PhD Program

PhD in Bioethics and Health Policy

The Johns Hopkins PhD program in Bioethics and Health Policy is a track within the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, offered in association with the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The PhD program is taught by leading experts in the fields of bioethics and health policy, who provide unparalleled training, education and mentoring to the next generation of bioethics scholars. This PhD program is unique in the opportunities it affords students to conduct innovative original scholarship in a premier international research institution, focused specifically on public health ethics and bioethics and health policy.

Contact: Holly Taylor, PhD, MPH, Program Director

The Johns Hopkins PhD program in Bioethics and Health Policy is distinguished from other bioethics doctoral training programs in two ways:

  1. The PhD program focuses on bioethics as it relates to questions in public health and health policy (rather than, for example, medical ethics). Thus students consider ethical issues in population health practice, research, and policy, examining questions in domestic and international research ethics, genetic screening policy, HIV screening, pandemic preparedness, and social justice/resource allocation.
  2. The PhD program provides rigorous training in empirical research methods. By the end of their training, students in this program are prepared to provide not only normative recommendations regarding ethics and public health policy but also to function as independent researchers conducting empirical bioethics research related to public health and health policy.

General Background

Bioethics and Health Policy is a concentration within the Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Bioethics and Health Policy concentration is designed for students who want bioethics to be the distinguishing characteristic of their careers in public health. Students complete the Health Policy and Management Departmental core requirements, including courses in health policy, epidemiology, and biostatistics. Specifically for the bioethics concentration, students also are required to complete coursework in bioethics, moral philosophy, and public health law. These requirements are satisfied, in part, through the Department of Philosophy of the Johns Hopkins University, Department of Philosophy of Georgetown University and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University.

Original doctoral research conducted by students focuses on a public health policy challenge of interest with important ethical questions. Students both analyze quantitative or qualitative empirical information (primary or secondary data) about specific areas of public health or health policy and conduct original conceptual work examining the ethical implications of their question and/or findings. Students are required to have a theoretical ethics chapter in their dissertations in addition to the other chapters traditionally required.

Faculty associated with this concentration include Drs. Faden, Kahn, Hyder, Kass, Merritt, PersadSugarman, and Taylor.

Bioethics and Health Policy Concentration Competencies:

  • Recognize moral problems in public health practice, research and health policy, including identifying which ethical principles or foundational ethical theories are at stake and potentially in tension.
  • Analyze moral problems in public health practice, research, and health policy and identify and communicate morally compelling lines of argument for alternative ethical principles or foundational ethical theories at stake.
  • Use relevant literature from moral and political philosophy and public health ethics in analyzing moral problems in public health practice, research, and health policy.
  • Identify when, why, and how empirical scholarship can make a contribution to bioethics and how data can be relevant to normative analysis.
  • Construct public policy arguments informed by the analysis of empirical and normative scholarship in bioethics.

Curriculum:

Students in the Bioethics and Health Policy PhD concentration are required to take courses in public health, health policy, and bioethics. Students take course work in epidemiology and biostatistics and in health policy and health services research. Bioethics requirements include one year of moral philosophy (at the JHU Philosophy Department or Georgetown University), and introductory and advanced bioethics courses at JHSPH, JHU Philosophy Department or Georgetown. All requirements are available at the PhD Program in Bioethics and Health Policy Website.

All doctoral students in the Bioethics and Health Policy concentration are expected to:

  • Complete the required coursework for a) the School of Public Health, b) the Department of Health Policy and Management, and c) the Bioethics concentration;
  • Complete at least 300 hours of research assistance, working on at least two different research projects. These can be for pay or for credit;
  • Serve as a Teaching Assistant for JHSPH bioethics and/or health policy courses;
  • Pass the written departmental qualifying examination, generally at the end of the 1st year;
  • Pass the departmental and school-wide preliminary oral examinations, generally taken at the beginning of the 3rd year; and
  • Complete dissertation research and pass the final oral examination, generally after 4-5 years in the program.

Admissions

The PhD program in bioethics and health policy is a concentration within the Department of Health Policy and Management (HPM). Applicants apply for admission to the Department of HPM, and should consult the Department’s website regarding general information and admissions requirements for doctoral programs. Applications are reviewed both by a committee of the Department and a committee from the bioethics concentration.

Several aspects of each application are assessed, and no single piece of information is the sole factor in the decision. The admissions committee reviews GRE scores, past academic performance, letters of recommendation, relevant experience as it pertains to the field, and the applicant’s personal statement. While there are no specific prerequisites, some background in bioethics, health policy, or research is helpful in order to have a demonstrated commitment to, and understanding of, the field.

Admission to the PhD program in Bioethics and Health Policy is very competitive. Usually, no more than 2 students are accepted each year. The program is small and is generally kept to between 6-10 students total. The bioethics PhD program is one of four PhD concentrations within the Department of Health Policy and Management however, which is larger. Thus, doctoral students who enter our program in bioethics and health policy are part of a cohort of approximately 10-15 new students annually in the Department as a whole.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available, but on a limited basis. Scholarships follow the Department of HPM scholarship policy and are merit based. Federally funded grants are also available to eligible students. For more information, check the HPM Financial Aid Information page.

Other Opportunities Available to Bioethics PhD Students

Research Hours

All doctoral students in HPM are expected to complete at least 300 hours of paid or unpaid research relating to two different projects by the end of the second year. This research may be conducted either on- or off-campus, but at least 50% of the work must be on-campus. A full description of the research hours requirement is in the HPM Student Handbook.

Most students will find opportunities to take part in research with their graduate advisor or other faculty at the Berman Institute. Berman Institute faculty currently conduct pathbreaking research ona wide variety of bioethics topics and are happy to discuss possible research projects with prospective students. Research with other faculty at JHSPH or within the University is also widely available. Students are encouraged to find a faculty member whose research matches his/her interests and to inquire about research opportunities.

Scholarly Life at the Berman Institute

Students in the Bioethics PhD program constitute a vital and important part of the academic community at the Berman Institute of Bioethics. Students are encouraged to participate fully in a wide range of scholarly, teaching and public engagement activities. These include participating in the semi-annual ‘research retreats’ at which faculty, fellows, and students present works-in-progress, and attending the Berman Institute’s bi-monthly seminar series at which prominent scholars from other institutions lecture on emerging research interests.

Further Information

For further information on the Bioethics PhD program, consult the Bioethics PhD Program FAQ; you may also contact Holly Taylor, PhD, MPH

Alumni

1999
Sara Handros Chull, PhD, MPH
Faculty
Section on Ethics of Genetics and Emerging Biotechnology
Department of Bioethics Clinical Center
National Institutes of Health
Director Bioethics Core
Office of the Clinical Director
National Human Genome Research Institute
National Institutes of Health
Holly Taylor, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor
Department of Health Policy and Management
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
Core Faculty
Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
Andrea Kalfoglou, PhD
Associate Professor
Health Administration and Policy Program
Department of Sociology & Anthropology
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

2001
Jane Forman, ScD, MHS
Investigator
Co-Leader, Methods Core
VA Center for Clinical Management Research
Ann Arbor HSR&D Center of Innovation

2003
Julia Slutsman, PhD
Director
Research Regulatory Affairs
The Children’s Research Institute
Children’s National System

2006
Neal Dickert, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Division of Cardiology
Emory University School of Medicine
Summer Johnson McGee, PhD
Chair, Department of Health Sciences
Associate Professor of Management and Health Sciences
Program Director, M.S. in Healthcare Administration
University of New Haven

2007
Ingrid Burger, MD, PhD
Associate Radiologist
Chief of Ultrasound
Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center

2008
Carlton Haywood, Jr., PhD, MA
Assistant Professor
Division of Hematology
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Core Faculty
Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
Core Faculty
Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research

2009
Jason Gerson, PhD
Senior Program Officer
Clinical Effectiveness and Decision Science
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

2012
Jessica Holzer, PhD
Assistant Professor of Health Professions
Hofstra University

2013
Krista Harrison, PhD
Assistant Professor
Division of Geriatrics
School of Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
JP Leider, PhD
Independent Consultant
Public Health and Health Policy

2014
Danielle Whicher, PhD, MHS
Senior Program Officer
National Academy of Medicine

2015
Amy Paul, PhD, MPH
AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow
Strategy and Research Team
Center for Digital Development
Global Development Lab
United States Agency for International Development
Carleigh Krubiner, PhD
Research Scholar
Berman Institute of Bioethics
Johns Hopkins University
Lee-Lee Ellis, PhD, MA
Health Researcher
Mathematica Policy Research

2017
Lelia Jamal, PhD, MSc
Certified Genetic Counselor
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
National Institutes of Health

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