Ph.D. in Public Health with a Concentration in Community and Family Health

The educational mission of the Department of Community & Family Health is to prepare public health professionals who can meet the challenge of improving the health status of the family and the overall community. Programs offered focus on: (1) the analysis of the health status and needs of a population including social, behavioral and demographic factors and characteristics; (2) health promotion and education; (3) client and community-based intervention strategies; (4) development and evaluation of community and family health programs. This program and its faculty provide students with excellent research opportunities in domestic or international arenas through basic and applied research; conducting innovative community-based demonstration programs; providing consultation and technical assistance to agencies and communities; and providing continuing education programs.

The curriculum is a cooperative, learning, research, problem-solving endeavor in which students and faculty contribute interdependently to pursuits essential to the health of human society. The educational process requires active participation and self-direction by the student in pursuit of a type of scholarship and intellectual discipline that remains for life. Scholarship implies the application of a body of knowledge, intellectual curiosity, vision, insight, critical thinking, imagination, analysis and synthesis for the advancement of society.

Doctoral Competencies

Doctoral students successfully completing a program of study in the Department of Community and Family Health (CFH) will possess a defined set of competencies in four areas. These competencies should be used as a guidepost for the student and academic advisory committee in planning a program of study. Competencies can be met through previous academic or work experience, or they can be fulfilled through a combination of planned course work and other scholarly experience. 

In addition to the overall Doctor of Philosophy degree competencies, a graduate from the Community & Family Health Doctoral program will be able to perform the following competencies:

Domain 1: Scientific Knowledge and Theory

  1. Defend the importance of theoretical frameworks in planning, implementation, and evaluation of community and family health interventions.
  2. Describe significant public health achievements, changing paradigms, and continuing challenges.
  3. Analyze research traditions in community and family health from the standpoint of the philosophy of science.
Domain 2: Research
  1. Critically analyze research literature;
  2. Identify models for guiding independent research;
  3. Formulate research questions and testable hypotheses that will impact community and family health;
  4. Align research questions with appropriate methods of inquiry;
  5. Describe techniques and methods for community-based participatory research;
  6. Assess appropriateness of existing data sets to answer research questions;
  7. Analyze research data;
  8. Interpret research findings;
  9. Demonstrate appropriate methods of data collection and analysis for innovative;
  10. Apply ethical standards of public health in the conduct and dissemination of research;
  11. Work as an effective research team member;
  12. Prepare scholarly publications and deliver oral presentations; and
  13. Recognize appropriate funding sources for research.
Domain 3: Teaching
  1. Demonstrate ability to teach a university level course using current pedagogical techniques; and
  2. Align teaching methods to learner needs.
Domain 4: Practice
  1. Identify the practice and policy implications of specific research;
  2. Describe techniques and methods for including community members in planning, implementing, and evaluating public health programs;
  3. Disseminate knowledge across targeted audiences in practice, policy, and community settings;
  4. Demonstrate proficiency in writing audience-centered technical reports; and
  5. Advocate for public health issues in community and family health.

Responsibilities of Doctoral Students

Entering a doctoral degree program is a serious endeavor for both students and faculty. Since students bring a broad spectrum of academic and professional experiences and interests, they are encouraged to shape their doctoral program to meet their individual needs, goals and desires. At the same time the faculty views doctoral study as an endeavor that must meet strict standards to achieve ideals for scholarship and intellectual discipline. It is expected that doctoral students will devote at least two consecutive semesters, preferably in the first year, to full time study.

The degree offered is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). With the underpinnings of philosophy, the doctoral degree spans the academic spectrum from strong theoretical bases to practical, experiential methods.

By working in cooperation with faculty and members of the doctoral committee, the student has the responsibility to:

  • Take the lead in designing the course of study;
  • Devote at least two consecutive semesters, preferably during the first year following admission, to full time study;
  • Develop and maintain the understanding that the doctoral program is a serious commitment of time and dedication;
  • Participate in intellectual and scholarly activities of the Department;
  • Work independently as much as possible;
  • Demonstrate continuous progress through the doctoral program from start to finish;
  • Respect the many demands that are placed on faculty;
  • Be responsible for knowing and adhering to mandatory deadlines, forms, and signature requirements set forth by the department, college, and university;
  • Arrange and schedule committee meetings as deemed necessary;
  • Be open and receptive to challenges set forth by the doctoral committee; and
  • Assume a place in a community of scholars and family of learners.

Guidelines for Acceptance to the Doctoral Program

  • Students seeking entrance to the doctoral program must have a career direction in focus. Applicants should have both work experience and educational training of sufficient length and breadth to permit the focus of research efforts in the area of public health from a background of appropriate knowledge. This background may include the following academic preparation and prior experience.
  • Education
    • Prior master's or doctoral degree in a health-related discipline such as: public health, health sciences, behavioral sciences, social sciences, administration, nutrition, health education, nursing, or medicine; or
    • Another post-baccalaureate degree, such as medicine.
  • Experience in one or more of the following areas is desirable.
    • Clinical practice in a setting appropriate to community and family health interests;
    • Research such as health statistics, legislative research, program evaluation, private agencies, or as a research associate in an academic setting;
    • Administration or management in the organization and delivery of public health services; or
    • Teaching a public health discipline in an academic setting.
  • While no one set of criteria is an absolute prerequisite, the student must come with a background of sufficient depth to enable him or her to function as a mature and self-directed professional in the area of public health. The student should have a clear sense of goals and directions for both the doctoral program of study and future professional endeavors.

Admission Process and Acceptance

Admission Requirements and Criteria

Follow this link for detailed information on admission procedures and criteria: (Graduate Application Procedures). Applicants to the doctoral program in the Department of Community & Family Health should meet the following minimum criteria for admission. However, meeting these criteria shall not be the sole basis for admission.

  • Meet the minimum admission requirements of the Doctor of Philosophy degree.
  • Applicants must have achieved a graduate grade point average of 3.0 or better on a four-point scale or its equivalent.
  • Each applicant must submit evidence of written/analytic skills to the College of Public Health. This evidence shall take the form of a recent graduate level term paper, research paper of which the student is sole author, a publication on which the student is first author, or a thesis from a previous graduate degree.
  • The SOPHAS Personal Statement should be a statement detailing the reasons for obtaining a Ph.D. degree in Community and Family Health. The statement must be less than 1000 typed words in length.
  • Each applicant must submit at least three letters of support through the SOPHAS application system. These letters must be obtained from individuals who are qualified to judge the academic and professional qualifications of the applicant.

The Application Process

Students applying for the Ph.D. in Public Health must follow the admission process detailed on the COPH Application Procedures web page . The deadline for submission is November 15. This deadline applies to the submission of the supplementary data form, evidence of writing/analytic skills, three letters of recommendation as identified above, and any other information to be reviewed by the Student Affairs Committee of the Department.

The Department Student Affairs Committee review process includes the following steps:

  • Review of the completed application to determine if basic qualifications are met.
  • Interview with a minimum of three Department faculty members, and usually with the Department Chairperson.
  • Determination of faculty advisor match and availability of a suitable advisor.
  • Determination of acceptance based on the following considerations:
    • Qualifications and experience
    • Direction and areas of interest
    • Availability of faculty and resources
  • Applicants will be notified of admission status by about April 1. Each applicant must have a member of the graduate faculty of the Department of Community and Family Health agree to serve as advisor before a final admission decision is made.
Admission Schedule: In the Department of Community & Family Health, doctoral students are admitted once per annual cycle with the expectation of beginning course work during the Fall semester. An accepted student may defer admission until the beginning of the next cycle, by written request, with the approval of the Department Chairperson.

Applicants denied admission are given timely notice in writing. Denied applicants who meet the minimum system-wide standards may write to the Chairperson of the Department within 30 days of the date of denial to request reconsideration. The request should explain why reconsideration is warranted, and the student should present additional evidence of potential for academic success at USF.

Acceptance to the Doctoral Program
Upon acceptance to the doctoral program in the Department of Community and Family Health, each student should have an understanding of the criteria required to graduate with the doctoral degree.

These criteria include:

  • Full participation in the intellectual life of the Department;
  • Successful completion of prescribed course work;
  • Successful performance on the qualifying examination for doctoral candidacy;
  • Preparation, presentation, and formal approval of a dissertation proposal;
  • Completion of dissertation research activities;
  • One semester as a TA in a graduate course and at least one semester of teaching an undergraduate course. Exceptions to this requirement may be considered based on past experience; and
  • Completion of formal and successful oral presentation of the dissertation.