Skip to content
Degree Division
Clinical Public Health Division
Program Contact
Theodore Witek

The Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH) at the University of Toronto is pleased to announce the implementation of a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program – the first ever offered by a Canadian university. The program is aligned with the School’s Academic Plan 2019-2024 and will serve to bolster and strengthen public health and health systems capacity in Canada, and potentially, across the globe. It is especially relevant and timely, as we continue to face increasingly complex and challenging health and health system problems.

While our other doctoral programs are research-intensive, the DrPH focuses on accelerating the use of research evidence to inform practice and policy. As such, the DrPH program offers practice-based training and applied research skills. Students will develop and advance important key leadership, management, and public health practice competencies.

DLSPH is exceptionally well suited to deliver a DrPH program, given our outstanding Faculty with expertise in such areas as health system and public health leadership, evidence appraisal and public health, knowledge translation and implementation, public health policy and ethics, Indigenous health, and global health.

“Toronto Public Health and DLSPH have a long history of support and collaboration in the field of public health practice and research. The addition of this new program that will help to shape future leaders of public health, is an opportunity to enhance this collaborative partnership and demonstrate the importance of public health, both within Toronto and more broadly.” – Dr. Eileen De Villa, Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health

A DrPH handbook pdf is provided as a supplemental format to this webpage. At times there may be delays between updates of this  Website and the DrPH handbook pdf. Students should consider this webpage as the most current information if discrepancies arise.

This handbook also supplements the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences (GDPHS) HandbookThe GDPHS Handbook provides general information about the School, policies, procedures, resources etc

Degree Overview

The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) advances public health education, addressing evaluation and translation of evidence in policy and practice decision-making contexts. The doctoral professional program is based on existing areas of faculty expertise within the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (including Public Health Sciences and the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation). The focus of the program is to contribute to emerging needs in public health to address increasingly complex issues. Graduates will develop skills and knowledge in four major competency areas, as defined by the Council on Education for Public Health: (1) Data & Analysis; (2) Leadership, Management, Governance; (3) Policy & Programs; and (4) Education & Workforce Development. The DrPH will allow graduates to take on advanced roles (e.g., leadership, knowledge translation) in public health policy and practice settings.

The program is offered on a full-time basis over 4 years of study and is comprised of five major components: course work, an applied research project, a comprehensive exam, a thesis, and a final oral exam.

Students attend 1-week on-campus “burst weeks” (~6 hours/day) in the each term of years 1 – 3. The applied research project takes place in the summer of year 1 and the comprehensive exam in the summer of year 2. Thesis work begins in year 3 and continues through year 4.

Term / Year Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4
Fall One-week intensive One-week intensive

One-week intensive

Thesis

Thesis
Winter One-week intensive One-week intensive

One-week intensive

Thesis

Thesis
Summer

One-week intensive

Applied Research Project

One-week intensive

Comprehensive Examination (May)

One-week intensive

Thesis

Thesis

Philosophy

There is a growing need and demand for public health professionals who have advanced professional education and the skills to implement improvements in our public health and health care systems in Canada and globally. The is imperative as “public health challenges become more global and complex”.[1]

The DrPH builds on and complements existing Masters and PhD programs respectively, and allows students to continue their academic education, in addition to developing other advanced professional competencies. It is a professional degree that fosters advanced knowledge in evidence-based public health by providing the knowledge and skills needed to interpret and critically appraise different types of evidence, conduct applied research, and propose/implement evidence-based changes to policy or practice.

Many public health and health system organizations require individuals with advanced education in the effective translation of knowledge and in transformative leadership. Through the integration and application of knowledge and skills in data analysis, leadership, policy and program management, and effective communication, DrPH graduates will be prepared for senior leadership careers in public, not-for-profit organizations, as well as for-profit organizations.

[1] Sherman BR, Hoen R, Lee JM, Declercq ER. Doctor of Public Health Education and Training. Public Health Rep. 2017 Jan/Feb;132(1):115-120. doi: 10.1177/0033354916682204. Epub 2016 Dec 14. PMID: 28005488; PMCID: PMC5298511.

Delivery

The program is offered on a full-time basis over 4 years of study. To maximize flexibility for DrPH students (many who continue to work), the curriculum is delivered throughout the calendar year, using a combination of in-person and online formats.

The University of Toronto does not offer remote doctorate degrees. As a professional degree, however, the program is designed with maximum flexibility for the student cohort to manage several responsibilities concurrently. For example, the core DrPH required courses are offered as on-line or hybrid.

As the DrPH program was launched during the global COVID-19 pandemic, several modifications to the courses allowed successful implementation, some that will carry on post-pandemic as they proved to be both efficient and effective. On-campus activities resumed in in January 2022 as did the in-person sessions of hybrid courses and on campus in-person sessions.

As personal interaction with your fellow students, faculty, and community public health leaders is an important element of the educational process, three on-campus “Burst Weeks” are held in September, January and April. These weeks will incorporate the in-class portions of the hybrid courses, various skill forums (e.g., media training), cohort thinktanks, and a variety of interactions with faculty and community public health leaders.

Important to consider is most courses at the DLSPH are offered in-person or hybrid. Thus, student’s selection of a required methods course and the free choice elective courses may not be offered remotely, and the student will be responsible to organize course selection based on their needs, i.e., optimal elective courses for a particular student’s need may be only offered in person.

Competencies

The DrPH emphasizes competencies that support the comprehensive evaluation and translation of evidence in policy- and practice- decision-making contexts. By integrating advanced education with professional competency development and a significant practical/field experience, graduates are equipped with the knowledge, skills, methods, and tools to effectively apply evidence to public health policy and practice. Graduates are well-positioned to lead public health and health system organizations, address complex health and health system challenges, and can adapt and effectively respond to emerging health needs, threats, and changing health systems.

Specifically, graduates develop skills and knowledge in four major competency areas, as defined by the Council on Education for Public Health: (1) Data & Analysis; (2) Leadership, Management, Governance; (3) Policy & Programs; and (4) Education & Workforce Development. DrPH graduates will be prepared for senior leadership careers in public, not-for-profit organizations, as well as for-profit organizations.”

Data & Analysis

1.    Explain qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods and policy analysis research and evaluation methods to address health issues at multiple (individual, group, organization, community, and population) levels

2.    Design a qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, policy analysis or evaluation project to address a public health issue

3.    Explain the use and limitations of surveillance systems and national surveys in assessing, monitoring, and evaluating policies and programs and to address a population’s health

Leadership, Management & Governance

4.    Propose strategies for health improvement and elimination of health inequities by organizing stakeholders, including researchers, practitioners, community leaders and other partners

5.    Communicate public health science to diverse stakeholders, including individuals at all levels of health literacy, for purposes of influencing behavior and policies

6.    Integrate knowledge, approaches, methods, values and potential contributions from multiple professions and systems in addressing public health problems

7.    Create a strategic plan

8.    Facilitate shared decision making through negotiation and consensus-building methods

9.    Create organizational change strategies

10. Propose strategies to promote inclusion and equity within public health programs, policies, and systems

11. Assess one’s own strengths and weaknesses in leadership capacities, including cultural proficiency

12. Propose human, fiscal, and other resources to achieve a strategic goal

13. Cultivate new resources and revenue streams to achieve a strategic goal

Policy & Programs

14. Design a system-level intervention to address a public health issue

15. Integrate knowledge of cultural values and practices in the design of public health policies and programs

16. Integrate scientific information, legal and regulatory approaches, ethical frameworks and varied stakeholder interests in policy development and analysis

17. Propose interprofessional team approaches to improving public health

Education & Workforce Development

18. Assess an audience’s knowledge and learning needs

19. Deliver training or educational experiences that promote learning in academic, organizational or community settings

20. Use best practice modalities in pedagogical practices

Council on Education for Public Health, Schools of Public Health & Public Health Programs, October 2016

Admission Requirements

We welcome mid-career professionals with relevant Masters-level training (such as a Master of Public Health, Master of Health Sciences, Master of Health Administration, etc.) plus a minimum of 5 years of work experience to apply. The program is designed for working professionals, with online learning components integrated throughout.

Click here to view minimum application requirements.
Click here for information regarding the application process.

Getting Started

General information about the School, policies, procedures, resources etc. is provided in the general Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences (GDPHS) Handbook. The GDPHS Handbook includes information on standard administrative processes summarized in the table 1.

Administration

·       TCard – your UofT Photo ID and library card

·       UTORid – your id for accessing UofT Systems

·       Quercus – UofT’s learning management system

·       ACORN – Accessible Campus Online

·       Registration Information

·       Course Enrolment

·       Fees

Resources

·       Awards and funding opportunities

·       Academic resources including the computer lab, software, and libraries

·       Resources for Student Success such including academic success and professional development

·       Using the School Building

Policies

·       University of Toronto Policies

·       School of Graduate Studies Policies

·       Dalla Lana School of Public Health Policies

Course Requirements

Course Requirements: 6.5 FCE (5.5 FCE core courses and 1.0 FCE elective courses)

Year 1

(3.5 FCE)

FALL

Winter

Summer

Year 2

(2.5 FCE)

Fall

Winter

Years 3 & 4

(0.5 FCE)

Winter

Managing Pre-requisites

It is important to review all prerequisites when planning your course of study. When pre-requisites are listed, they normally indicate DLSPH courses (PHS or IHPME), but equivalent courses taken elsewhere would be considered since most DrPH students would not have completed PHS/IHPME courses during their master’s degree program, if completed elsewhere.

Prerequisites may also be ratified with work experience. For example, one DrPH student completed an MPH at University of Waterloo where it is likely that equivalent courses were completed. That, along with work experience, would be enough to satisfy the pre-requisites listed.

Any circumstances not directly satisfied by specific course completion should be reviewed and approved by the instructor, copying the DrPH Program Director.

Managing In-Person vs Remote Courses

All core courses are offered through a remote learning format with some elements incorporated in the on-campus “burst weeks”.  Electives can be delivered in-person or remotely depending on the course so students should consider this when selecting their elective courses.

Suggested research methods courses*:

CHL5115H Qualitative Analysis and Interpretation
CHL5129H Introduction to Mixed Methods Research for Public Health
CHL5130H Advanced Methods in Applied Indigenous Health Research
CHL5133H Evaluating Quantitative Public Health Research
CHL5150H Data Collection Methods for Research & Evaluation Projects
CHL5203H Survey Design and Social Research Methods in Public Health
CHL5424H Advanced Quantitative Methods in Epidemiology
CHL5429H Advanced Analytic Methods for Bias in Epidemiologic Studies
HAD5752H Introduction to Knowledge Translation & Implementation Science
HAD5763H Advanced Methods in Health Services Research
HAD6501H Introduction to Methods for Health Professions Education Research

* Permission from instructor and submission of Add-Drop form is required for enrolment. Proof of permission and the completed form should be emailed to the PHS Graduate Office at grad.dlsph@utoronto.ca.

NOTE: Methods courses other than those listed above should be reviewed by the DrPH Program Director.  Forward permission from the instructor and a course syllabus to ted.witek@utoronto.ca.

Supervision

Click here to view the SGS Graduate Supervision: Guidelines for Students.

Program Director

Beginning prior to admission, and with the assistance of the Program Director, the applicant will explore supervisory possibilities: a faculty member with an appointment in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health who has a Full appointment in the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). The faculty supervisor may be confirmed prior to beginning the program, and generally will be in place by the end of the first year.  Students are encouraged to explore broadly and have wide-ranging discussions with potential supervisors. The Program Director must approve the selection of the primary supervisor.

Supervisor

The Supervisor is responsible for providing mentorship to the student through all phases of the PhD program. Thus, to the extent possible, the Supervisor, in parallel with the Program Director, will guide the selection of courses, applied research project, supervisory committee membership, and supervisory committee meetings; will assist with applications for funding; and will provide references for the student on a timely basis. The Supervisor also will comment on the student’s plan for preparation for the comprehensive examination. The Supervisor will guide the development of the student’s applied research project, and the implementation and conduct of all aspects of the research; advise on writing the thesis; correct drafts and approve the final thesis; and attend the defense.

Advice on working with your supervisor

The DrPH program was designed with the understanding that many students will be in or approaching mid-career. It is crucial that time commitments be pre-discussed to insure a smooth balance. It is understood that detailed time requirements are needed for this discussion. Please refer to the course requirements as a basis for this commitment. For some individuals, the work setting may offer placement and dissertation opportunities. As academic commitments will evolve through program, periodic touchpoint with your work supervisor is encouraged.

Supervisory Committee

With the assistance of the Supervisor, and with the approval of the Program Director, the student will assemble a Supervisory Committee within the first year of study.

Role and Responsibilities

The Supervisory Committee, chaired by the Supervisor, will contribute advice regarding course selection; preparation for the comprehensive examination; selection of the thesis topic; and implementation of the research plan. The Supervisory Committee also will provide timely and constructive criticism and guidance regarding data analysis, writing the thesis, and preparing for its defense.

Composition

The Supervisory Committee generally will comprise the Supervisor and at least two members. Supervisors must hold Full appointments in the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) and have a primary appointment in DLSPH. Committee members may hold either Full of Associate SGS appointments and may or may not hold a primary appointment in DLSPH. Between these individuals and the Supervisor, there should be expertise in all content and methodological areas relevant to the student’s applied research focus and thesis.

Meetings

Supervisory Committee meetings will be held at least every twelve (12) months throughout the student’s DrPH program. Under certain circumstances (e.g., during times of very rapid progress), the student and the Supervisory Committee may decide there is a need for more frequent meetings.

Reporting

At the end of every meeting of the Supervisory Committee, the student and the Committee will complete the Supervisory Committee Meeting Report. All present must sign the report, which will be delivered to the Program Director and filed in the student’s progress file in the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences.

Applied Research Project

The DrPH Applied Research Project is regarded as a key applied learning experience aimed at supporting skills development and ideally leading to the DrPH Dissertation.

It will involve a 16 week practical experience over the summer between the first and second year of study.  The project should be based in a relevant public health system organization, which will be endorsed by the DrPH Program Director and your supervisor, and will address a complex challenge for which the student will conduct a critical review of the literature, identify gaps and weaknesses in current knowledge, and aim to recommend appropriate solutions or strategies for resolution.

Some students may choose to address an issue in their current work organization. Others may choose from a variety of organizations available to students with the assistance of the faculty and community leaders.

All projects will establish objectives within the SMART evaluation framework which will be reviewed Week 4, Week 10, and at end of project. The student is responsible for scheduling these reviews with supervisor and Program Director.

Comprehensive Exam

Completion of the exam indicates the student’s preparedness and competency to successfully complete and defend their thesis by testing the student’s knowledge and understanding of relevant theories and methods as they apply to a field-oriented challenge. Students receive preparation for this comprehensive exam through coursework and their applied research project. Consequently, students will only take this examination when most of their course work is completed.

The comprehensive examination is a take-home written exam in the form of a major paper related to a field-oriented challenge. The comprehensive examination tests for depth and breadth of discipline specific knowledge, ability to apply knowledge to address a complex problem (via a field-oriented challenge), and the ability to implement appropriate actions/interventions. This culminating assessment helps assure that students have achieved all program learning outcomes and degree level expectations upon graduation.

Thesis

The thesis is an independent piece of work on an applied research topic of significance to the practice of public health within or outside of Canada. It demonstrates the student’s ability to produce original applied research, or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review, and to merit publication. It focuses on generating new translational knowledge and creating value for a public health change.

Students will engage with the literature and practice-based experiences to identify a problem and provide new learning on implementing public health change. In other words, the thesis should demonstrate the student’s mastery of the skills and knowledge to lead or create substantial change in programming or policy development or develop new methods or strategies to accomplish either of these two goals.

The thesis will consist of the following elements:

  • Preparation and submission of a final thesis documenting a critical literature review, analysis of the proposed topic, proposed research question(s), methodologies, findings, and implications for policy and practice.
  • Submission of tracked leadership log and journaling of field experiences, as well as a leadership change plan outlining how the recommendations from the project will be put into practice.

Visit the School for Graduate Studies Student Guidelines for the Doctoral Thesis for more information:

School of Graduate Studies Final Oral Exam (FOE)

Arrangements for the Final Oral Defense and for the preparation of the final thesis are given at length in the SGS Calendar. The dissertation and the necessary documents must be submitted at least eight weeks prior to the oral exam. See the Graduate Department of Public Health Science academic policies for forms and information for thesis preparation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is the DrPH program considered a remote program?

    No. The University of Toronto does not offer remote doctorate degrees. As a professional degree; however, the program is designed with maximum flexibility for the student cohort to manage several responsibilities concurrently. For example, the core DrPH required courses are offered as on-line or hybrid.As the DrPH program was launched during the global COVID-19 pandemic, several modifications to the courses allowed successful implementation, some that will carry on post-pandemic as they proved to be both efficient and effective. As on-campus activities will assume in January, 2022, so will the in-person sessions of hybrid courses and on campus “Burst Week” sessions (described below).As personal interaction with your fellow students, faculty, and community public health leaders is an important element of the educational process, three on-campus “Burst Weeks” are held in September, April, and January. These weeks will incorporate the in-class portions of the hybrid courses, various skill forums e.g., media training) , cohort thinktanks, and a variety of faculty and community public health leader interactions.Important to consider is most courses at the DLSPH are offered in-person or hybrid. Thus, student’s selection of a required methods course and the free choice elective courses may not be offered remotely and the student will be responsible to organize  course selection based on their needs, i.e., optimal elective courses for a particular student’s need may be only offered in person.
  • Can you provide additional Information on the DrPH Applied Research Project ?

    The initial cohort experience will be utilized to inform the future direction of the applied research project; thus, you are encouraged to keep a frequent dialogue with the Director. Forms with examples of projects and scheduled Q&A Roundtable will be available during the Fall 2021 Term.
  • When will a formal list of classes be posted for FALL 2021 selection?
    Course timetables for Fall/Winter will be posted in mid-July with enrolment opening mid-August.
  • As a professional degree program, what advice can you offer as I discuss commitments with my work supervisor?

    The DrPH program was designed with the understanding that many students will be in or approaching mid-career. It is crucial that time commitments be pre-discussed to insure a smooth balance. It is understood that detailed time requirements are needed for this discussion. Please refer to the course requirements as a basis for this commitment. For some individuals, the work setting may offer placement and dissertation opportunities. As academic commitments will evolve through program, periodic touchpoint with your work supervisor are encouraged.
  • Can you provide a checklist of responsibilities of the student from acceptance to start of classes?

__ Organize a work-school schedule (if applicable)
__ Confirm acceptance and commitment with employer (if applicable)
__ Review course timetable for class enrolment which opens in late summer
__ Search Faculty for parallel interest and potential selection of supervisor
__ Outline potential applied research projects for discussion with Program director/Supervisor
__ Apply for any financial aid per program guidelines (while program is self-funded, limited options for aid may be pursued).

  • Some course required for DrPH in Year 2 and Year 3 or 4 have listed prerequisites. If students are entering DLSPH to earn a DrPH how are these prerequisites satisfied?

It is important to review all prerequisites when planning your course of study. For example,

HAD5778H required in Year 2 has prerequisites of HAD5011H or CHL5300H
HAD5765H required in Year 3 or 4 requires HAD5011H or equivalent

When pre-requisites are listed, they normally indicate DLSPH courses (PHS or IHPME), but equivalent courses taken elsewhere would be considered since most DrPH students would not have completed PHS/IHPME courses during their Master Degree program, if completed elsewhere. Also, prerequisites may also be ratified with work experience.

Example: One DrPH student completed an MPH at University of Waterloo where it is likely that equivalent courses were completed. That, along with work experience, would be enough to satisfy the pre-requisites listed.

Any circumstances not directly satisfied by specific course completion should be reviewed and approved by the instructor, copying the DrPH Program Director.