MPH in Public Health Epidemiology (PHEP)

The Public Health Epidemiology (PHEP) major prepares students for careers involving the study of the distribution of disease in large groups or from a population based perspective. The study of epidemiology includes factors affecting disease and disability in populations and is a fundamental science of public health and preventive medicine. Epidemiology research traditionally has focused on causes of disease through population study for both infectious and chronic diseases. Epidemiologists attempt to quantify the distribution and establish the determinants of health problems by describing and analyzing the biological, environmental, social and behavior factors affecting health, illness and premature death.

Girl getting innoculation

Descriptive and analytic techniques are used to gather information on disease occurrence; extend basic knowledge about the physical, mental and social processes affecting health; and develop effective disease control measures. The products of such inquiries also are used to formulate health policies.

Quantitative skills, including biostatistics and computer applications, are emphasized in this major. Epidemiologists work closely with other health professionals including professionals including physicians, environmental health personnel, behavior scientists, demographers, biostatisticians and administrators of health agencies. Epidemiologists often work for local, state and federal governments, health care organizations, private industry and institutions of higher education.

Graduates of the PHEP program will possess the following major competencies:

  • Define and calculate measures of disease frequency and measures of association between risk factors and disease.
  • Describe the major epidemiologic research study designs and their advantages and limitations.
  • Describe the major sources of bias in epidemiologic research (confounding, selection bias, measurement error) and the ways to evaluate and reduce bias.
  • Evaluate effect modification.
  • Apply criteria to support whether an association is casual.
  • Understand the basic terms and methods used in outbreak investigation, infectious disease epidemiology, chronic disease epidemiology, disease prevention trials and evaluation of screening tests.
  • Review the scientific literature with competence, synthesize findings across studies and make appropriate public health recommendations based on current knowledge.
  • Design and epidemiologic study to address a question of interest.
  • Interpret results of an epidemiologic study, including relation to findings from other epidemiologic studies, potential biologic and/or social mechanisms, limitations of the study and public health implications.
  • Write a clear description of the rationale, methods, results and interpretation of an epidemiologic investigation.
  • Apply epidemiologic skills in a public health setting, specifically in the formulation or application of public health program or policies.

The Plan of Study outlines required courses and electives for the PHEP. A Plan of Study is filed within the first 12 semester credit hours of admission to the MPH degree. Click here to see a Plan of Study for PHEP.