Sociomedical Sciences

The Sociomedical Sciences PhD program is interdisciplinary, with study divided between the Mailman School of Public Health and one of several departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Anthropology, History, Psychology, or Sociology). The PhD is designed for individuals who wish to combine training in history or in a social or behavioral science discipline with research on questions significant to public health and medicine.

Students advance knowledge in their discipline of choice while also answering questions central to public health. This includes applying social science theory and methods to the study of social factors related to health status and healthcare needs, exploring the social structure of healthcare delivery systems, and analyzing the relation between these systems and the populations they are designed to serve.

The department awards a number of fellowships to recognize academic achievement and support future scholarly success. As research experience is considered an important aspect of graduate training, most fellowships and assistantships involve some form of research apprenticeship.

Admissions Requirements

PhD applicants must complete a statement of academic purpose that clearly indicates the discipline in which they intend to concentrate (anthropology, history, psychology, or sociology), articulates the questions they hope explore at the intersection of that discipline and public health, and discusses how that area of prospective scholarship will advance knowledge in the discipline or answer critical public health questions. Applicants should also note the faculty members with whom they would like to work.

As of Fall 2011, all Mailman School applications at the master’s and doctoral level were moved to the Schools of Public Health (SOPHAS) common application, which contains a number of questions on public health work experience and public health leadership aspirations. These questions are not weighted heavily in the admissions process. Students with a demonstrated capacity for academic excellence and the ability to ask innovative and important questions at the juncture of their discipline of choice and public health are preferred.

In addition to the requirements listed below, all students must submit an official transcript from each prior institution, a statement of academic purpose*, a writing sample (a course paper, term paper, etc.), and three letters of evaluation from academic sources. All international students whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate degree is from an institution in a country whose official language is not English must submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or IELTS scores.

(Note: As of 2013, the department no longer admits students into the political science concentration)

Deadline for Fall Admission

December 1

Deadline for Spring Admission

No spring admission



Writing Sample

Yes (no more than 10-15 pages)

GRE General


GRE Subject


*Applicants applying for the Predoctoral Fellowship in Gender, Sexuality, and Health must note their interest in gender and sexuality and briefly outline a prospective area of research for their doctoral dissertation in their statement of academic purpose.


PhD graduates find faculty positions in leading research and teaching institutions—both in the United States and around the globe—assume senior positions in research, policy, and program development at public health agencies, and apply their research and critical thinking skills working with community-based organizations or in the private sector.

Job titles of selected graduates:


  • Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Pomona College, California

  • Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Department of Anthropology, Purdue

  • Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, UMASS Amherst

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health, George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services


  • Deputy Director of Research, Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity, Hunter College, City University of New York

  • Research Scientist, The Fenway Institute

  • Assistant Professor of Sociology, Winston-Salem State University


  • Assistant Professor, Family Science Department, School of Public Health, University of Maryland

  • Associate Professor, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, University of Texas School of Public Health

  • Associate Professor, Drexel University, School of Public Health

Political Science

  • Assistant Professor of Global Health Policy, UNC Chapel Hill

  • Assistant Professor of Gerontology, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston


  • Senior Director, Health Equity Research and Policy, American Association of Medical Colleges

Approved Disseration Sponsors

Ana Abraido-Lanza
Angela Aidala
John Allegrante
Ronald Bayer
Peter Bearman
Elizabeth Blackmar
Myron L. Cohen
Andrew R. Davidson
Nicholas B. Dirks
Bruce P. Dohrenwend
Geraldine Downey
Amy Fairchild

Robert E. Fullilove 
Sherry Glied
Jennifer Hirsch
Kim Hopper
Denise B. Kandel
Helen-Maria Lekas
Bruce G. Link
Peter Messeri
Joyce Moon Howard
Constance Nathanson
Mary Northridge
Brendan O'Flaherty

Gerald M. Oppenheimer 
Richard Parker
Jo Phelan
David Rosner
David Rothman
Robert Y. Shapiro
Lesley A. Sharp
Karolynn Siegel
Michael Sparer
Seymour Spilerman
Elmer L. Struening
Carole S. Vance

Learn More

View competencies, course requirements, sample schedules, and more in our Academics section.