with the rapid advances in genomics, public health genetics, and clinical genetics, and their application in public health settings; and
  • Communicate effectively about public health genetics to audiences from diverse backgrounds, including writing at a professional level and giving oral presentations.

Display competency in "Genomics in Public Health" (Core Knowledge Area A):

  • Apply knowledge of inheritance and genomic advances, including cellular and molecular mechanisms and technical developments, to understanding the etiology of a variety of rare and common, complex diseases and health conditions;
  • Apply epidemiological and statistical approaches to the study of risk factors and diseases with a genetic component;
  • Identify interactions among genes, environmental factors, and behaviors, and their roles in health and disease; and
  • Discuss how genetic principles and genomic technologies apply to diagnosis, screening, and interventions for disease prevention and health promotion programs.

Display competency in "Implications of Genetics for Society" (Core Knowledge Area B):

  • Identify the impact of genomics on the public health activities of assessment, policy development and assurance;
  • Apply methods to address ethical implications of the use of genetic information and technologies in public health;
  • Discuss legal concepts and the role of the law in the development of policies relating to genetics and genomics; and identify legal implications of the application of genetics and genomic technologies in public health;
  • Apply knowledge of key social science concepts in analysis of the political, social and cultural forces that influence the research and clinical application of genetics and genomic technology in public health; and
  • Analyze the interaction and impact of market forces and public policy on the development and delivery of genetic services.

Curriculum

Students must complete at least 90 credits. Of those, at least 60 must be earned at the University of Washington. These include a minimum of 17 units of courses from the Fundamental Areas of Study, units from the two Core Knowledge Areas, 9 units of selective courses, and 27 dissertation units.

Specifically, students are expected to:

  • Complete, during their first two years, courses in the fundamental areas of study (Human Genetics and Public Health) and the two core knowledge areas (Genomics in Public Health and Implications of Genetics for Society)
  • Pass a written Preliminary Exam, usually at the completion of the second year
  • Complete a third year of study focused on one of the two Core areas, including appropriate selective courses
  • Pass the General Examination for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy
  • Prepare a doctoral dissertation, and pass the Final Examination and oral defense of the dissertation.

For complete information about the Ph.D. requirements, see Ph.D. Program Guidelines Part 1 (PDF).

Schedule of Coursework for Ph.D. Students

The course of study leading to the Ph.D. in Public Health Genetics is designed to take four to five years. Actual student progress can vary, however, depending on a number of personal and academic factors. All work for the doctoral degree must be completed within ten years, including quarters spent on leave. Sample schedule.

Program Application Materials

Please refer to: