The PhD course of study includes a set of common requirements with flexibility to enable the student to pursue a unique learning experience tailored to his/her learning needs and research problem focus. The program permits students to pursue their area of interest from different levels of understanding and theoretical perspectives.
The program enables students to take advantage of what the university/program faculty has to offer, and assists them in tailoring their studies according to their own experiences, scholarly interests, career direction and aspirations. This program also participates and encourages participation in a variety of interdisciplinary graduate University of Toronto Collaborative Specializations.
Features of the program:
- Emphasizes the application of concepts, theories, models and methods concerned with the structures and processes that underlie health and health promotion, illness, premature mortality, injury and disability;
- Emphasizes research methodology (philosophy and design) and research methods (techniques);
- Seeks to develop substantive knowledge and critical analytic ability at multiple levels of analysis, from the “micro” individual level to the “macro” societal level;
- Fosters a reflexive and critical perspective on theory and methodology; and
- Adopts a model of independent student scholarship.
The requirements of the PhD Program in Social & Behavioural Health Sciences (SBHS) include:
- Qualifying exam
- Thesis proposal defense
- Thesis defense:
A) Departmental defense
B) Final oral examination
Additional Admission Requirements for the PhD
- A match between the student’s research area and potential supervisor’s expertise
- Background (course, experience) in social sciences and/or health sciences
- Graduate level quantitative or qualitative methods courses/background
Progress Through the PhD
The phases of the PhD program are identified by a set of accomplishments which the student generally will attain in order, and within a satisfactory time. These phases, which will be monitored by the Program Director of the PhD program, are the identification of the Supervisor and the Supervisory Committee, completion of required and elective course work, completion of the qualifying examination, defense of the research proposal, and defense of the dissertation (both Departmental and SGS). Full-time students are expected to complete the PhD within four to five years. Flex-time students may take longer, but not more than eight years; they must submit a revised list of milestones, for approval by the Supervisor and the Program Director.
Successful applicants will have research interests congruent with those of one or more members of faculty. Thus, applicants are strongly encouraged to seek out potential supervisors, and discuss with them the possibility of studying under their supervision, prior to applying to the degree program. Applicants should note that identifying a potential supervisor does not guarantee admission. PhD students must be supervised by a faculty member who has an appointment in the Division of Social and Behavioral Health Sciences (SBHS) and Full Membership in the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). A co-supervisor generally will be a faculty member with Associate Membership in the SGS. Other faculty in Public Health Sciences outside of SBHS may be eligible to supervise with the approval of the Program Director. The Program Director must approve the final selection of the primary supervisor and co-supervisor. The faculty supervisor may be confirmed prior to beginning the program, and should be in place by the end of the first term. Students are encouraged to explore broadly and have wide-ranging discussions with potential supervisors.
Upon admission to the PhD Program, students and supervisors should review and complete the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences PhD Student-Supervisor Conversation Checklist.
Students have the right to appropriate assistance and guidance from their supervisors. Supervisors and students are required to meet on a regular basis throughout the program to discuss academic, financial and personal matters related to the student’s progress. Students should assume responsibility for contacting the supervisor, arranging meetings, and setting agenda for committee meetings.
In rare circumstances, it may be necessary for students to change their area of research and/or their supervisor. In these cases, the first step would be for students to discuss the potential change with their supervisor and/or PhD Program Director.
Supervisor Role and Responsibilities
The supervisor is responsible for providing mentorship to the student through all phases of the PhD program. Thus; to the extent possible, the supervisor will guide the selection of courses, dissertation topic, supervisory committee membership, and supervisory committee meetings; will assist with applications for funding; will provide funding to the student directly when it is possible for them to do so; and will provide references for the student on a timely basis. The supervisor also will provide feedback on the student’s selection of theories and reading lists for the qualifying examination. The supervisor will guide the development of the student’s research proposal, and the implementation and conduct of all aspects of the research; advise on writing the dissertation; correct drafts and approve the final dissertation; and attend the defense.
For more information about student and supervisor roles and responsibilities, please see the School of Graduate Studies Graduate Supervision Guidelines.
With the assistance of the supervisor, and with the approval of the Program Director, the student will assemble a Supervisory Committee no later than the end of their second term in the program (i.e., by May of their first year).
Composition of the Supervisory Committee
The Supervisory Committee generally will comprise the supervisor and at least two members who hold either Full or Associate Membership in the SGS and may or may not hold a primary appointment in SBHS. Between these individuals and the supervisor, there should be expertise in all substantive, theoretical and methodological areas relevant to the Student’s research focus and dissertation proposal.
Supervisory Committee meetings will be held at least every six (6) months throughout the student’s PhD program. More regular meetings should be held with the supervisor. 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.
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; in case some of the members participate via tele/videoconference, that person can endorse the supervisor/another committee member to sign on their behalf, or can e-sign the report. A scanned or paper copy of the report should be e-mailed/delivered to the SBHS Admin Assistant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences will keep a copy of the report in the student’s progress file.
Coursework (reflects minimum requirements)
Course Requirements (3.5 FCE)
- CHL5005H: Public Health Research
- 2 required theory courses
- 2 required methods courses
- To be selected according to the student’s interests and educational needs, in consultation with the supervisor.
- By the end of their degree, students should aim to have working knowledge of both qualitative and quantitative methods, and to achieve proficiency in one of these approaches.
- 2 electives
The purpose of the qualifying exam (QE) is to assess the student’s capacity to understand, apply, and compare theoretical perspectives that are taught in the Social and Behavioural Health Sciences (SBHS) core theory courses (CHL5101H, CHL5102H, and CHL5804H; the student will normally have taken two of these three courses). Specifically, the QE process will assess the student’s ability to theorize a topic using two different theoretical approaches and to propose theoretically sophisticated research questions that would advance the student’s topic area of interest and may be used for the dissertation. The qualifying examination is written during the months of May and June of the student’s first year.
Thesis Proposal Defense
The thesis proposal defense is a requirement for candidacy and for full-time students, should be completed by April of the second year, or earlier if possible.
The purpose of the proposal defense is to:
- Ensure that the proposed research will result in a successful PhD dissertation.
- Strengthen the thesis question, theoretical framework, design, and methods through critical feedback.
- Assess the student’s ability to conduct independent and original research.
- Assess the student’s knowledge base relevant to their thesis topic.
- Provide a formal approval to proceed with the dissertation research.
The PhD dissertation must demonstrate an original contribution to scholarship. The nature of the dissertation is agreed upon by the supervisor and the student, in consultation with a Thesis Committee. The Student should aim to defend the dissertation within four years of entry into the PhD program. The defense of the dissertation will take place in two stages: first, a Departmental defense, second, a formal defense (the Final Oral Examination) before a University committee according to procedures established by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). The two defenses generally are separated by at least eight weeks.
a) Departmental Defense:
The Departmental defense will be held after the completed dissertation has been approved by all members of the student’s Supervisory Committee, and the completion of the final Supervisory Committee meeting report. The purpose of this defense is to rehearse the oral presentation for the SGS defense and to determine whether the student is ready for the SGS defense.
b) School of Graduate Studies Final Oral Examination (FOE)
Arrangements for the PhD 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, including guidelines on multiple paper dissertations, and arranging the defense.
- Click here for Producing Your Thesis guidelines on SGS website
- Click here for Final Oral Exam Guidelines on SGS website
Student Profiles & Contact
Urban health, Labor market, Health equity, Development economics, Global health and Health policy
“Interaction between Power and Control: The Plights of the Female Garments Workers of Bangladesh.”
Assistive technology, rehabilitation, disability, occupational therapy; rehabilitation systems’ services, policies and research
“Enhancing assistive technology system: Examination of assistive technology and related services for blind and low-vision older adults.”
|Global Health, Healthy Public Policy, Urban Health, Inequality, Social Determinants of Health|
|Katherine M. Boydell||Qualitative Theory and Methods; Arts-Based Research; The Qualitative-Quantitative Divide; Mental Health and Wellness|
Indigenous Health, Commercial Tobacco Addiction Treatment, Intersectionality, Indigenous Decolonizing Praxis, Community-Based Participatory Research, Critical Qualitative Research
“Commercial Tobacco Addiction Treatment with Indigenous Communities.”
Public health policy, health care policy, end-of-life care, philosophy of humour
“A qualitative study of humour, death and dying.”
Sociology of biomedicine, biotechnologies, and clinic organization, gender, critical feminisms, qualitative methodologies.
“Using a feminist narrative methodology, I explore why and under what circumstances women leave the (in)fertility clinic in Canada.”
End-of-life issues, health professions training and education, arts-based methodologies, and critical qualitative research
“An examination of the socio-cultural forces that shape end-of-life conversations in interprofessional primary healthcare with older adults living with frailty.”
|Jürgen Rehm||The governance of legal psychoactive substances|
Food systems; ecological public health; posthumanist theory and methodology; food studies
Healthy People, Healthy Plants: The Ecological determinants of health and the human-plant relationship in the Anthropocene epoch
Migration and health, mental health, family health, gender and health
“Salud, Dinero y Amor: Mexican Women and their Extended Families Confronting Precarity in a Canadian Agricultural Labour Migration Program”
Global Health Promotion; Critical Qualitative Health Research; Arts-Based Research; Decolonial Perspectives & Approaches; Community-Based Participatory Research; Critical International Development
“Global Health Promotion & Arts Approaches in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo: Taking a Critical Social Science & Decolonial Perspective to Strengthening Community Action for Health”
Urban health equity; social justice; city planning & health; social movements; community-based research; critical pedagogies
“The struggle for housing and access to urban resources in Sao Paulo, Brazil: Can urban social movements tackle health inequities?”
|Fiona Webster||Access to care, immigration, health disparities, institutional ethnography|
Sexual health education, sexual health, youth, qualitative research, arts-based methodology.
“Is Ontario’s current sexual health education curriculum effective for students? Making space for student voices in revising the sexual health education curriculum.”
The mental health consequences of climate change; climate justice; environmental health
“Responding to a Changing Climate: An investigation of the psychosocial consequences of climate change and community-based mental health responses in High River.”
Substance use, harm reduction, access to health services, social determinants of health, qualitative research
“The benefits and limits of a public health approach to improving the health of people who use drugs under criminalization.”
|Gillian Einstein||Female genital mutilation/ circumcision/ cutting, immigrant women, cultural sensitivity, health and health care interactions|
Discharge planning; homelessness; healthcare systems and policy; ‘context’ in public health interventions; critical qualitative research
“How does context shape the process of discharging homeless patients from hospitals in Toronto, Canada?”
Mental health, grief, bereavement, processes of marginalization and empowerment, socio-political context, community resilience, social policy, critical qualitative research, reflexivity
“Bereavement Accommodation for Workers in Precarious Employment in Canada.”
|Flora I. Matheson||
Self-medication, Self-management, Mental Health, Substance Use, Health Behaviour Theory, Mixed Methods
“Self-treatment with Psychedelics Among People Experiencing Depression.”
|My research interest includes social inequalities in health, especially the relationship between precarious employment and health. I am focusing on examining how the lived experiences of online platform workers vary across different social, economic and political context.|
|Lori E. Ross||
Critical social theory, medicalization, health professions education, community-based research
“An institutional ethnography of how standardized assessment protocols rule transition-related medicine.”
Health equity, Indigenous Peoples’ health, rehabilitation and disability, power and privilege, health systems, critical social science, Indigenous methodologies, qualitative research
“Unpacking rehabilitation for children: Learning from Inuit perspectives.”
HIV prevention, African/Black populations, gender, qualitative research, critical theory
Global health; researcher trauma and distress; healthy and safe work environments; occupational health, safety, and wellbeing; phenomenology; embodiment; disability and chronic illness; traditional and alternative health practices; public health nutrition; maternal, child, and infant health
“A Phenomenological Study of North American Female Graduate Student Experience in Global Public Health.”
Indigenous women’s health and health service access; Traditional medicinal knowledges; Indigenous reproductive/ environmental rights and justice; Sexual health and HIV prevention; Urban Indigenous identity.
“Digging up the Medicines: Urban Métis women’s identity and experiences with health services in Toronto, Ontario”
|Gilllian Einstein||“Exploring immigrant Indian women’s lived-experiences of chronic pain in Canada through a biocultural lens”|
|Eva Grunfeld & Jackie Bender||Cancer, coordination of care, digital health, implementation science, community-based research, program evaluation|
Health and wellness, mental health, conflict resolution, family mediation, qualitative research
“Experiences and Expectations of Parents and Mediators in Family Mediation Services.”
Intersection of public health, criminal justice, and immigration systems impact criminalization, immigration and refugee laws and consequently HIV prevention and healthcare engagement among Black immigrants and refugees in Canada
“HIV Criminalization Laws and The Social Organization of HIV Care and Delivery for African, Caribbean and Black Migrants Living with HIV in Toronto: An Institutional Ethnography.”
Mental health, gender, Black and racialized populations, equity and access to services, oppression and privilege, critical theory, qualitative research.
“How do Black men conceptualize depression?”
Northern health, Indigenous peoples’ health, critical qualitative research, health policy, bioethics
“Examining how patients and providers bridge Indigenous and biomedical healing practices in the Northwest Territories.”
|Alison Thompson||Health psychology; public health ethics; media representations; public deliberation.|
Youth, reproductive health, qualitative research
Youth Participation in Reproductive Health Policymaking in Malawi
Chronic disability and Critical Disability Theory, “meaningful” employment and its impact on health outcomes, qualitative research, program evaluation and quality assurance.
“The overall objective of my research is to conceptualize how individuals living with self-reported chronic episodic disabilities construct meaning and how this impacts their work experience (engagement and sustainability) – with the goal of enhancing their work engagement and potentially reducing self-reported negative health outcomes.”
|Shelley Craig||Aging and minority populations|
Gender and work, health care delivery, feminist political economy, qualitative methods.
“Private care and public spaces: The practice of doula work in Toronto, Canada.’