Curriculum

To achieve the objectives of the PhD degree, students must gain competency in the following areas: 1) theory and context, 2) study design, 3) analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data, 4) ethics, 5) information and data acquisition and management, 6) measurement, 7) effective communication, 8) professionalism and 9) critical appraisal. Our proposed educational model not only provides formal instruction in each of the areas noted, but also integrates and reinforces these concepts throughout the curriculum. The specific competencies are shown below.

Students develop a curriculum tailored to meet their needs based on previous accomplishments, their research interests, and their educational goals. Students are required to successfully complete:

  • CTS602A, CTS602B Epidemiology (6 credits)
  • CTS603A, CTS603B Biostatistics (8 credits)
  • CTS702 Ethics (2 credits)
  • CTS875 Proposal Development (3 credits)
  • 4 credits of theory (selected based on research interests)
  • 6 credits substantive electives (selected based on research interests)
  • 8 credits of methods electives (selected based on research interests)

In addition to formal coursework, students complete research assistantships (~20 hours per week). Students participate in research methods seminars, journal club, research in progress meetings, and workshops. A comprehensive project is conducted in the summer between year 1 and 2. Written qualifying exams are conducted in January of year 2. Students then develop and defend their dissertation proposal (by summer of Year 2). Students then complete their dissertation research which takes the form of 3 publishable manuscripts.

1. Theory and Context

1.a. Demonstrate an in depth understanding of leading theories from health services research and behavior change research
1.b. Select and meaningfully apply theories, frameworks, and models to a problem and demonstrate ability to link theoretical framework to the design, conduct, and interpretation of clinical, health services, or public health research
1.c. Demonstrate knowledge of the structure, components, and function of health care delivery and public health systems
1.d. Demonstrate an in depth understanding of the natural history of disease to inform study design decisions

2. Study Design

2.a. Formulate a clearly defined and important clinical, health services, or public health research question shaped by the literature, informed by relevant theoretical and conceptual models; formulate testable hypotheses
2.b. Ability to describe the significance and innovation of research
2.c. Understand the strengths, weaknesses and nuances of study designs used in clinical, health services, or public health research, and demonstrate proficiency in selecting the most appropriate study design to address a research question such that practical issues are considered, bias is reduced and efficiency is increased
2.d. Design methodologically rigorous research study protocols that address concerns related to the internal and external validity of the chosen study design and population
2.e. Develop strategies to identify a suitable target population to reflect the broader target population, while considering the challenges of identifying, recruiting, and retaining participants given available resources
2.f. Select appropriate variables (e.g. determinants, outcome measures, potential confounders, effect measures) in ways consistent with theoretical frameworks; create operational measures of specific constructs that reliably and accurately measure these constructs and consider participant burden and study resources
2.g. Devise strategies for dealing with confounding in design and analysis phase including developing lists of confounders, prioritizing concerns regarding confounders, reducing confounding through design and analysis, and understanding residual confounding
2.h. Understand the potential for measurement issues (misclassification of exposure and/or health outcomes or measurement error) and the impact of this on study validity, how to reduce these issues in the design phase and understanding techniques for adjustment in the analysis phase

3. Analysis, Interpretation and Presentation of Data

3.a. Demonstrate ability to select from alternatives of general linear models, evaluate model fit, carry out exploratory data analysis, model diagnostics and be able to test specific hypotheses, summarize and interpret results of the modeling process, and conduct post-hoc sensitivity analyses quantifying bias
3.b. Be able to interpret regression parameters and association parameters in the context of the study recognizing the difference between statistical and clinical significance
3.d. Understand design-specific methods of risk prediction and estimation and accompanying limitations for commonly used study designs
3.e. Have reasonable working knowledge of nonparametric tests and the circumstances under which these specific methods are called for
3.f. Identify situations where clustered data arise and analyze data appropriately
3.g. Communicate the differences between mixed effects models, marginal models and transition models, the assumptions underlying each type, and when each model is appropriate
3.h. Demonstrate the potential impact of different types of missing data on analyses, and describe assumptions needed to incorporate incomplete observations
3.i. Be able to estimate sample size or power for commonly used study designs
3.j. Develop a comprehensive data analysis plan that includes appropriate tables, figures, univariate and multivariable adjusted analyses
3.k. Understand, present, and interpret various quantitative measures of association and understand differences between causal and possible artifactual associations

4. Measurement

4.a. Demonstrate understanding of measurement theory and models
4.b. Demonstrate understanding of the measurement development process including conceptualization, item development, reliability and validity testing, development of interpretation guidelines and instrument documentation
4.c. Demonstrate general understanding of similarities and differences in classical and modern psychometric analyses
4.d. Be able to evaluate, compare, select from existing measures based on a good understanding of basic measurement properties, test standards, and requirements of different application settings
4.e. Understand the impact that selection of measurement tools and approaches would have on study validity and how to lessen potential issues in the design phase and understand techniques for their adjustment in the analysis phase

5. Ethics

5.a. Demonstrate understanding of federal regulations and guidelines regarding the conduct of research with human subjects
5.b. Know and apply the ethical principles described in the Belmont Report and be able to apply them to research
5.c. Appreciate the protection of privacy and confidentiality of data in research studies
5.d. Understand the concept of informed consent and the disclosure obligations of the researcher
5.e. Recognize potentially vulnerable populations and develop strategies for research protection on their behalf
5.f. Understand potential conflicts of interest and roles that may arise in research and develop strategies for addressing and managing these conflicts
5.g. Know guidelines for appropriate publication of findings, including who is an valid author and providing appropriate credit for the work of others
5.h. Personify high standards of honesty, integrity, trust, openness, fairness and compassion

6. Information and Data Acquisition and Management

6.a. Develop protocols for primary research data acquisition, including recruitment and retention of participants and quality control of newly acquired data
6.b. Oversee the development and maintenance of research databases including the integration of pre-existing data (e.g. from electronic health records, administrative databases and/or national surveys) with newly acquired data
6.c. Demonstrate ability to implement research protocols following standardized procedures that ensure reproducibility of the results
6.d. Demonstrate knowledge and skills to plan and collect primary health and health care data
6.e. Demonstrate knowledge in the identification, management and use of contemporary health data sets (public use and those requiring data use agreements)
6.f. Demonstrate general understanding of data sources, data elements, study design and protocols that will impact the accuracy and reliability of collected data
6.g. Demonstrate proficiency in the management and documentation of complex data sets, including proficiency in at least one statistical computing software
6.h. Demonstrate efficiency in conducting thorough literature searches
6.i. Possess proficiency in use of citation managers, presentation software, and cyberinfrastrcutures to facilitate team science
6.j. Ability to identify early stage grant opportunities

7. Communication

7.a. Effectively communicate research findings to diverse groups of academic, clinical and community groups in meaningful ways
7.b. Demonstrate proficiency in scientific writing (e.g. manuscripts, rebuttals, grants)
7.c. Demonstrate proficiency in oral communication of scientific information (e.g. formal presentation, teaching, leading journal club, posing or answering questions in seminars)

8. Professionalism

8.a. Demonstrate self awareness of strengths and limitations, values, and standards and be able to set personal goals, develop a reasonable schedule for meeting objectives, and effectively manage personal time
8.b. Demonstrate academic decision-making consistent with abilities, values and preferences and take ownership of responsibilities
8.c. Demonstrate value of diverse perspectives, treat people equitably, and demonstrate cultural humility
8.d. Develop networks of colleagues and build professional relationships
8.e. Understand the grant application and review process
8.f. Ability to budget appropriately for grant applications

9. Critical Appraisal

9.a. Be able to define critical appraisal of scientific evidence, identify current gaps in scientific knowledge, and justify the need for further evidence
9.b. Understand the key components of a critical appraisal
9.c. Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate the key strengths and weaknesses of published studies
9.d. Understand the impact of research design and methods on the strength and reliability of scientific evidence
9.e. Demonstrate the ability to synthesize and master a wide range of studies on a given research topic and systematically evaluate the state of scientific knowledge in that area
9.f. Demonstrate the ability to effectively and dispassionately communicate a critical appraisal