Health Services Organization and Policy PhD Program

2019 HSOP cohort

The Health Services Organization and Policy (HSOP) Program is the HMP doctoral program leading to a PhD and prepares students for careers in research, teaching, and policy analysis in health services and policy.

The program's primary objective is to provide students with the conceptual and analytic skills to address a broad spectrum of health services and policy issues. These issues range from the balance between equity, efficiency, and political feasibility in forming social policy to technical considerations in the organization, financing, use, and evaluation of health services. The scope of our programs includes not only personal health services ("healthcare") but also the broader context of factors that influence health ("public health").

While strongly oriented toward applied research, the program is firmly based in scientific theory and methods. Understanding and analysis of technical problems and policy issues in health services and policy require a commitment to scientific inquiry within a rigorous framework. The program considers the key bodies of theory for HSOP study to be the social sciences including economics, sociology, organizational studies (in Ross Business School) (in College of Literature, Science, and the Arts), political science, finance, operations research/decision science, and quantitative methods. The application of such theory requires the use of advanced methods in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. The HSOP Program, therefore, is designed to integrate a thorough knowledge of health services and policy, a sound understanding of a theoretical discipline, and a mastery of advanced research methods.



The HSOP program draws on the expertise of the HMP faculty and the university at large. With backgrounds in public health, medicine, operations research, law, and finance, among other disciplines, our department faculty have national and global reputations. Faculty experts are teaching and researching in areas such as health insurance, healthcare finance, nursing home care, and home healthcare, organizational analysis of hospitals, the physician workforce, HMOs and managed care, quality of care, legal issues in a managed care world, tobacco policy, and women's health. Please visit the HMP faculty profiles to learn more about individual research areas.

Core Faculty by Cognate

External Faculty by Cognate

  • Mariel Lavieri
  • Amy Cohn
  • Brian Denton
  • Rafael Mendez


Guided research is an important component of the HSOP program. Students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty members on a variety of cutting-edge health services research, and health policy projects including tobacco policy, managed care, women's health, and long-term care.

Students also participate in WIDTH (Workshop for Integrating and Discussing Topics in Healthcare), an interdisciplinary forum for doctoral students to discuss their dissertation topics, research ideas, and results with other students and faculty with similar interests in health services research but different cognate training/perspectives.


About two-thirds of all HSOP graduates find careers in academic institutions, either as faculty or as researchers. Those not in academia generally work in federal and state government agencies or in the private sector in nonprofit research organizations, healthcare delivery organizations, and consulting groups. Recent HSOP alumni currently include:

  • Faculty and researchers at institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, University of North Carolina, Cornell University, Duke, Penn State, University of Washington, University of Illinois at Chicago, Trinity University, University of Kentucky, University of Iowa, University of Florida, and Taiwan University.
  • Researchers in organizations such as Kaiser Permanente, the Henry Ford Healthcare System, the VA, and other professional organizations.
  • Policy analysts in federal and state governments.
  • Researchers in contract research firms such as RAND, Medstat, Mathematica, and Abt Associates, Inc.

In short, the market for University of Michigan HSOP graduates has historically been strong, and current evidence indicates a continued high demand for graduates of the program.

Program History

The Doctoral Program in Health Services Organization and Policy 1919-2019: Executive Summary


We will only be able to review completed applications. You must also be sure to indicate the intended cognate you are applying for on your application. Since transcripts may take several weeks to arrive, it is highly recommended that you apply early. Admitted applicants are typically notified about their admission in February. Admitted applicants will be invited to attend a visit day in March, where they will have an opportunity to meet with faculty and students.

The application deadline is December 1. All supplemental materials MUST be received by December 1 to be considered for fall term admission. The committee reserves the right not to review late or incomplete applications. It is the responsibility of the applicant to keep track of the progress of their application, which can be done using the Admissions website. New students are admitted for the fall term only. Applications are accepted beginning in September of the year preceding intended enrollment.

Admission to the HSOP program is extremely competitive, and space in our program is limited. Please be advised that:
  • we typically receive more than 70 applications each year from very qualified and talented people. Each entering class consists of 5–7 students;
  • the admissions decision is based on a holistic review that puts weight on many factors, including: fit with faculty research expertise; academic background for the proposed cognate; letters of recommendation; undergraduate GPA; and evidence of potential to be a productive researcher;
  • and many of our applicants have a master's or professional degree with strong grades, and most have relevant research experience. (However, we do not require any degree beyond a bachelor's to be considered for admission.)

The department will begin accepting applications for fall 2024 in September 2024. Applications and all supporting documents are due no later than December 1, 2024.

Visit the Rackham Graduate School site for details on the application process. Additional information for individuals with international credentials can be found on the Required Academic Credentials from Non-U.S. Institutions website.

Although personal interviews are not required, applicants are encouraged to get in touch with faculty with relevant research interests.

Regarding your Academic Statement of Purpose: Please describe how your background, experience, and research interests relate to the HSOP PhD program and identify any specific program faculty that you would like to work with. 

All supplemental materials such as transcripts, CVs, and writing samples must be submitted via the online application system. Extra or supplemental materials will not be accepted by email

Please note that your primary cognate interest (economics, finance, operations research/decision science, political science, quantitative methods, or sociology/organizational studies) must be indicated on the "Subplan" line of the first page of your application and in your personal statement. Use the free-form text space or the dropdown menu on the application to write in your cognate . Below is a brief description of each cognate; please choose the one that most closely fits your primary research interest. Please review the PhD curriculum guide for complete details on each cognate.

  • Economics: Designed for students interested in becoming health services and policy researchers specializing in health economics research, including the economics of the healthcare financing and delivery system and the economic evaluation of health services and policies.
  • Finance: Designed for students specializing in Healthcare Finance Research. The objectives are to provide students with doctoral level training in finance theory and its application to health services research.
  • Operations Research/Decision Science: Includes a variety of quantitative approaches used to identify strategies for the optimal allocation of resources within an organization. Decision sciences involve quantitative techniques that are used for decision-making at the individual and collective level.
  • Political Science: Political Science coursework in American politics, statistics, and political science methodology will equip students with the tools necessary to undertake health services research from a political science perspective.
  • Quantitative methods: Designed for students interested in mastering advanced methods to be applied to questions in health services and policy research. The cognate is focused on developing expertise in three core areas: statistical theory, causal inference, and machine learning and data science.
  • Sociology/Organizational Studies: Designed to provide students with a foundation in the theories and methodologies for analyzing health-related phenomena from a sociological and organizational perspective. The structure, processes, and performance of organizations in general, and of organizations serving health needs in particular.

Funding and Financial Aid Information

Funding directly through the HSOP doctoral program is available, and there are also many funding opportunities for PhD students with the Rackham Graduate School and throughout the university. The majority of our PhD students have one (or more) of these funding packages, and all of our students have full funding throughout the course of their PhD career. Common funding sources include:

  • Fellowships: The Rackham Fellowship Office has information about fellowships available through the Graduate School as well as information on many fellowships funded by external sources.
  • Research Positions: Research assistantships on funded projects within HMP and affiliated projects are often available. Students typically seek out such opportunities with faculty mentors, and can find assistantships working on projects related to their own research interests.
  • Graduate Student Instructor (GSI): GSI positions (also known as TA or teaching assistantship positions) are typically available within the department, as well as for the School of Public Health, and in a wide variety of departments with undergraduate programs.
  • Traineeship and Assistantship programs: There are various traineeship and assistantship programs available through both HMP and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Examples of such programs are:

These funding opportunities cover full tuition and health insurance, as well as provide a stipend. The HSOP admissions committee arranges funding as a part of the admissions offer. Decisions are generally announced in March.

For information on federal financial aid student loan programs please contact The University of Michigan Office of Financial Aid. Non-U.S. citizen applicants are not eligible for most university-based awards including fellowships; such students should seek support from their own governments and agencies. HSOP students both U.S. and international are eligible for GSI and research positions, though these positions are usually attained only after the first year of study.

HSOP Curriculum Guide

Questions about the HSOP Program?

Edward Norton
Director of HSOP Program

Kaitlin Taylor
Graduate Program Coordinator