Campus Visits

Each cohort of students comes to Chapel Hill or an alternate designated site for five days at the beginning of their studies (August), between the fall and spring semesters (early January, usually the week of New Year’s Day), and between the spring and summer semesters (May, usually the Monday after commencement/Mother’s Day). Otherwise, all learning takes place off campus.

Students begin their studies with five days on campus during which they are oriented to the program, the Department, the School and the University. They are also provided a series of special sessions on leadership, ethics, and cultural competence, and they participate in group discussions with top health care and public health leaders. They are also introduced to the remainder of the first semester curriculum.

Students come back to Chapel Hill or an alternate designated site between each semester to conclude work on the preceding semester and begin work on the next semester’s curriculum. In addition, students participate in professional development and skills workshops, and hear lectures from and engage in discussion with leaders on current and emerging leadership and health challenges facing the public in the US and internationally. The process is repeated throughout the first two years of the curriculum.

In lieu of one of the six campus visits in the initial two years, the program may elect to meet at other sites, including sites within or outside the U.S., where we may take advantage of additional opportunities for leadership development.

Pace of Program

This is a cohort-based program. All students move through the curriculum at the same pace. Every course in the first two years is required of every student. Some students are expert at some elements of the curriculum, but are still required to take those courses as we want those students to share their expertise with the others in the cohort. We believe active interaction among students is an important part of adult learning and our program.

The focus in the third year is on writing the dissertation, although students are free to take electives. On average, each credit hour requires about 40 hours of student time. Therefore, students spend approximately 240 hours on school work per semester which equates to 16 hours or so per week.

For more details, see our Curriculum Plan.

Course Sequence Leading to Dissertation

The coursework is designed to give students the skills to defend their dissertation proposal in the spring or summer of their second year. Students complete their written comprehensive exams at the end of the second year summer, so that they can concentrate on their research in their third year.

The core research and skills courses which prepare students for their dissertation include:

Year One:

  • HPM 860/HPM 950: Population perspectives for health. This course helps students identify important population health problems that may be appropriate for dissertation topics. (Fall)
  • HPM 953: Essentials of Practice-based Research. This course helps students learn basic research skills, including formulating research questions, the pros and cons of different study designs (including both quantitative and qualitative methods), basic statistical techniques, and sources of secondary data. (Spring)
  • HPM 951: Literature Review and Appraisal. This course is designed to prepare students to identify, critically analyze, and synthesize research findings, in order to plan and write their dissertations. (Spring)
  • HPM 963: Program Evaluation for Health Leaders. This course reviews fundamental evaluation frameworks, and helps students identify appropriate evaluation and research design and data collection strategies. This information can be used in the plan for change. (Summer)

Year Two:

  • HPM 956: Fundamentals of Research Analysis. This is the second in the research series. It helps students consider alternative research methodologies and analytical techniques for different research questions, focuses more heavily on qualitative research, and helps students prepare their formal dissertation proposal. (Fall)
  • HPM 759: Health Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Leaders. This class helps students understand the policy analysis and policy making process, and often helps students identify strategies they can consider in their dissertation plans for change. (Spring)

Students also take dissertation preparation classes beginning in the summer of their first year (HPM 945). In addition, students must have at least six hours over two semesters of dissertation coursework (HPM 994) before they can defend their dissertation. Students must register for three credit hours of dissertation coursework (HPM 994) in the fall and spring semesters starting in their third year (until they successfully defend their dissertation).


A detailed description of the UNC DrPH competencies is available here.


DrPH students are expected to engage in one or more applied practice experiences in which they are responsible to complete at least one project that is meaningful for an organization and to advance public health practice. The practicum provides students an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills being acquired through their coursework and further develop and demonstrate attainment of program competencies. Relevant organizations include governmental, non-governmental, non-profit, industrial, or for-profit settings, and may be the student’s own work setting. The work product may be a single project or a set of related projects that demonstrate depth of competence. It may be a discrete experience or integrated into program coursework.

The practicum must be approved, in advance, by the program director, and must cover between 5-7 foundation and/or concentration-specific competencies. At least one must be from the leadership, management and governance domain or from the health leadership domain. The practicum deliverable must incorporate a reflective component that describes the student’s personal or professional reactions to their applied experience. Students can accomplish this through a journal entry or other written product, or another deliverable as approved by the program director.

Leadership Framework

Students develop their own individualized leadership framework in the first semester as part of their leadership class. They must revisit their framework and write a leadership reflection at the end of their two years of coursework on how their leadership framework has evolved over the course of the program.

Online Access

Students connect to the faculty and their peers mainly online via videoconferencing software.

PLEASE NOTE: Students must have a reliable DSL or cable Internet connection. Dial-up connections will not work with our technology. It is recommended that students use headsets or earbuds if they choose to connect to class audio using their computers, especially if they will be in a noisy environment during class. Connecting via phone is also an option, but it is recommended that international users connect via computer audio to avoid unexpected phone charges.

Students receive material (recorded videos, narrative case studies, datasets, readings, etc.) via the Web each week. They study these materials on their own time but must have completed these tasks before the weekly late afternoon/evening sessions when they convene live via Internet video technology. These three-hour synchronous learning sessions are divided into components of the curriculum and led by faculty members and/or guest speakers responsible for each component. Usual class time for first year students is Tuesdays from 4 to 7 pm Eastern Time and for second year students is Wednesday at the same time.

Conflict of Interest Policy

The Doctoral Program in Health Leadership is guided by policies designed to avoid real or perceived conflicts of interest associated with financial support from corporate or other sponsors.

Our program policies are aligned with the University’s conflict of interest policy.

In addition: All sponsors are publicly acknowledged on the DrPH web site. Sponsors have no involvement in the development of program curricula.

We accept no conditions from sponsors for how unrestricted funds are spent. Funds earmarked for specific purposes, such as program technology or student scholarships, adhere to all applicable University policies.

The DrPH Advisory Committee discusses proposed external funding relationships and monitors existing ones to ensure avoidance of real or perceived conflicts of interest.

Graduation Requirements

Graduation requirements for the Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership (DrPH) at the University of North Carolina include the successful completion of the following:

  • All courses and course work
  • All comprehensive exams
  • A practicum, practicum reflection and leadership reflection
  • The dissertation, including a formal defense

Comprehensive Examination

A written comprehensive examination is administered in the summer at the end of the second year of the program. The examination integrates key concepts from the overall program curriculum.


Students have flexibility in designing a dissertation project, but all will focus on a current or past health, health policy or organizational/leadership issue or problem. The objective of the DrPH dissertation is to combine research with an understanding of the role of leadership in creating an implementation plan to improve the public’s health. One of the key differences between the DrPH dissertation and a traditional PhD dissertation is the plan for change. We expect students to develop detailed plans for change that describe the players, resources, and strategies needed to make the changes identified as part of the dissertation research. It is expected that the student help to implement that plan, most often after completing the program.

BSPH, MSPH and Resident MHA:
Academic Coordinator: Yolonda N. Childs

Doctoral and Executive MHA:
Academic Coordinator: Kim Sieler

Assistant to Chair: Stephanie Forman
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Mailing Address
135 Dauer Drive
1101 McGavran-Greenberg Hall, CB #7411
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7411