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UW Global Health Dept. launches new Ph.D. program

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The UW Department of Global Health recently launched a doctoral degree program that is the first of its kind, and enrolled its first three students this fall.

After about two years of planning, the Higher Education Curriculum Board and the UW Board of Regents approved the new doctoral degree program in late spring of this year. This is the first quarter that the program has officially run.

The new program was designed by the UW Department of Global Health in collaboration with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Health Alliance International (HAI). It is one of only seven existing Global Health Ph.D. programs in the country, yet it is unique in its global focus and its two areas of emphasis: metrics and implementation sciences in global health.

Kenneth Sherr, director of implementation science for HAI and UW assistant professor for the department of Global Health, said the idea for this program began to develop in 2009.

"There was a tremendous amount of demand," Sherr said. "Students had trouble finding a program in both areas of emphasis that met their needs, and we felt that meeting the student demand was a priority."

The emphases on metrics include learning to better and more accurately measure health, assessing health systems globally, providing guidance about optimal health-related resource allocation, and devising new systems for analyzing data.

Implementation science gears students to learn how to develop and apply new methodologies, including development, implementation, and evaluation of approaches to improve health systems.

"This is the only one of its kind that focuses on population health measurement and implementation science," said Dane Boog, education program manager at the IHME.

The program was designed to meet a growing need for measuring health, tracking health system program performance, and educating students on innovative data collection and measurement systems. The goal is to make sure that people are benefitting the most out of global-health funding worldwide.

Prior to the creation of this program, the only other academic program that specifically focused on health measurement was a Ph.D. program at Harvard University. However, Harvard's program is domestically focused, whereas the UW health Ph.D. has a global aim, looking to both attract international students and prepare students to work abroad.

Currently there are only three students, but the program is expected to expand over the coming years.

"Being the first year, we wanted to keep the cohort small so that we could work out kinks in the program and really make sure that we have the strongest program possible to move forward," Sherr said.

Peter Cherutich, one of the three current Ph.D. students in the program, was funded by an international AIDS research center through the Ministry of Health in his native Kenya to come study implementation science through the new UW Ph.D. program. Cherutich said he chose the new UW program because it is one of the top programs worldwide.

"I wanted to be part of a leading institution," he said.

He said the program enables students to be good international leaders in the field of global health.

The department expects to add two or three students to both the metrics and the implementation science areas of emphasis. Currently there is a high level of demand for the program: Admissions has already received 45 applications and is expecting many more by the application deadline of Dec. 1.

Reach contributing writer Ola Wietecha at Twitter: @OWietecha

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