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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Health Systems

Offered By: Department of International Health

Onsite | Full-Time | 4 years

About the PhD in Health Systems Program

The PhD program is designed to equip students with the technical skills for carrying out cutting-edge health policy and systems research and preparing them to take leadership positions in global health settings.

Through a combination of coursework and research mentoring, graduates will have a robust understanding of diverse methods (both qualitative and quantitative) for health systems research.

This is a STEM designated program. Eligible F-1 visa students can receive an additional 24 months of work authorization, beyond the initial 12 months of post-completion Optional Practical Training (OPT).

PhD in Health Systems Program Highlights

Through a combination of coursework and research mentoring, graduates will have a firm understanding of the wide array of methods for health systems research.


Field sites around the world


Study how to expand access and improve equity in low- and middle-income countries


Examine institutional capacity, sustainability, and systems governance


Eligibility for a 24-month STEM OPT extension

Meet our PhD alumni

Seema Parmar, PhD '12

Current employer: McKinsey & Company

Job title:  Sr Expert & Associate Partner

Job description: Serve a range of payer and provider clients in the US and globally on issues related to payment reform, innovative care delivery models, and social determinants of health

Academic advice to prospective PhD students: Getting through your PhD requires more self-discipline than almost anything else you will do, so make sure your dissertation is linked to what motivates you (e.g., passion, people, skills) and then don’t give up.

Dissertation: An assessment of maternal health service needs of immigrant women living in east Calgary, Canada

Seema Parmar

What Can You Do With a Graduate Degree In Health Systems?

Health Systems graduates enjoy careers in academia, government and nongovernment sectors, and industry. Alumni hold faculty appointments at leading universities and ministries of health and positions at major global health organizations, including WHO, CDC, and the World Bank, among others. Visit the Graduate Employment Outcomes Dashboard to learn about Bloomberg School graduates' employment status, sector, and salaries.

Visit the Graduate Employment Outcomes DashboaRD

3MDG Fund
Head of Health Systems

Abt Associates, Inc,
Principal Associate

Catholic Relief Services
Director of Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability, & Learning

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer

Centre for Health Economics, University of York
Research Fellow

Chulalongkorn University
Faculty, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

GAVI Alliance
Head of Monitoring & Evaluation

The World Bank
Director, Global Practice, Health, Nutrition & Population

World Health Organization
Executive Director, The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research
Manager, The Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research

Curriculum for the PhD in Health Systems

Students will develop the professional skills necessary to work effectively in academic, research, programmatic and policy settings around the world.

Browse an overview of the requirements for this PhD program in the JHU Academic Catalogue, explore all course offerings in the Bloomberg School Course Directory, and find many more details in the program's Academic Guides.

Courses Available in the Following Areas:

  • Digital health
  • Evaluation
  • Implementation science
  • Health economics and financing
  • Health outcomes and burden of disease 
  • Health policy analysis
  • Health systems research and systems thinking
  • Injury prevention and control
  • Maternal, neonatal and child health
  • Non-communicable diseases
  • Primary health care
  • Public health ethics
  • Refugee and humanitarian health
  • Systems science

Admissions Requirements

For general admissions requirements, please visit the How to Apply page. This specific program also requires:

Prior Graduate Degree

Master's degree in related field

Prior Work Experience

Not required but highly desirable

Standardized Test Scores

Standardized test scores (GRE) are optional for this program. The admissions committee will make no assumptions if a standardized test score is omitted from an application, but will require evidence of quantitative/analytical ability through other application components such as academic transcripts and/or supplemental questions. Applications will be reviewed holistically based on all application components.

Program Faculty Spotlight

Abdulgafoor Bachani
Associate Professor
International Health

Abdulgafoor M. Bachani, PhD '11, MHS '08, studies how to address burden of and preventing injury and disabilities, and to expand access to rehabilitation services.

Shannon Doocy
International Health

Shannon Doocy, PhD ’04, studies the health impact of natural disasters and conflict, including refugees and displaced populations, and how to improve humanitarian responses.

Sara Bennett
International Health

Sara Bennett, PhD, MPhil, examines health policy and systems in low- and middle-income countries with a focus on institutional capacity, sustainability, and systems governance.

Krishna Rao
Associate Professor
International Health

Krishna D. Rao, PhD '04, MSc, finds ways to improve access to quality health services and financing of health care in low and middle-income countries.

Tuition and Funding

All full-time PhD students will receive the following support for the first four years of the program either through endowments, grants, or research projects: full tuition, individual health insurance, University Health Services clinic fee, vision insurance, and dental insurance.

Need-Based Relocation Grants
Students who are admitted to PhD programs at JHU starting in Fall 2023 or beyond can apply to receive a $1500 need-based grant to offset the costs of relocating to be able to attend JHU. These grants provide funding to a portion of incoming students who, without this money, may otherwise not be able to afford to relocate to JHU for their PhD program. This is not a merit-based grant. Applications will be evaluated solely based on financial need. View more information about the need-based relocation grants for PhD students.

Contact Us

Questions about the program? We're happy to help.

Elisabeth Simmons, MEd
Academic Program Administrator

Abdulgafoor Bachani, PhD
Associate Professor
PhD in Health Systems Concentration Director