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Health Behavior - DrPh

 

My interest lies in understanding different health behaviors and developing interventions that can help improve the health outcomes among communities of color. I chose this program at GW because of the wonderful faculty and the unique opportunities for research on global health issues, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Hanna Tessema, DrPH student

Overview


The mission of the GW Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) in Health Behavior program is to train public health leaders in the field of Health Behavior.  A core tenant of the DrPH program in Health Behavior is to apply the ecological framework to improve the health of individuals and communities. Graduates of the DrPH program in Health Behavior will be prepared to assume national and international leadership positions in global health, health behavior, and health policy.  They will use research and evidence to develop innovative approaches to negotiating the complex interrelationship between health and political, economic, and human development.

At the George Washington University, we are proud to educate students who are prepared to apply their research and analytic skills to a range of implementation, evaluation, and advocacy needs of various cultural and socioeconomic groups and communities. We emphasize these qualities in the Health Behavior DrPH program because they are essential for future public health practitioners. Health Behavior doctoral graduates will be prepared to assume an advanced level of leadership in Health Behavior.

Admissions

The DrPH program is designed for professionals seeking to become public health leaders.  Applicants who have completed a MPH degree from a Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited program are strongly preferred for admission to the DrPH Program. Applicants with a master’s degree in another field should explain their relevant training, research experience, or educational background comparable to the MPH. DrPH in Health Behavior applicants admitted without a MPH may be required to take additional coursework at the graduate level that does not apply toward the minimum 48 credits required for the DrPH. All DrPH degree program applicants must submit scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) taken within five years of the date of application. 

The DrPH program accepts students every other year, on even number years only.  The next matriculating cohort will begin in Fall 2018.  Applications will be accepted beginning August 2017 and are due no later than December 1, 2017.   Applications will be reviewed following the December 1st deadline and those applicants selected for an in-person interview (video conference if remote) can expect to be contacted by mid-February.   

Interviews

Applicants for the DrPH in Health Behavior are required to take part in an in-person or videoconference interview.

Review

Applications will be reviewed following the December 1st deadline.  Those applicants selected for an in-person interview will be contacted by mid-February for an interview.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Admissions Process.

Welcome Message from DrPH Health Behavior Program Director

In our DrPH program in Health Behavior, we train students to critically analyze and address the social determinants of health.  We strive to create a culturally competent community who will become public health leaders in different arenas by creating partnerships and evaluating programs to improve the health of individuals and communities.   Throughout the program you will learn to create and communicate your vision of a positive future by increasing health equity, utilizing the social ecological framework, and integrating socio-cultural influences within your programs.   Please be sure to visit the faculty research tab to learn more about the wide range of research currently being done in our department. Thank you for your interest in the program and I hope to read over your application soon.

  • Dr. Napolitano, Director of Prevention and Community Health Doctoral Programs 

Curriculum


DrPH Core Requirements

PUBH 8401 | Foundations in Public Health Leadership and Practice
PUBH 8402 | Leadership and Decision Making: A Skills Based Approach 
PUBH 8403 | Leadership in Public Health Practice and Policy
PUBH 8416 | Study Design and Evaluation Methods
PUBH 8417 | Qualitative Research Methods and Analysis
PUBH 8418 | Applied Statistical Analysis
PUBH 8419 | Measurement in Public Health and Health Services Research
PUBH 8420 | Advanced Analysis and Dissemination

CORE TOTAL: 22 CREDITS

Course Descriptions

Health Behavior Requirements

PUBH 8408 | Advanced Topics-Health Behavior Research & Practice Applications
PUBH 8409 | Advanced Topics: Health Communication Research

TOTAL:  6 CREDITS

Health Behavior Course Descriptions

Health Behavior Electives

(7-10 credits in Elective Specialty Field Courses)

For the most up to date list of electives, please reference the program guide and SPH course descriptions.

Professional Leadership, Comprehensive Exams and Dissertation

PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP

PUBH 8415 | Instructional Leadership
PUBH 8413 | Research Leadership

TOTAL:  2 CREDITS

COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION (no credits)

All students are required to pass a Comprehensive Examination, which typically occurs following the Spring semester of Year 2.  Comprehensive exams must be successfully completed within three years of matriculation to the DrPH program.

 

DISSERTATION PREPARATION AND DISSERTATION

PUBH 8422 | Advanced Health Care & Public Health Research Design
Prerequisites: Pass Comprehensive Exam, Approval of Program Director, & one page abstract 

PUBH 8423 | Dissertation Research

TOTAL: 8-11 CREDITS

Non-Academic Requirements

Professional Enhancement

Students in the DrPH program must participate in eight hours of Professional Enhancement. These activities are pre-approved by an advisor and may be Public Health-related lectures, seminars, and symposia related to your field of study.

Professional Enhancement activities supplement the rigorous academic curriculum of the SPH degree programs and help prepare students to participate actively in the professional community. You can learn more about opportunities for Professional Enhancement via the Milken Institute School of Public Health Listserv, through departmental communications, or by speaking with your advisor.

Students submit a completed Professional Enhancement Form to the Office of Student Records which is required documentation to be cleared for graduation.

 

Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) Training

All students are required to complete the Basic CITI training module in Social and Behavioral Research.  This online training module for Social and Behavioral Researchers will help new students demonstrate and maintain sufficient knowledge of the ethical principles and regulatory requirements for protecting human subjects - key for any public health research.

 

Academic Integrity Quiz

All Milken Institute School of Public Health students are required to review the University’s Code of Academic Integrity and complete the GW Academic Integrity Activity.  This activity must be completed within 2 weeks of matriculation. Information on GWSPH Academic Integrity requirements can be found here.

 

**For graduation requirements, please download the program guide.**


See the program guide, the DrPH Student Handbook, and the SPH Graduate Student Handbook for additional information.


Profiles


Profiles of Current Students

 

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DaRel Barksdale
BS, Morehouse College
MPH, Emory University

DaRel began his career with laboratory-based research positions at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Schering-Plough Research Institute, the Wadsworth Center (New York State Department of Health) and the United States Department of Agriculture.  He decided to formally pursue his graduate education in public health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.

His interest in public health was first piqued through an elective course during his senior year at Morehouse College. One of DaRel’s progessors brought public health to life while speaking on topics such as health disparities, research ethics, and the need for more minority leaders in the field of public health. 

DaRel is originally from Washington, DC and is interested in the ways in which messaging can be used in addition to addressing structural factors to eliminate health disparities, especially with regards to the prevention of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

 

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Morgane Bennett
BS, Dickinson College
MPH, The George Washington University

Following her undergraduate studies,  Morgane worked as an AmeriCorps volunteer case manager at a non-profit community health clinic in Denver, CO, assisting homeless patients in accessing health care and other social services. The experience of working closely with underserved individuals suffering from chronic conditions and struggling to access necessary treatments highlighted, for her, the importance of health promotion and disease prevention efforts. This interest led Morgane to pursue an MPH in Health Promotion at GW.

Originally from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Morgane is excited about the opportunity to influence young people to make good choices when it comes to their health, and develop positive health behaviors, in order to instill positive health behaviors and set them on a trajectory towards a life of good health and well-being.

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Laurel Curry
MPH, Emory University

Laurel Curry is particularly interested in the intersection of media, marketing and health. After completing an MPH at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, she worked for the American Legacy Foundation supporting their public education efforts to prevent youth smoking initiation and help smokers quit through mass media campaigns. Although Curry says she landed in the tobacco-control field by chance, she has personal experience with the impact of tobacco-related health problems. “My grandmother was a smoker,” Curry adds, “and she died much too soon because of it.”

Curry says some people are surprised to learn that tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States. However, reducing the death and disease caused by smoking is an ongoing effort that requires a multi-faceted solution, something that appeals to Curry.

Because of her interest in the impact of marketing and media on attitudes and behaviors, Curry says tobacco was a natural fit. “The tobacco industry is robust and ever-changing,” says Curry, “and thanks to the Master Settlement agreement we have insight into decades of their marketing practices.” Curry says she is excited by tobacco control because practitioners and researchers are tackling the problem from many different angles and the field is constantly evolving.

 

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Ollie Ganz
MPH, Johns Hopkins University

Ollie Ganz is interested in the impact that advertising has on health behavior. Specifically, Ganz says she is interested in understanding how both pro- and anti- tobacco messages influence tobacco use.

While completing a Master of Science in Public Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Ganz worked at the Schroeder Institute at Legacy on a study examining tobacco industry advertising at the point-of-sale in Washington, DC. After graduating, Ganz continued to work at Legacy on a variety of anti-tobacco efforts, including the evaluation of Legacy’s well known truth® campaign, a youth, anti-smoking, mass media campaign.

“I love public health because it is such a broad field. Public health professionals address a variety of diseases and work with many different populations using a variety of methods,” says Ganz. “Once you learn what public health is, you start to realize how many things can be considered a public health issue.”

 

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Xaher Gul
MPH, The Geroge Washington University

Xaher Gul was trained as a medical clinician and spent nearly five years managing public health interventions in rural Pakistan. He became interested in public health when he moved to the United Kingdom (UK) to practice medicine and was struck by the vast disparities between healthcare in the UK and in Pakistan where he grew up. “I soon realized that I could do little as a clinician whereas public health allows me to think big and aim high,” explains Gul of his switch to public health.

After completing his MPH in 2011 from the Milken Institute SPH, he returned to Pakistan to work for Aga Khan University as a faculty member and training consultant for Project NIGRAAN, a cluster randomized controlled trial  aimed at reducing mortality for children under the age of five. Since 2013, Gul has been working full-time with Marie Stopes Society (MSS) Pakistan as a Technical Consultant, a position he will hold onto while off-site pursuing his DrPH.

 

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Vinu Ilakkuvan
MPH, Harvard University

After graduating from the University of Virginia with a double major in Biomedical Engineering and Economics, Ilakkuvan pursued an MPH at the Harvard School of Public Health, with a concentration in Health Communication. “During a graduate school public policy course focused on media in the digital age, I was struck by the immense potential for these online and mobile tools to impact public health,” says Illakkuvan. After graduation, she became the program coordinator for bullying and youth violence prevention at the Virginia state health department, later moving to Legacy, a non-profit organization in DC devoted to studying the impact of tobacco use.  All the while digital tools for public health remained an interest, one which she was able to further explore while at Legacy, working on research and evaluation of the truth® campaign, which is aimed at smoking and youth.

Ilakkuvan has been involved in exploring the use of crowdsourcing for photo acquisition and processing (in the context of point-of-sale tobacco surveillance research), understanding the tobacco industry’s and tobacco control community’s use of new media and technologies, and other projects. “I am interested in applying online and digital tools to enhance public health communication, research, programming, and evaluation, particularly in the realm of youth tobacco prevention,“ says Ilakkuvan. The public health impact of digital tools is one that he is excited to explore at GW. “Here are tools that could help crowdsource the assessment of food availability in a certain area, help deliver health information through text messages, and motivate behavior change by engaging users in a mobile game,”she says. Ilakkuvan is one of the first Michael and Lori Milken Public Health Scholars. 

 

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Ichhya Pant
BA, CUNY – Hunter College
MPH, Georgia State University

After completing a Master of Public Health degree at Georgia State University, Ichhya was excited to work on public health projects that focused on collaborative prevention and community health promotion efforts across sectors and topic areas. These projects often involved technological approaches to solve emerging public health challenges with ingenuity.

While pursuing her DrPH degree, Ichhya will continue working in her current role as a Senior Associate at ICF International serving the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Prevention Communications Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ichhya is originally from Kathmandu, Nepal and has had the privilege of traveling to or living in over twenty countries.  She is excited about the transformative technological advances that currently provide established and emerging public health practitioners a critical window of opportunity to broaden their horizons and set the agenda to harness these capabilities to its fullest potential.

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Serena Phillips

Trained as a critical care nurse, Serena Phillips saw many patients who were at the end stages of diseases like cancer. “After seeing these cases first-hand I became interested in working at the population level at earlier stages of intervention,” says Phillips, describing how her public health work allows her to intervene early enough to aim for a better prognosis.  

Since moving to public health, Phillips has worked on various projects examining and addressing socioeconomic determinants of cancer and perinatal health disparities in the New York City area. She is particularly interested in immigrant and minority health issues.

“I saw the barriers that many immigrants encountered while navigating the medical setting and became interested in language access,” says Phillips. She described some of the challenges she witnessed while in practice: limited English-proficient patients often experienced misunderstandings, showed poor understanding of their medical situations, and experienced language barriers as an added layer of stress during an already difficult time.

In particular, Phillips is interested in contributing to the small body of research available on Asian American health. While in graduate school pursuing an MPH, Phillips worked with faculty to incorporate topics on Asian American health into the MPH core and establish a course on Asian American health. 

“I first noticed GW's program when I read some great articles about language access spearheaded by Marsha Regenstein and the team at GW.” Phillips says. After reaching out Phillips says she was further impressed by “how warm and responsive the faculty and staff at GW were, on top of being so accomplished in their fields.”

 

 

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Jennifer Schindler-Ruwisch

Jennifer Schindler-Ruwisch is interested in tackling two of the leading causes of preventable death in the United States and worldwide – obesity and smoking. “Many of the top 20 causes of death are related to these two health issues,” says Schindler-Ruwisch, pointing out that the two can also be intertwined. Fear of weight gain is often a barrier to smoking cessation, explains Schindler-Ruwisch.

Her interest in obesity and smoking developed from her work at a children’s hospital where she led recreational therapy groups for adolescents suffering from eating disorders. “It was through this role that I clearly saw the unique intersection between behavior and health, and likewise, witnessed the importance of positive behavior modification on health outcomes,” says Schindler-Ruwisch.  She is particularly proud to have designed a nutrition curriculum for youth that is still being adapted and implemented in the NYC school system.

Schindler-Ruwisch is excited to get involved with research at GW, which she says is a “great fit for me.”

Schindler-Ruwisch is one of the first Michael and Lori Milken Public Health Scholars. 

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Erica Sedlander
BA, University of California – Santa Cruz
MPH, University of California – Berkeley

Prior to beginning her doctoral studies at George Washington University, Erica was a Research Coordinator in the Department of Population Health at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine where she managed several qualitative and mixed methods studies.

During her doctoral studies, Erica is working on a study to understand the barriers and facilitators to modern contraception use in Ethiopia. She is interested in improving health for underserved women and incorporating their voices into programs and policies.

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Hanna Tessema
BA, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
MA, University of Michigan
MPH, New York University

Before becoming a DrPH student, Hanna began her public health career conducting research on the social determinants of HIV infection among young women in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. Shortly afterwards, and started working on maternal child health and infant mortality reduction in the South Bronx with women of childbearing age.  She spent the last 9 years working for ACRIA in New York City on a first-of-its-kind program on HIV & Aging, where she is now Director of Policy & Advocacy and leading the agency’s expansion efforts into Washington DC.

Originally from Ethiopia, Hanna is excited by the possibility of improving lives and health outcomes for communities most affected by preventable disease.

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Aubrey Villalobos
BS, Bates College
MA, Ed., Christian Brothers University
MPH, The George Washington University

Aubrey’s background is in biological chemistry, cancer control and health education. Before beginning her MPH in Health Promotion at GW, she worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital coordinating a school-based cancer prevention outreach program. Prior to her time at St. Jude, Aubrey taught high school biology at a school for girls in Memphis, TN

While studying, Aubrey will continue serving as Director for Comprehensive Cancer Control at GW Cancer Institute, the patient-centered initiatives and health equity arm of the GW Cancer Center, where she will lead a team of seven focused on education, cancer control and health equity.

Aubrey has lived all over, but is originally from New Jersey.  She is most excited about steadily growing evidence that suggests that many cancers can be prevented and the opportunities to be a part of the critical interventions at multiple socioecological levels that may help modify many of the behaviors that lead to some of the largest chronic dieseases.

Profiles of Alumni

There are numerous opportunities for Health Behavior Doctor of Public Health degree program graduates as new initiatives are regularly developed and tested. DrPH Health Behavior graduates are in high demand at state and local governmental organizations, private health agencies and foundations, community health programs, non-profit research centers, and educational institutions. Graduates with a DrPH in Health Behavior also find careers in teaching, research, and consulting.

What alumni have to say:

I am currently at the Bainum Family Foundation as their Senior Director of Evaluation where I am responsible for developing and implementing an evaluation framework for the Foundation’s new strategic plan around early learning and wrap around supports in the District of Columbia and manage their internal and external evaluation activities. The DrPh program gave me not only the technical skill set but the foundation to be a leader in the field. Through the coursework and mentorship from faculty I was able to find my expertise and be challenged to continue to grow as a professional. For prospective students I suggest taking advantage of the strong expertise and opportunities the school has to offer.... Nisha Sachdev, DrPH 2012

 

I am currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Prevention & Community Health within the Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW.  My role is almost entirely focused on working with MPH students in our rapidly-growing online program, and I have the pleasure of teaching three required courses (Social & Behavioral Approaches to Public Health, Introduction to Public Health Communication & Marketing, and the Culminating Experience (thesis-equivalent) course) as well as serving as the Faculty Practicum Director for all online students.  The DrPH program prepared me in so many ways for this role: topically through the content learned in the Health Behavior track (designing, implementing, and evaluating public health interventions and campaigns), methodologically (conducting rigorous research, engaging in practice opportunities, and excelling at scientific writing) and logistically in indoctrinating me in GW's culture, introducing me to faculty, and exposing me to invaluable teaching experiences during the program.  The DrPH program is not only an academically rich program, but it is such a great time to grow personally and professionally in testing out so many public health outlets:  research, teaching, practice, and leadership; I would urge students to pursue as many of these opportunities as they can during their time there!... Christina Heminger, DrPH 2014

 

I am currently the Associate Director for the Division of Analytics and Policy Research at the DC Department of Health Care Finance, which is the District's Medicaid agency. My division is responsible for the agency's performance and monitoring reporting and evaluation, including spending and utilization for specific health services and populations. The analytical skills I acquired through the DrPH program have helped me tremendously in my current role. My training in statistical analysis, software programming, research planning, and critical thinking have been very helpful... John Wedeles, DrPH 2014

 

I have been part of the GWU community since 2002, when I began my Master's in Public Health. I have worked at GWU since 2005, when I started as a Research Associate, then a Research Scientist while I was a DrPH student in the Department of Prevention and Community Health. After I competed my studies, I continued as an Assistant Research Professor, and then as an Assistant Professor. Throughout my time at GWU and as a result of my DrPH studies, I have gained invaluable experience conducting community-based participatory research, skills in qualitative and quantitative research methodology, and I discovered my passion for teaching. Through my involvement in numerous research teams for CDC- and NIH-funded studies, I was fortunate to learn from mentors with diverse backgrounds and identify areas to pursue for independent investigation. I have successfully published peer-reviewed journal articles, presented our research at scientific conferences, and submitted an NIH grant as Principal Investigator.  As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Prevention and Community Healt,  I currently teach: Introduction to Public Heath and Health Services and Planning; Implementation of Health Promotion Programs; and Culminating Experience ... Elizabeth Andrade, DrPH 2012

 
I'm currently a Staff Fellow at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) where I work primarily on the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Dissemination and Implementation Initiative. The DrPH program has put me in a position to serve as a public health expert, providing important population impact perspective. I have the advanced skills needed to evaluate studies and evidence, that is a key part of my position. I would encourage DrPH students to take advantage of their opportunity to compose original research and all that is involved - from meeting with faculty and outside organizations, to analysis and interpretation of results. This is truly a great opportunity that can sometimes be overlooked when one is in the process of trying to finish up a dissertation... Jasmine Bihm, DrPH 2016

Research


Click here to read about ongoing research being conducted by PCH department faculty.

Sample Dissertation Titles

  • New Media Use and Sexual Behavior: Examing the Risks Among Latino Adolescents... Megan Landry, DrPH 2015
  • An Evaluation of the DC Summer Youth Employment Program... Nisha Sachdev, DrPH 2012
  • Early Head Start & Child Development to Age 5:  A Longitudinal Study of Direct and Indirect Effects through Parenting...Amy Gedal Douglass, DrPH 2015
  • Thinking Outside the Soapbox: Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Community-based Hygiene Promotion Intervention in Santa Clara, El Salvador... Elizabeth Andrade, DrPH 2012
  • Promoting Prosocial Behaviors to Prevent Dating Violence Among College Students: Evaluation of a Bystander Intervention... Amanda Borsky, DrPH 2014
  • Validity of Roger's Diffusion of Treatment Innovation for Pregnant Smokers.... Kalpana Ramiah, DrPH 2009
 
 
 

 

 

 


Program Director

Melissa Napolitano, PhD

For program inquiries, contact: 
drphhb_director@email.gwu.edu

Apply Program Guide