The field of health IT is diverse, rapidly changing, and covers numerous areas of scholarship. Drawing upon the academic and research strengths of our university, the doctoral program emphasize advanced database management, analytics methods and evaluation, and human-computer interaction.

The program is structured to support interdisciplinary research training, gaining teaching experience, and administrative knowledge acquisition. It includes rigorous coursework prior to dissertation research and is designed to adapt to the diverse needs of program students. The CHIP doctoral Timeline outlines the average process each of our grad students follows to fulfill the program requirements.

The coursework portion of the program is based upon five content pillars:

  1. Core and frontier topics in health informatics (foundational concepts of informatics)
  2. Tools and infrastructure (advanced techniques for manipulating health data)
  3. Research methods and execution of research
  4. Project management and academic leadership skills
  5. Implementation science and translation.

The coursework is followed by comprehensive examinations, consisting of a written portion and an oral defense.  After successful completion of comprehensive examinations, a student will engage in a dissertation research project, followed by a public dissertation defense.



Sample course listings.

Additionally, students are expected to actively participate in scholarly writing and dissemination of research through presentations at regional and national conferences, and publications in high impact scholarly journals.



Admissions Requirements

The minimum admission requirements for the program are:

  • An undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with GPA of 3.00 or better;
  • GRE scores above 50% percentile on both verbal and quantitative sections and a score of at
    least 4 out of 6 on the writing section (GRE requirement is waived for holders of
    research or professional doctoral degree);
  • For international applicants: A TOEFL score above 90 or an IELTS score above 7.

Program applicants are expected to clearly demonstrate an interest in the area of health informatics, as well as articulate plans for research to pursue as part of PhD studies and post-graduate career goals.

Documents required for application:

  • UNC Graduate School application
  • Unofficial copies of transcripts from all post-secondary education
  • Electronically submitted score reports from GRE test taken within the last five years. Applicants holding a doctoral degree (e.g., JD, MD, DDS, PharmD, Ph.D.) may request a waiver from this requirement.
  • Official TOEFL or IELTS score reports (for international applicants only)
  • Resume or CV
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of Purpose including:
    • Description of previous research and professional experience (required)
    • Motivation for seeking PhD in Health Informatics, research interests and what type of
      research applicant hopes to pursue while in the program, as well as post-graduation
      career goals (required)
    • Additional information that would be helpful for application reviewers (optional)





The program will require a minimum of 55 hours of coursework across all five pillars of the curriculum. In consultation with advisor, each student develops an individualized study plan that must include: at least two courses from the Core and Frontier (6 hrs), as well as from the Tools and Infrastructure pillars (6 hrs), as well as at least one course from each of the remaining pillars (9 hrs). All students are also required to attend monthly meetings held every Fall and Spring for pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students to learn about program developments, share their research and discuss advancements in the Health Informatics field.




Comprehensive examination

The written portion of the examination consists of a full-length systematic review of literature for a research topic which the student is most likely to select as his/her dissertation topic. Each student is expected to write the exam independently, consulting periodically with the Dissertation Advisor. Upon advisor approval, the written exam will be distributed to the rest of the examination/dissertation committee. The committee must consist of at least four faculty members in addition to the advisor; one member of the committee must be from outside of the advisor’s home department.

The oral portion of the comprehensive examination is administered by the same committee. It is based on the written document, but also includes any materials considered to be relevant by the committee. The format of the oral examination is flexible with limited use of computer-based presentation, emphasizing “chalk board” presentation and the ability to demonstrate critical thinking.

Students successfully passing both the written and oral portions of the examination will advance to candidacy status.




Upon achieving the candidacy, the student is required to submit a proposal, which, beyond the systematic review completed previously, should include a methods section, a discussion on potential findings, and a section which anticipates limitations and ethical challenges.  After successful completion and defense of the proposal, is allowed to proceed with the dissertation research project.

After completion of the dissertation project the student will prepare a dissertation document according to the Graduate School guidelines. At a point deemed acceptable to the advisor and members of committee, a public oral dissertation defense will be scheduled. Successful dissertation defense completes the fulfillment of all degree requirements.



Interested in Applying?

If you are interested in the PhD Program and would like to speak to a program representative, please fill out this Student Interest and Background Information Form. If you would like to apply, please first visit the grad school page, which outlines the requirements for applying.