Program mission

The mission of the Ph.D. program in epidemiology is to train students to become independent research scientists and leaders who can develop epidemiological methods and conduct outstanding population-based research. 

Program goals

  1. Critical foundation skills: The program is designed to provide students with the critical skills required to advance to positions as epidemiological researchers/trainers in a broad spectrum of positions.
  2. Mastery and application of science: The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of epidemiology and ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation/experimentation in bioscience.
  3. Communication: Students will develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of epidemiological knowledge and the expression of epidemiological methodology, research design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences.

Student learning outcomes

Students in the doctoral program in epidemiology will develop competencies in the following areas, as described below.

  1. Integrated knowledge of epidemiology: Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of theories of disease causation as well as bias in epidemiologic research and demonstrate in-depth understanding of one or more substantive theories related to research. Students will be able to appropriately link theoretical frameworks to the design, conduct and interpretation of epidemiologic research and demonstrate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications appropriate to an independent research scientist. 
  2. Problem-solving skills: Students will be able to appropriately apply epidemiologic and statistical methods for research needs, demonstrating proficiency in selecting the appropriate measures of association for the research at hand and correctly implementing analytic techniques, including addressing issues such as confounding and effect modification. Students will be able to evaluate and interpret results, explaining relationships between determinant(s) and outcome(s) under study. 
  3. Research design: Students will construct and develop novel epidemiologic research questions, demonstrating proficiency in selecting the most appropriate study designs such that bias is minimized and efficiency maximized. Students will understand the required elements to estimate sample size, know how to identify and minimize bias and confounders through study design and analysis, and demonstrate knowledge of the impact of measurement issues on study validity.
  4. Written communication skills: Students will demonstrate proficiency in scientific writing, including manuscript development, grant writing and writing for multiple audiences, including lay audiences and policy-makers. Students will demonstrate an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling and use of vocabulary to effectively present information, including the use of figures, tables and citations. 
  5. Oral communication skills: Students will demonstrate effective oral communication skills across disciplines, framing questions appropriately and implementing active listening skills in delivering oral presentations to professional audiences, lecturing to students or leading discussions. Students will appropriately use audio/visual technologies to develop effective presentations with respect to content, organization and appropriate use of language.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on doctoral programs is available elsewhere in this chapter of the Graduate Bulletin.