Sociomedical Sciences

The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) is designed to train individuals who wish to pursue teaching and research careers in the social and behavioral sciences within the field of public health. Students enter the program with an MPH and complete 36 credits of course work for the degree. DrPH students organize a course of study that brings the theory and methods of multiple social science disciplines to bear on a public health topic of their choosing. After completing course work requirements for the program, students are eligible and required to take comprehensive examinations.

Faculty mentors are drawn primarily from the Department of Sociomedical Sciences (SMS), but DrPH students may be mentored by other School faculty with social science training. Upon satisfactory completion of the DrPH, graduates will be able to conduct independent research that advances knowledge in public health research and practice.

Course Requirements | Comprehensive Exams | Dissertation

Course Requirements

  • P8788 Theoretical Foundations of Sociomedical Sciences

  • P8789 Contemporary Debates in Sociomedical Sciences

  • P9070 Integration of Science and Practice (ISP)

Choose two of the following SEVEN:

  • P8704 Medical Sociology

  • P8755 Medical Anthropology

  • P8767 Health Psychology

  • P8773 Social History of Public Health

  • P6503 Introduction to Health Economics

  • G8545 Anthropology of Affliction


  • GR5201 Principles & Applications of Social & Cultural Anthropology


  • Advanced Qualitative Methods Course

  • Advanced Quantitative Methods Course

  • SMS Elective

  • General Elective

Comprehensive Exams

After completing the program’s course work requirements, candidates are eligible and required to take their comprehensive examinations. Students may take the methodology examination during the semester in which course requirements are being completed, but all methodological requirements must be fulfilled prior to that semester. These examinations are intended to assess the student's proficiency in the composite disciplines of Sociomedical Sciences and his or her readiness to undertake work on a dissertation.

The required examinations for the DrPH are:

  • Research Methods Essay

  • Theme Essay


After completing all course work and comprehensive exams, the student selects a sponsor and formally begins work on the dissertation proposal. Students are normally expected to submit a proposal within six months following completion of the other program requirements.

The Proposal and Dissertation Defense Committee shall be composed of five members: Sponsor, who is an approved DrPH sponsor, is the person who guides you through the dissertation; Chair, who is a tenured or senior faculty with a primary appointment in SMS; and three other members, one of which should be an outsider from other Columbia Departments and/or schools or universities.

All students must submit an application to the Health Sciences Institutional Review Board (IRB) and obtain their approval for any research involving human participants. Once the student has obtained approval of the proposal and IRB approval, the student may begin dissertation research.

When the student and dissertation sponsor feel that the dissertation has been completed in a satisfactory manner, the sponsor shall inform the Deputy Chair of the Doctoral Program and the Academic Program Coordinator and request that a time and date for the defense be scheduled. The student must circulate the full dissertation to the Dissertation Defense Committee at least one month prior to defense date.