UNC School of Public Health offers nation's first distance education doctorate in health leadership

August 25, 2005
CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Public Health is offering the nation’s first doctorate in health leadership (DrPH) degree that students can earn while taking all of their classes online from their homes or offices.

Barbara K. Rimer, Dean

Barbara K. Rimer, Dean

The DrPH program is designed for working professionals in mid-career who want to become leaders in administration or policy. The first class, or cohort, of students in this new, three-year degree program began their studies this week.

“This is such an exciting innovation,” said Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, the school’s dean. “What’s so exciting is that the program uses state-of-the art ‘high technology’ to deliver the educational experience in a very ‘high touch’ environment. Thus, the program, while delivered in a distance format, will be highly interactive. We’re really pleased to be pioneering this new approach to education and grateful for the support of the Constella Corp.”

Admission to the program is highly competitive. “Without actively marketing the DrPH last year, we received 89 applications and selected only nine students,” said Dr. Edward (“Ned”) Brooks, the program’s director and clinical associate professor of health policy and administration at the school. “We are delighted with these nine who have the potential to become top leaders and who are committed to improving the public’s health.”

The students start the program with four days on campus for orientation to the program as well as sessions on leadership, ethics and cultural competence. They also will participate in group discussions with top health care and public health leaders, including Howard Lee, chairman of the N.C. State Board of Education; William Roper, dean of the UNC Medical School and chief executive officer of the UNC Health Care System; Leah Devlin, State Health Director; Robert Shelton, UNC-CH Provost; Bob Blouin, dean of the UNC School of Pharmacy; Don Holzworth, chief executive officer of Constella Group; and Keith Crisco, chief executive officer of Asheboro Elastics. The students then return home for the balance of the semester. Students come back to Chapel Hill between each semester to conclude work on the preceding semester and begin work on the next semester’s curriculum.

This schedule is followed for the first two years of instruction. The third year is focused on writing the dissertation.

“We will make substantial use of technologies that allow students and faculty to interact productively and that support live video, audio and data sharing,” said Dr. Suzanne Havala Hobbs, clinical assistant professor of health policy and administration at the School of Public Health and associate director of the new DrPH program. “The technology can also be used to connect guest speakers with students without having to bring everyone together in the same room.”

Generous funding for technical support and student financial aid for the program is provided by The Constella Group, a leading global provider of outsourced health intelligence and technology services to help public sector, not-for-profit, and commercial clients identify and address critical issues affecting human health. Founded in 1983 as a statistical consulting firm, Constella has evolved into a multi-faceted life sciences company that combines technological innovations with scientific and clinical domain expertise to manage a wide range of programs to solve complex health issues.

“We are pleased to support the UNC School of Public Health’s doctorate leadership program,” said Don Holzworth, Chairman and CEO of Constella Group. “We have a longstanding relationship with the school and are eager to help develop leaders who share our company’s vision of enhancing human health around the world, every day.”

Before entering the UNC’s DrPH program, students must have a masters or doctoral degree. These degrees do not have to be in public health, but students must have at least several years of work experience in the health field, some of which must be in management or substantial leadership roles. Students are expected to come from a variety of backgrounds in health and health-related organizations, including public health, hospitals and government agencies.

More information on the program, including costs and applications, is available on the Department of Health Policy and Administration Web pages.


Note: Contact Ned Brooks at ned_brooks@unc.edu or 919-843-4846.

UNC News Services contact: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 or deborah_saine@unc.edu.

For further information, please contact Ramona DuBose, either by phone at 966-7467 or by e-mail at ramona_dubose@unc.edu.