Vanderbilt launches Ph.D. program in health policy

At a time when health care is consistently one of the most important issues to Americans at home and at the polls, Vanderbilt University is now accepting applications for a new doctoral program in health policy.

Susan R. Wente, interim chancellor and provost (Vanderbilt University)
Susan R. Wente, interim chancellor and provost (Vanderbilt University)

“By tackling complex topics in health policy ranging from health disparities to economics to biostatistics, this program marks Vanderbilt’s deep commitment to working across disciplines to solve pressing problems facing our nation,” said Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente. “Given Vanderbilt’s trans-institutional approach to research and education, our proximity to many top American health care companies and our longstanding partnership with VUMC, a leading academic medical center, the health policy Ph.D. program is ideally positioned to make a significant impact.”

This doctoral program will be led by faculty in the Department of Health Policy, which was founded six years ago. The degree will offer students the opportunity to train alongside nationally recognized faculty who have extensive expertise in health policy and health services research.

“This program will allow students to develop expertise in health services research methods and fully engage in influential policy-based research with faculty and staff mentors,” Stacie Dusetzina, director of the new Ph.D. program and Ingram Associate Professor of Cancer Research, said. “We couldn’t be more excited to recruit our first cohort of health policy doctoral students.”

The program comes amid intense national policy debates regarding how to address challenges in the health care industry such as long-term care, prescription drug prices and health care affordability.

“Nashville and Middle Tennessee have long been important hubs for health care. With the presence of world-class faculty working on issues surrounding health policy, such a program is strategically positioned to elevate Vanderbilt’s role in this arena and train the next generation of leaders in health policy,” Mark T. Wallace, dean of the Graduate School and Louise B. McGavock Chair, said.

Students in the program will be able to blend their research with other complementary studies on campus such as biostatistics, epidemiology and social sciences.

“The Ph.D. program will reflect our priorities as a department – to produce timely research that has relevance for policymakers and to work in an interdisciplinary and highly collaborative environment,” said David Stevenson, professor of health policy and vice chair of education for the Department of Health Policy. “Students who come into our program should expect to be an integral part of the research we do, and that’s really what we’re most excited about.”

The department has grown since its founding five years ago under the leadership of Melinda Buntin, Mike Curb Professor of Health Policy and department chair.

“This doctoral program is the final piece of our plan to create a top-ranked department of health policy, and we expect our outstanding doctoral students to enhance our work and go on to do great things once they graduate,” Buntin said.

Candidates will leave the program prepared to excel in elite academic, private sector and governmental settings as part of multidisciplinary teams.

The program is accepting applicants now through Jan. 15, 2020, to begin in fall 2020. For more information, visit

This story was adapted from content developed by Jake Lowary.