Aug 12, 2020  
2010-2011 Denver Campus Catalog 
2010-2011 Denver Campus Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Health and Behavioral Sciences PhD

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►  Graduate School Rules  apply to this program


Requirements for Admission

A master’s or equivalent graduate degree is required for admission to the PhD program. In addition, we encourage prior graduate training in the areas noted below. Students applying without prerequisites may be admitted, but will be required to complete appropriate courses before being permitted to complete the core curriculum. The program currently works with two master’s-level programs to provide articulated master’s-PhD training, as described below.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the Graduate School, the specific admission requirements for the PhD in health and behavioral sciences are as follows:

  1. Knowledge from prior course work or vocational experience at the equivalent of college senior or graduate level in each of the following areas.

Social or behavioral sciences (15 semester hours minimum): knowledge of essential facts and concepts concerning the relationship among individuals and society, social organization, individual psychology and the relationship among culture, belief and behavior. This could be satisfied by course work in psychology, sociology and anthropology.

Human biology or physiology (6 semester hours minimum): familiarity with the functioning of the human body in health and disease states, including an understanding of cellular and organ system processes; an appreciation of evolutionary theory and the mechanisms by which evolution operates on both cellular and population levels; and an understanding of the interplay between the evolution of disease and host response. This could be satisfied by course work in human biology, physiology, pathophysiology or biological anthropology.

Statistics (3 semester hours minimum): prior course work and current familiarity with statistics including probability theory, parametric and nonparametric methods and acquaintance with basic multivariate techniques.

Epidemiology (3 semester hours minimum): prior course work at the advanced undergraduate or graduate level with the basic concepts and methods of epidemiology including measures of risk, mortality, distribution of disease, role of bias and confounders and study design.

  1. Demonstrated academic excellence as evidenced by an undergraduate GPA of 3.25 (out of a possible 4.0 points) or better, a graduate GPA of 3.5 or better, and scores in the top 30th percentile (averaged) of the GRE. Admission to the program is highly competitive; minimum GPAs and GRE scores for acceptance in any given year may be higher than the minimum levels indicated here. 

The applicability of a student’s prior course work will be decided by the program executive committee after reviewing the student’s transcript and additional materials. If the student does not have the requisite educational background or GPA, the student may be admitted on a conditional or provisional basis and additional course work required in accordance with Graduate School Rules .

Prospective students should not be dissuaded from applying to the program if they do not meet all of the requirements for admission. In some cases, employment experience may be counted toward meeting a requirement. In other cases, students may be admitted conditionally upon their completion of a list of prerequisite courses that will be established at the time of admission. Students should be sure to address this issue in completing the graduate application by specifying the academic and vocational experience they possess that meets, in part or full, the admission requirements described above.



The program does not currently offer master’s-level training in HBSC. Instead, we urge interested applicants to pursue relevant master’s degree training in one of the social, behavioral or health sciences disciplines. In addition, we work closely with two master’s programs at UC Denver. These are the concentrations in medical anthropology within the anthropology MA program  offered by the anthropology department and the master of public health offered by the Colorado School of Public Health. Contact the respective programs for more information on these degree options and our program for how their requirements articulate with those for the health and behavioral sciences PhD.


At the UC Denver Downtown Campus, all graduate applications are now submitted electronically. To begin the application process, go to the online admissions Web site. If you have any difficulties, call the program assistant at 303-556-4300. The program admits students only for the fall semester, which typically begins in mid- to late August. The deadline for the receipt of all application materials is February 15 for admission the following August.

Applicants should invest considerable thought and effort in preparing their application. For instance, in the essay (Part II, question six) applicants should provide information on: (a) their academic training and any employment related to public health or health care; (b) their experiences with inter- and multidisciplinary perspectives, and (c) how they envision using their doctoral degree to improve the health status of human populations and individuals. Students should also indicate the kinds of research foci that interest them the most.

In addition to the required recommendation form, letters of recommendation are required from at least three individuals in a position to judge the applicant’s ability to complete the program. Recommenders may be employers, colleagues or professors; however, the applicant should be sure that the letters address the quality of and aptitude for academic work as well as personal characteristics and qualities.  

Financial Aid

There are four kinds of financial aid available: graduate student stipends/fellowships; tuition assistance; research assistantship positions funded by grants to specific program faculty; and the regular package of financial aid (primarily loans) available through the financial aid office.

Newly admitted, out-of-state and students demonstrating outstanding scholastic achievement receive priority when assigning departmental sources of funding. Students interested in research assistantships should contact the individual faculty member with whom they wish to work regarding potential assistantship positions.

All other aid should be requested through the UC Denver Financial Aid Office, North Classroom, 1030, Campus Box 125, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO 80217-3364.  Telephone: 303-556-2886.


Program Requirements

There are three dimensions to the required curriculum:

  1. A core curriculum that focuses on problem-oriented, interdisciplinary approaches to theory and method
  2. Elective course work intended to provide the student with a solid base from which to launch the dissertation research
  3. Dissertation research and writing

The core curriculum is subject to change. What appears below is intended to give students a general idea of the extent, shape and content of the core curriculum. Students should check with the program office for up-to-date information on specific course requirements and scheduling.

The Core Curriculum

The core curriculum should be completed by students by the end of their second year of full-time study. It consists of the following series of courses which, together, constitute 26 semester hours:

I. Health and Behavioral Sciences Colloquium

Each fall, the HBSC program will organize a series of presentations by scholars working in the health and behavioral sciences. The presentations provide students with the most current science and theory in the field. Required of all first- and second-year students, who must take at least two times.

Total: 2 Hours

II. Theoretical Perspectives in the Health and Behavioral Sciences

This series is designed to give students a thorough background in how the principles of the social and behavioral sciences have been applied to health issues. Topics include: the interplay between structure and agency in creating and maintaining health; social epidemiology; critical theory and social determinants of health; issues affecting Western biomedicine and public health systems; diffusion of healthy behavioral change among populations; social construction of health and illness; health policy and bioethics; social networks; and stress.

Total: 9 Hours

III. Human Ecology and Environmental Adaptation

This course will emphasize the biological/physiological dimensions of human health and disease.

Total: 3 Hours

IV. Research Design and Methods in the Health and Behavioral Sciences

Two HBSC core research design and methods courses, plus one additional advanced methods course of student’s choosing. This series covers the philosophy of science and the structure of scientific inquiry, procedures for hypothesis-testing, quantitative and qualitative methodological strategies commonly employed in the field, epidemiology and program evaluation. Students must further develop specialized methodological skills by completing an independent study (HBSC 6840) or taking one additional course in advanced epidemiology, advanced biostatistics, health economics, survey research design or qualitative methods and data analysis. This requirement will be tailored specifically to the student’s particular interests by his/her advisor.

Total: 9 Hours

V. Applications of the Health and Behavioral Sciences

This course offers students the opportunity to focus on individual research interests with guidance from faculty and input from peers.

Total: 3 Hours


TOTAL CORE: 26 Hours


Elective Courses

Elective course work together constitutes 26 semester hours, of which a minimum of 6 hours can be drawn from the large number of offerings in the health and behavioral sciences at UC Denver. A full listing of elective courses is available in the program office and online on the HBSC Web site. Students will be expected to fulfill the necessary prerequisites for taking these courses, and final authority as to whether a student may enroll in the course will rest with the department in which the course is offered.



Doctoral Dissertation Research

The doctoral dissertation research topic is chosen by the student. The student is expected to define a research question in health and behavioral science, identify the research strategy to be used for answering the question, conduct the research required and document the project in the form of a doctoral dissertation. The student will be guided in this process by a doctoral dissertation advisor and the additional members who comprise the student’s doctoral dissertation committee (see below). A minimum of 30 semester hours of dissertation work is required. Students must register for a minimum of 5 dissertation credits each semester of their dissertation work. Students may not take more than a year’s leave of absence or fail to enroll for semester hours more than three semesters before they are dropped from the program.


Upon admission to the program, each student will be assigned a first-year advisor. The student or the faculty will then choose the faculty advisor who will guide the student through the core and elective course work. The faculty advisor may or may not be the chair of the student’s dissertation committee. The student selects his or her chair and three additional committee members who oversee the student’s comprehensive examination and dissertation research.

Formal Review

A formal review of each student’s first-year progress will be undertaken at the end of the first year of study. A student may not take any additional courses in the program until this review is completed. Students who are deemed not to be making satisfactory progress will be informed in writing as to the nature and final result of the review before the end of June in the first year of study.

The Dissertation Prospectus and the Comprehensive Examination

Before a student advances to candidacy, she/he must complete a dissertation prospectus and defend it successfully in the context of an oral comprehensive examination. The dissertation prospectus is a complete description of the question or hypothesis that the student wishes to research for the dissertation project, the research design and study techniques and an assessment of the proposed project’s contribution to the field. It will include a comprehensive review of the relevant literature. If the student chooses to undertake research in a particular ethnic or cultural community, she/he must also demonstrate sufficient understanding of that setting including adequate knowledge of the language. This prospectus must be approved by the student’s advisor prior to scheduling the comprehensive examination.

The comprehensive examination will be an oral format based in part on, but not restricted to, the material presented in the dissertation prospectus. This exam must take place before the student’s advancement to candidacy and will typically occur by the end of the third year of study. A committee comprising the chair and three faculty members will supervise the completion of the dissertation prospectus. This committee will conduct the oral examination and will recommend to the executive committee by a majority vote whether or not the student should be advanced to candidacy.

The Doctoral Dissertation and Final Exam

After advancement to candidacy, the student in consultation with his or her advisor will appoint a dissertation committee comprising the chair and three faculty members. The chair and composition of the committee will be subject to approval by the program executive committee. The chair and two other members must have been present at the student’s comprehensive examination and will be responsible for overseeing the research and writing of the doctoral dissertation. The committee will review drafts of the dissertation and, when the dissertation is completed to its satisfaction, will conduct the final exam, which will be based on the doctoral dissertation and related materials. The final examination will be open to the public.

Dissertation Total: 30 Hours minimum


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