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Public Health Sciences

Biomedical Sciences D-204
1960 East-West Road
Honolulu, HI 96822
Tel: (808) 956-8267
Fax: (808) 956-9174
Email: ogsas@hawaii.edu
Web: www.hawaii.edu/publichealth/


*Graduate Faculty

*J. E. Maddock, PhD (Chair)—social and behavioral health sciences, health policy and management
G. Baruffi, MD, MPH (emeritus)—maternal and child health
*K. L. Braun, MPH, DrPH—social and behavioral health sciences
O. V. GGGa, DrPH—social and behavioral health sciences
D. V. Canyon, PhD, MPH, DBA—health policy and management
J. J. Chung-Do, DrPH—social and behavioral health sciences
R. Cooney, PhD—epidemiology, environmental sciences
T. Delormier, PhD—indigenous health
*A. Grandinetti, PhD—epidemiology
*E. L. Hurwitz, DC, PhD—epidemiology
*A. R. Katz, MD, MPH—epidemiology
*D. Li, PhD—biostatistics
*Y. Lu, PhD—environmental health
E. McFarlane, MPH, PhD—maternal and child health
*C. Nigg, PhD—social and behavioral health sciences
N. Partika, MPH—health policy and management, maternal child health
*T. L. Sentell, PhD—health policy and management
*M. M. Taualii, DrPH—Native Hawaiian and indigenous health
*V. Yontz, RN, MPH, PhD—social and behavioral health sciences

Cooperating Graduate Faculty

C. A. Albright, PhD—cancer prevention and control
J. J. Chen, PhD—biostatistics
*J. Douglas, PhD—infectious diseases
T. S. Dye, PhD—global health
P. Fagan, PhD—cancer prevention and control
D. A. Goebert, DrPH—psychiatry
J. R. Hedges, MD, MMM—medicine and public health
T. A. Herzog, PhD—cancer prevention and control
*D. T. Juarez, ScD—health policy and management
J. K. Kaholokula, MS, PhD—Native Hawaiian health
*L. Kolonel, MPH, PhD—cancer research
*L. Le Marchand, MD, MPH, Phd—epidemiology, cancer research
H. R. Lee, PhD—speech
F. Li, PhD—epidemiology
*G. Maskarinec, MD, MPH—cancer research
M. Mau, MD, MPH—Native Hawaiian health
C. M. Nishita, PhD—disability studies
*R. Novotny, PhD—nutritional epidemiology
I. S. Pagano—cancer epidemiology
*B. Rodriguez, MD, MPH, PhD—nutritional epidemiology
*L. R. Wilkens, DrPH—biostatistics
*R. Yanagihara, MD, MPH—infectious diseases

Degrees and Certificates: MPH, MS in public health, DrPH, PhD in epidemiology, Graduate Certificate in Global Health and Population Studies (GHPS). See the “Interdisciplinary Programs” section for more information on the GHPS program.

The Academic Program

The mission of the Department of Public Health Sciences is to advance the health of the people of Hawai'i, the nation, and the Asia-Pacific region through the education and training of public health professionals, innovative research in public health sciences, and service to the community.

The department offers the master of public health (MPH) with specializations in epidemiology, social, and behavioral health sciences, Native Hawaiian and indigenous health, and health policy and management, the master of science (MS) degree with specialization in epidemiology, the doctor of public health (DrPH) degree with a specialization in community-based and translational research as well as the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in epidemiology. The department also administers the interdisciplinary graduate certificate program in global health and population studies.


Information, applications, and initial advising about degree programs in public health are available from the Office of Graduate Student Academic Services, Biomedical Science D-204, 1960 East-West Road, Honolulu, HI 96822; phone (808) 956-8267; fax (808) 956-9174; email: ogsas@hawaii.edu; website: www.hawaii.edu/publichealth/.

Graduate Study

Master’s Degree

MPH students follow a Plan B (non-thesis) program. MS students follow a Plan A (thesis) degree program.

MPH Requirements

  • minimum of 42 credit hours, 18 or more in courses numbered 600-798
  • one graduate seminar
  • required and core courses
  • other courses as designated by the student's program committee
  • field training experience (PH 791)
  • final competency assessment

MS Requirements

  • minimum of 31* credit hours for epidemiology, 18 or more in courses numbered 600-798
  • one graduate seminar
  • foundation courses
  • 6 credit hours of thesis research (PH 700)
  • other courses as designated by the student's thesis committee
  • final oral examination conducted by the thesis committee

*Most students will exceed the 31-credit hour minimum to meet their educational objectives.

Areas of Specializations


Epidemiology is the study of the distributions and determinants of health-related events in human populations. A basic tenet of epidemiology is that diseases are not randomly distributed in the population. Determining the prevalence and risk factors associated with these events, as well as measuring the magnitude of such occurrences, is the basis of public health action. An essential part of this determination involves the utilization of epidemiologic and biostatistical methods to evaluate the effectiveness of disease control measures.

The master's program generally requires two years of combined study and field work but may vary depending on academic background, experience, and academic goals of the student. The curriculum provides both breadth and depth. It instills knowledge and skills in epidemiologic methods, biostatistics, the collection and analysis of epidemiologic data, and the epidemiology of chronic and infectious diseases. Each student will have an academic advisor and committee with whom the student will work closely in scheduling and completing the academic requirements of the program.

Students are required to take advanced level training in chronic and infectious disease epidemiology, advanced biostatistics, and research design. There is opportunity for students to choose from epidemiology electives in the following areas: infectious diseases, nutrition, genetics, environment, aging, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases. Course work in specialized statistical applications is also available. Students participate in on-going epidemiological research programs throughout the UH Manoa system or community during their fieldwork assignment or thesis research.

The curriculum includes a core of required basic and public health offerings that cover such topics as environmental health, health care delivery and organization, health education, and health behavior. The courses provide background and breadth in public health. A capstone paper and presentation during the final term integrates the MPH experience. The MS degree follows a similar but more research-oriented curriculum and requires the completion of a thesis.

Health Policy and Management

The importance of educating future public health leaders in the area of health policy and management is apparent. The current escalating rate of health care expenditures cannot be sustained. Reform of the health care system is needed. Training in health policy and management will enable our students to better understand the issues and to make significant contributions to this debate, as well as other pressing issues in public health. The mission of the health policy and management (HPM) specialization is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to develop, analyze, and advocate for health policies to improve the health and well-being of individuals and populations; and, to administer and manage the delivery, quality, and costs of health care services in communities, with a focus on under-served populations.

The MPH degree in HPM prepares students for a professional career in health services, policy, and management. The curriculum includes core public health coursework and the following advanced courses: 1) PH 641 Introduction to Health Policy; 2) PH 660 Current Topics in Community Health; 3) PH 672 Leadership in Health Systems; 4) PH 673 Health Ethics, Law and Politics; and 5) PH 677 Global Health Management. MPH students are also required to complete a fieldwork practicum as well as a capstone presentation on a topic relating to health policy and management.

Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health

The Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health specialization is designed to provide students with skills and training necessary to serve Indigenous people and assist in addressing their health and wellness needs. Indigenous people throughout the world experience grave health and socioeconomic disparities. Many of the current inequities are the result of historical national and local policies designed to eliminate and/or assimilate Indigenous people. Knowledge of history, policy, health determinants and ethics is essential to address and eliminate the inequities faced by Indigenous people.

The Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health specialization will prepare students for leadership roles in Indigenous health policy and culturally safe health services. Graduates will better meet the social and cultural needs of Indigenous people, thereby enhancing the quality and effectiveness of those health services and policies. The improved quality and effectiveness of Indigenous health services contributes to the reduction of Indigenous health disparities and the improvement of Indigenous peoples' health.

Students enrolled in this specialization are required to take advanced level training in Indigenous health policy, ethics and research design. There is opportunity for students to choose from Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health electives in many areas across the campus. Students will participate in on-going research programs with Indigenous communities through a practicum assignment.

For MPH students specializing in Native Hawaiian and Indigenous Health, the following coursework is required: 1) Health Ethics, Law, and Politics; 2) Native Hawaiian Health Determinants; 3) Indigenous Applied Research Methods; 4) Cultural Competency in Health Care; 5) Community-Based Participatory Research; 6) Integrative Seminar. MPH students are also required to complete a fieldwork practicum and during their final semester, students will prepare a report on their practicum experience, complete a research-intensive final paper, and deliver a public presentation as a demonstration of mastery of program competencies and present their finding in a capstone presentation.

Social and Behavioral Health Sciences

Over the last century, chronic diseases have replaced infectious diseases as the leading causes of death and, despite advances in medicine and technology, health disparities are increasing in almost every country. Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors such as tobacco use, lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, unsafe sexual practices, substance abuse, and overexposure to the sun are major contributors to disability and death. Social factors, such as discrimination, poverty, dangerous living and work environments, and unequal distribution of resources (including health care resources), also affect health status. In the social and behavioral health sciences specialization, students will examine: a) behavioral and social theories in health promotion; b) behavioral, social, environmental, and political interventions that can promote health; and c) skills required for assessing health problems and for planning and evaluating health programs. Course assignments provide students the opportunity to apply knowledge, to practice skills, to enhance computer literacy, and to improve oral and written communications. Opportunities to participate in university-based and community-based research and service programs are provided.

MPH students specializing in social and behavioral health sciences gain knowledge and skills in public health research methods, biostatistics, theories of health behavior change, needs assessment, planning, and evaluation. The first semester focuses on public health core requirements. In subsequent semesters, students take required and elective course work to meet the social and behavioral health sciences competencies, as well as the student's professional goals. A required 240-hour field practicum allows students to apply knowledge and skills in a community public health setting. During the final semester, students complete an integrative seminar, prepare a capstone paper, and deliver a public presentation as a demonstration of mastery of program competencies and integration of classroom knowledge and field experience. A student-selected faculty advisor and program committee guides the student's course of study, practicum experience, and capstone.


Applicants will be expected to have the academic background, experience, interests, and commitment for professional training in public health. Applicants must also have computer skills in word processing, spreadsheet construction, and internet applications. Academic preparation for the epidemiology specialization should include one year of coursework in a biological science, chemistry, and at least one semester of calculus. For the health policy and management specialization, preference may be given to students with training in social science, health, or human services. Prior paid or voluntary work experience in the health care or human services fields is preferred, but not required. Academic preparation for the social and behavioral health sciences specialization includes prior course work in mathematics or statistics, biology, or human development, and sociology or psychology. Experience in an applied health/social sciences field or in health/social sciences research is preferred.

Doctoral Degrees

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

The DrPH program with a specialization in community-based and translational research will prepare students to lead programs and conduct independent investigations addressing public health topics relevant to culturally diverse groups, with a special focus on those in the state of Hawai'i and the Asia-Pacific region. Translational research is the investigation of how to successfully transform scientific discoveries arising from laboratory, clinical, or population studies into community applications to reduce incidence, morbidity, and mortality. Community-based participatory research in health is a collaborative approach to research that equitably involves investigators and members of the community in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. This approach increases the likelihood that interventions will be embraced by the community and that the community members will gain knowledge, skills, and other benefits from the research.

DrPH Requirements

All DrPH students will complete coursework, a qualifying exam, mentor teaching and research practica, a comprehensive exam, and a three-paper dissertation. DrPH students are expected to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals and present at national and international forums. For students entering the DrPH program with an MPH degree, the minimum recommended number of credits for graduation is 30. For students without an MPH degree, the minimum recommended number of credits for graduation is 30 credits, plus the number of credits associated with missing prerequisites. Contact Dr. Kathryn Braun (Chair) for additional details at kbraun@hawaii.edu.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The PhD in epidemiology is comprised of graduate faculty from the Department of Public Health Sciences; University of Hawai'i Cancer Center; Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology, and Pharmacology; Department of Microbiology; and the Pacific Biosciences Research Center. Candidates who successfully complete this program will be able to teach in academic and other settings, conduct independent and collaborative epidemiologic research, and provide consultative services to academic, not-for-profit, governmental, and private organizations.

Although applicants to this program are not required to have a master's degree in epidemiology or a closely related field, all applicants are expected to have a strong background in the natural and/or social sciences. Because we look for applicants who are committed to epidemiologic research and practice, past research and related work experience are important factors in selecting candidates. We encourage applications from candidates who have well-focused research interests and career goals. The Graduate Record Examination (General Test) and three letters of recommendation are required for application. Applicants must also include a written statement with the application indicating why they want to pursue a doctoral degree in epidemiology and why they want to pursue this degree here at the University of Hawai'i.

PhD Requirements

A prospective applicant is expected to communicate with one of our graduate faculty members in his or her area of interest or with the program's chair and to be accepted as an applicant by a faculty member prior to admission. The faculty member involved will serve as an interim advisor upon the individual's admission into the PhD program. A listing of the PhD in epidemiology faculty is available at www.hawaii.edu/publichealth/faculty/faculty.html. All candidates take a qualifying examination upon completion of all required courses in epidemiology and biostatistics and core courses in infectious diseases and chronic disease epidemiology (usually after their first year of enrollment). This is followed by elective courses in the candidate's area(s) of interest, a teaching practicum, an oral comprehensive examination, and dissertation research. Candidates should refer to the Catalog for procedural and substantive details.

A few teaching and research assistantships are available for degree candidates. Qualified students may also apply for East-West Center fellowships. Contact Dr. Eric Hurwitz (Chair), at ehurwitz@hawaii.edu for additional details.

Honors and Awards

Joseph E. Alicata Award in Public Health
Elmer J. Anderson Professional Travel Award
Chin Sik Chung Memorial Award
Koseki Award for Excellence in Community Service
Frances Ayako Matsuda Sano Fellowship in Public Health
Pauline Stitt Outstanding Student Award
Robert M. Worth Epidemiology Scholarship

PH Courses