As part of this new doctoral degree program in Public Health Sciences at UC Davis,  you will become a highly educated public health research professional prepared for leadership in governmental public health agencies, community-based public health organizations, and academic health centers. This research training will enable you to create innovative, evidence-based approaches to meet critical future societal health needs, particularly those of diverse populations. Students will also receive mentoring and experience teaching to educate the next generation of academic public health professionals and leaders in their field.

Our Unique Strengths

A significant advantage for a Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences at UC Davis is the campus’s close proximity to the California Department of Public Health and other health-related government agencies in Sacramento.  Opportunities for training in several state agencies are critical to meeting the doctoral program’s mission of preparing individuals to serve as practitioners, researchers, and teachers in local, state, national and international settings. Some of the leadership in these agencies who have Ph.D.s or M.D./M.P.H. degrees are formally affiliated with UC Davis as Volunteer Clinical Faculty. They guest lecture in public health courses and serve as preceptors for MPH students. Some examples of current active Volunteer Clinical Faculty include the Medical Director for Medi-Cal; Chief of the Reproductive and Cancer Hazard Assessment Branch, Cal EPA; Medical Consultant for CalPERS; Director of the California Cancer Registry; and, Chief of the Refugee Health Program, California Department of Public Health.

The Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences  is located on the only campus in the University of California system to house professional schools in Medicine, Nursing, Veterinary Medicine, Education, Law, and Management, as well as the established and highly regarded Colleges of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Letters and Science. The campus hosts interdisciplinary research centers which provide unparalleled opportunities for collaborative work with a new Ph.D. degree program that have a primary focus on multidisciplinary population health and preventive research.   Some examples of interdisciplinary research centers include: 

Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

The Center for Occupational and Environment Health (COEH) brings together faculty and staff on the Berkeley, Davis, and San Francisco campuses of the University of California to: educate future leaders in occupational and environmental health; develop new knowledge related to occupational and environmental health issues; and, bring the resources of the University of California to people affected by health hazards in their workplaces or communities. 

UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center

The new UC Davis Environmental Health Sciences Center was launched with nearly $8 million in funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).  The San Joaquin Valley is a special focus of research on toxins that affect brain, lung, immune system, reproductive and metabolic health conducted by UC Davis faculty in medicine, veterinary medicine, engineering, and agricultural and environmental sciences.  

UC Davis World Food Center

The World Food Center bridges the gap between farm and health. Examples of recent projects include: Calculating the economic costs of obesity and the burden on societies, in partnership with the Brookings Institution; Connecting agricultural investments to nutrition goals with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; Guiding a Gates Foundation meeting toward new Grand Challenges initiatives; and, launching a World Food Center branch with governments in China to enhance food safety.

Center for Healthcare Policy and Research

The Center for Healthcare Policy and Research hosts a weekly health services research seminar and a graduate course on comparative effectiveness research. Examples of current research projects include the AHRQ-funded study on improving outcomes for discharged heart-failure patients and, with funding from the California Program on Access to Care, a cost-effectiveness model that projected outcomes and costs of different mammography policy options.

UC Center Sacramento

The UC Center Sacramento educates California’s future leaders in the craft of politics and policymaking, while making the expertise of faculty of the nation’s leading university available to decision-makers in the legislative and executive branches of government. It fosters communication and policy-relevant research between UC scholars and state policymakers in all branches of state government, from the governor’s office and the Legislature to various state agencies, departments and commissions. 


Our Mission is to develop a cadre of experts in generating, through scholarly research, new knowledge about health and disease prevention and effective programs in public health and will be equipped with the means to communicate and disseminate this new knowledge. The doctoral students are educated in research design, implementation and analysis as well as public health practice and learn effective ways to disseminate scholarly findings and implement evidence-based, effective public health programs. The doctoral program will also integrate critical practical experience to enrich the research and educational experience for the students.

We aim to build on the strengths and resources of the Department of Public Health Sciences and the wider UC Davis campus. The Ph.D. requires core research courses and rotations to allow students to practice research and translational techniques learned in the classroom.  We provide course offerings to educate all students in this new Ph.D. program in the implementation and dissemination of research results, including courses in such disciplines as health communication, health education, behavioral economics, nutrition, organizational psychology, systems theory, health financing, and evaluation. 

The Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences has two goals that shape the required coursework for the degree:

  1. To address the unique public health needs of the diverse population of northern and rural California. This region includes the Central Valley, a large population of 7-8 million people -- larger than 35 states. The population in this region is highly diverse in its cultures, racial/ethnic groups and backgrounds. Moreover, the region suffers from some of the worst health status indicators in the United States as well as potentially hazardous environmental exposures. Reducing the burden of acute and chronic illness and averting and managing health disasters is critical for the people in the region, and the graduate group’s research, education and service efforts are also relevant for the rest of the state and world at large.

  2. Emphasize public health translational sciences. The unique features of public health translational sciences include incorporating both epidemiologic and social science research techniques; acknowledging the non-linear manner in which research and policy interact; and, creating innovative approaches to evidence synthesis in the face of limited definitive study results.