PhD in Health Sciences Informatics

The next PhD students will be admitted for the fall of 2016. If you are interested in this program, please visit the application site in September, 2015.

Co-directed by Joseph Finkelstein, MD, PhD and Harold Lehmann, MD, PhD, the program offers the opportunity to participate in ground breaking research projects in clinical informatics at one of the world’s finest medical schools. In keeping with the tradition of the Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Hospital, the program seeks excellence and commitment in its students to further the prevention and management of disease through the continued exploration and development of health IT. Division resources include a highly collaborative clinical faculty committed to research at the patient, provider and system levels. The admissions process will be highly selective and finely calibrated to complement the expertise of faculty mentors.

Areas of research:

  • Consumer informatics
  • Telemedicine
  • Ehealth
  • Computer models for disease prevention & management
  • Health Information Exchange
  • Interactive Patient Education & Counseling
  • Health IT for Care Transition
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Geriatric Health Information
  • Patient Quality & Safety

Application Requirements for the PhD in Health Sciences Informatics

Applicants with the following degrees and qualifications will be considered:

  • BA or BS plus a satisfactory GRE score, or
  • BA or BS, and a minimum of five years professional experience in a relevant field, or
  • MA, MLS, MD or other PhD, with no further requirements.

"Relevant fields" include medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, nursing, ancillary clinical sciences, public health, librarianship, biomedical basic science, bioengineering and pharmaceutical sciences and computer and information science. An undergraduate minor or major in information or computer science is highly desirable.

The Application Process

Applications for the class entering in 2016 will be accepted starting in September, 2015. The application is made available online through Johns Hopkins School of Medicine at an Apply Yourself web site  https://app.applyyourself.com/?id=jhu-med. Please note that paper applications are no longer accepted. The supporting documents listed below must be received by the SOM admissions office by February 15, 2016. Applications will not be reviewed until they are complete and we have all supporting letters and documentation. 

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript of school record
  • Certification of terminal degree
  • You may also submit a portfolio of published research, or samples of website or system development to support your application if you wish.

Important Transcript Information

It is the policy of the School of Medicine Registrar that new students have a complete set of original transcripts on file prior to matriculation showing the degree awarded and date. An official transcript is one that is addressed to the Office of Graduate Student Affairs and sent directly from the granting institution to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Office of Graduate Student Affairs, 1830 East Monument Street, Ste. 2-107, Baltimore, MD 21287. The transcript envelope must be sealed and stamped on arrival at the OGSA office. Transcripts addressed to the student can not be accepted even if they are sent to the OGSA address above.

Program Description

Individuals wishing to prepare themselves for careers as independent researchers in health sciences informatics, with applications experience in informatics across the entire health/healthcare life cycle, should apply for admission to the doctoral program. The following are specific requirements:

  • A student should plan and successfully complete a coherent program of study including the core curriculum, Oral Examination, and additional requirements of the Research Master’s program. In addition, doctoral candidates are expected to take at least two more advanced courses. In the first year, two or three research rotations are strongly encouraged. The Master’s requirements, as well as the Oral Examination, should be completed by the end of the second year in the program. Doctoral students routinely will not be receiving a Masters degree on their way to the PhD; particular exceptions will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Doctoral students are generally advanced to PhD candidacy after passing the Oral Examination. A student’s academic advisor has primary responsibility for the adequacy of the program, which is regularly reviewed by the Doctoral Study Committee (DSC) of the Health Sciences Informatics (HSI) program.
  • The student must have a minimum of two consecutive semesters (four quarters) of full time enrollment and resident on campus as a graduate student
  • To remain in the PhD program, each student must receive no less than an B in core courses, must attain a grade point average (GPA) as outlined above, and must pass a comprehensive exam covering introductory level graduate material in any curriculum category in which he or she fails to attain a GPA of 3.0. The student must fulfill these requirements and apply for admission to candidacy for the PhD by the end of six quarters of study (excluding summers). In addition, reasonable progress in the student’s research activities is expected of all doctoral candidates.
  • During the third year of training, generally in the Winter Quarter, each doctoral student is required to present a preproposal seminar that describes evolving research plans and allows program faculty to assure that the student is making good progress toward the definition of a doctoral dissertation topic. By the end of nine quarters (excluding summers), each student must orally present a thesis proposal to a dissertation committee that generally includes at least one member of the Graduate Study Committee of the Health Sciences Informatics program. The committee determines whether the student’s general knowledge of the field, and the details of the planned thesis, are sufficient to justify proceeding with the dissertation.
  • As part of the training for the PhD, each student is required to be a teaching assistant for two courses approved by the DHSI Executive Committee; one should be completed in the first two years of study.
  • The most important requirement for the PhD degree is the dissertation. Prior to the oral dissertation proposal and defense, each student must secure the agreement of a member of the program faculty to act as dissertation advisor. The University Preliminary Oral Exam (UPO) committee must consist of five faculty members, two of whom to be from outside the program, with the chair of the UPO committee coming from outside the program. The Thesis Committee comprises the principal advisor, who must be an active member of the HSI program faculty, and other, approved non HSI faculty members. Thesis committees must meet formally at least annually. Upon completion of the thesis research, each student must then prepare a formal written thesis, based on guidelines provide by the Doctor of Philosophy Board of the University.
  • No oral examination is required upon completion of the dissertation. The oral defense of the dissertation proposal satisfies the University oral examination requirement.
  • The student is expected to demonstrate the ability to present scholarly material orally and present his or her research in a lecture at a formal seminar, lecture, or scientific conference.
  • The dissertation must be accepted by a reading committee composed of the principal dissertation advisor, a member of the program faculty, and a third member chosen from anywhere within the University.All University guidelines for thesis preparation and final graduation must be met.
  • The Executive Committee documents that all Divisional or committee requirements have been met.

Course Offerings

The proposed curriculum is founded on four high-level principles:

  • Balance between theory and research, and between breadth and depth of knowledge: By providing a mix of research and practical experiences and a mix of curricular requirements.
  • Student-oriented curriculum design: By creating the curriculum around student needs, background, and goals, and aiming at long-term competence using a combination of broadly-applicable methodological knowledge, and a strong emphasis on self-learning skills.
  • Teaching and research excellence: By placing emphasis on student and teaching quality rather than quantity, by concentrating on targeted areas of biomedical informatics, and by close student guidance and supervision.
  • Developing leadership: By modeling professional behavior locally and nationally.

The Health Sciences Informatics Doctoral Curriculum integrates knowledge and skills from:

  • Foundations of biomedical informatics: Includes the lifecycle of information systems, decision support.
  • Information and computer science: E.g. computer organization, computability, complexity, operating systems, networks, compilers and formal languages, data bases, software engineering, programming languages, design and analysis of algorithms, data structures.
  • Research methodology: Includes research design, epidemiology, and systems evaluation; mathematics for computer science (discrete mathematics, probability theory), mathematical statistics, applied statistics, mathematics for statistics (linear algebra, sampling theory, statistical inference theory, probability).
  • Implementation sciences: Methods from the social sciences (e.g., organizational behavior and management, evaluation, ethics, health policy, communication, cognitive learning sciences, psychology, and sociological knowledge and methods.) Health economics, evidence-based practice, safety, quality.
  • Specific informatics domains: Clinical informatics, public health informatics.
  • Practical experience: Experience in informatics research, experience with health information technology.

To achieve in-depth learning of the above knowledge and skills we adopt a student-oriented curriculum design, whereby we identify “teaching or learning processes,” that is, structured activities geared towards learning (i.e., courses/projects/assignments, seminars, examinations, defenses, theses, teaching requirements, directed study, research, service, internships). These processes were selected, adapted, or created in order to meet a set of pre-specified learning objectives that were identified by the faculty as being important for graduates to master.

The requirements are:

  • 23 quarter credits Core Courses (5 courses + research seminar  8 quarters) (Area 1)
  • 60 quarter credits Electives. (may include optional practicum/research) (Areas 2-6)
  • 6 quarter credits ME 600.805 practicum/ research rotation (Area 7)
  • 36 quarter credits ME 600.804 Mentored Research
  • 125 TOTAL quarter credits

Requirements are specified in quarter credits, since the Core and Public Health School courses are offered on a quarter basis. Student may take semester-long courses at Arts & Sciences, Engineering, APL, or the Business school. One semester credit = 1.5 quarter credits, so a 3-credit semester course is counted as 4.5 quarter credits.

Students are required to be trained in HIPAA and IRB submission, and to take the Course of Research Ethics.

The following are required (Area 1, 6) or suggested (Areas 2, 3, 4, 5) courses to fulfill the course requirements. Courses numbered “ME 600.xxx” are offered by DHSI. Electives must be at the graduate level. For those students have prior graduate work, we would compare that work with our requirements. If they “place out,” we would encourage them to take advanced work in that Area. Research carried out during a previously-earned Master’s degree can not be applied to the dissertation, except, perhaps, as preliminary results for the dissertation research.

• Area 1. Foundations of Biomedical Informatics: All required. Doctoral students shall have extra requirements.
(a) ME 600.903 Introduction to Biomedical and Public Health Informatics
(b) ME 600.902 Planning and Evaluation of Health Information Systems
(c) ME 600.901 Knowledge Engineering and Decision Support
(d) ME 600.904 HIT Standards and Systems Interoperability
(e) ME 600.900 Design to Deployment
(f) ME 600.712 Clinical Data Structures and Algorithms
(g) ME 600.713 Clinical Software Engineering
(h) ME 600.704 Informatics research seminar
(i) ME 600.803 Informatics Grand Rounds

The Seminar (ME 600.04) mixes Journal Club, Research in Progress, Research Methods, and guest talks. The Research in Progress that an individual Research Masters student follows over the 2 years has an established pattern: Presentation skills followed by Literature Review presentation (Fall), followed by Research Question Formulation (Spring), followed by Research Design (Summer), followed by Research Results (Fall, Spring of the second year.

• Area 2. Information and computer science: At least 6 quarter credits, in addition to 600.704 and 600.803.
(a) Computer science: e.g., PH 140.630 Data Management, WSE 540.644 Practical Machine Learning
(b) Cognitive science (usability, human–computer interaction, interface design): e.g., SON 300.602 Human Factors in Health IT

• Area 3. Research Methodology: At least 6 quarter credits.
(a) Study design, conduct of research: E.g., PH 309.712 Assessing Health Status and Patient Outcomes
(b) Qualitative methods and analysis
(c) PH 140.651-654 Methods in Biostatistics I-IV
(d) PH 400.733 Communication Networks Analysis in Public Health Programs
(e) PH 410.710 Concepts in Qualitative Research

• Area 4. Implementation Sciences: At least 6 quarter credits.
(a) Organizational structure, behavior, and change: e.g., PH 309.732 Organizational and Human Factors in Patient Safety
(b) Project management: e.g., EN 595.460 Introduction to Project Management
(c) Quality improvement
(d) Patient safety
(e) Economics e.g., PH 313.639 Introduction to Microeconomics, PH 313.641 Health Economics

• Area 5a. Clinical Informatics Domain: At least 6 quarter credits.
(a) ME 600.905 Clinical Informatics
(b) PH 309.730 Patient Safety and Medical Errors
(c) Translation of health informatics research to clinical practice (new course)

• Area 5b. Public Health Informatics Domain: Counts as Electives.
(a) 221.649 E-Health and M-Health: Using Technology to Improve Health in Low and Middle-Income Countries
(b) 309.631 Population Health Informatics
(c) ME 600.710 Real-Time Disease Surveillance
(d) 144.662 (and 663) Spatial Analysis and Geographical Information Systems
(e) 221.637 Health Information Systems

• Area 6. Practical Experience: All required.
(a) 600.805 Practicum/Research rotation
(b) Course on Research Ethics