The three-year, multidisciplinary curriculum requires 64 hours to complete, including 40 hours of traditional didactics/seminar, six hours of field-based practicum and at least 18 hours of dissertation. The curriculum draws from the fields of medicine, psychology, sociology, epidemiology, statistics, communication, management, economics and political science.
All Ph.D. students spend a summer semester immersed in a medically underserved rural Georgia community to design, implement and evaluate the impact of a novel health promotion initiative and will additionally complete their dissertation research within a rural Georgia community.
Upon completing the Ph.D. in Rural Health Sciences, students will be able to:
- Incorporate knowledge of rural culture, demography, sociology, health care systems and health equity into rural health efforts (Rural Culture and Systems)
- Engage rural communities in collaborative efforts to improve health and well being at the individual, family, organizational, policy and systems levels (Community Collaboration)
- Communicate health information effectively with a wide range of stakeholders at varying levels of health literacy (Health Communication and Health Literacy)
- Utilize systems thinking to assess the needs and assets of a rural community, develop a corresponding plan of action, secure funding for the plan and implement the plan (Program Development)
- Design, conduct and disseminate rigorous, multidisciplinary research designed to improve the health of rural communities (Research)
- Manage organizations and programs focused on improving the health status of rural communities (Organizational Planning and Program Management)
Year 1, Prereq (Summer before)
- RRL 801: Biological Basis of Disease (online; for non-health majors)
Year 1, Fall
- RRL 811: Foundations of Rural Health (3 hours)
- RRL 812: Behavior Change Theory and Practice (3 hours)
- RRL 813: Interdisciplinary Research Methods 1 (3 hours)
- RRL 814: Rural Population Health Seminar (1 hour)
Year 1, Spring
- RRL 821: Rural Community Engagement (3 hours)
- RRL 822: Rural Health Equity (3 hours)
- RRL 823: Interdisciplinary Research Methods 2 (3 hours)
- RRL 824: Rural Clinical Science Seminar (1 hour)
Year 1, Summer
- RRL 831: Applied Rural Health Practicum (6 hours)
Year 2, Fall
- RRL 841: Health Communication and Health Literacy (3 hours)
- RRL 842: Grantwriting and Grants Management (3 hours)
- RRL 843: Rural Policy and Economic Development (3 hours)
- RRL 844: Rural Translational Science Seminar (1 hour)
Year 2, Spring
- RRL 851: Multilevel Interventions (3 hours)
- RRL 852: Leadership, Management, and Teamwork (3 hours)
- RRL 899: Special Topics in Rural Health (3 hours)
- RRL 854: Pre-Dissertation Seminar (1 hour)
- RRL 861: Dissertation (min. 18 hours)
Year 4+ (only if needed)
- RRL 862: Continuing Dissertation (variable credit)
RRL 811: Foundations of Rural Health (3 hours)
This course introduces students to the unique dynamics of health within rural communities.Topics include rural culture, rural health needs, rural-specific determinants of health, and rural healthcare systems.
RRL 812: Behavior Change Theory and Practice (3 hours)
This course introduces students to the major theories of health behavior and behavior change, including practical applications of those theories in developing rural-focused programs and interventions.Topics include the Transtheoretical Model, the Health Belief Model, Social Norms Theory, Social Cognitive Theory, Theory of Reasoned Action/Theory of Planned Behavior, and their application to program development.
RRL 813: Interdisciplinary Research Methods 1 (3 hours)
This course begins a two-course series on the interdisciplinary research methods necessary to effectively conduct research and evaluation studies within rural communities.The course draws primarily from the fields of psychology, sociology, epidemiology, and biostatistics.Topics include research ethics, internal and external validity, confounding, hypotheses and research questions, and quantitative study design, including levels of measurement; conceptualization and operationalization; correlation and causation, p-values, error, and bias; moderation and mediation; parametric vs. non-parametric, descriptive and inferential statistics; data entry, coding, and cleaning; levels of prevention/intervention; measures of disease burden and risk; and diagnostic/screening characteristics.
RRL 814: Rural Population Health Seminar (1 hour)
This course allows students to apply their knowledge in developing and critiquing initiatives designed to improve rural population health.
RRL 821: Rural Community Engagement (3 hours)
This course focuses on techniques and approaches to engage with communities in the design, implementation, and evaluation of health initiatives.Specific topics include participatory action research, community-based participatory research, coalition-building, collective impact, consensus-building, facilitation skills, program planning, logic models, and community health assessment techniques (e.g., asset maps).
RRL 822: Rural Health Equity (3 hours)
This course focuses on the ways in which rural communities are affected by health disparities, and ways in which rural health equity can be achieved.Focus is given to the unique needs of subpopulations within rural communities (e.g., racial/ethnic minority, LGBTQ+, persons with disabilities).Specific topics include rural-specific examination of diversity, health disparities, social determinants of health, discrimination, and intersectionality.
RRL 823: Interdisciplinary Research Methods 2 (3 hours)
This second course in the series continues training in specific approaches used to improve health in communities.Topics include sampling, survey design and scaling, evaluation designs/frameworks, qualitative interviewing, key informant interviews, focus groups, town halls, mixed methodology, qualitative data analysis, and the construction of theoretical models.
RRL 824: Rural Clinical Science Seminar (1 hour)
This course allows students to apply their growing rural health knowledge in developing and critiquing initiatives designed to improve clinical outcomes in rural areas.Students participate in weekly discussions centered on emerging rural clinical health findings, learning to critique and make recommendations regarding clinical studies.
RRL 831: Applied Rural Health Practicum (6 hours)
This course allows students to apply their knowledge of rural health in a real-world, rural setting.Students complete a focused project as part of the practicum, including either a research project or evaluation.
RRL 841: Health Communication and Health Literacy (3 hours)
This course focuses on effective health communication strategies for diverse populations, as well as the role and importance of health literacy considerations in population health initiatives.Topics include the different types of literacy (i.e., visual, computer, information, and numerical); selecting key information to disseminate in a communication campaign; development and dissemination of effective print media (e.g., resource books, infographics); development and dissemination of effective digital media (e.g., website, digital campaigns); and the core elements of effective health communication (e.g., accuracy, consistency, timeliness, reach).
RRL 842: Grantwriting and Grants Management (3 hours)
This course focuses on identifying, developing, applying for, and managing the execution of grant-funded projects.Topics include locating public and private sources of funding, creating competitive grant applications, designing grant-supported initiatives, creating budgets and staffing plans, different strategies for research and outreach/programmatic grants, and ways to enhance program sustainability.Specific focus is also given to standard federal grant restrictions and requirements (i.e., “uniform guidance”).
RRL 843: Rural Policy and Economic Development (3 hours)
This course provides a working knowledge of rural health policy at the local, state, and national level, including current policies affecting rural health and approaches to effect policy change within rural communities.Focus is also given to the unique economic climate of rural communities and the ways in which it impact health efforts.
RRL 844: Rural Translational Science Seminar (1 hour)
This course allows students to apply their knowledge in developing and critiquing translational science initiatives designed to improve health in rural areas.
RRL 851: Multilevel Interventions (3 hours)
This course prepares students to develop, implement, and evaluate interventions that act at multiple levels within rural communities (e.g., at more than one level of the Social Ecological Model).Topics include social ecological theory, systems change, existing multilevel intervention models, design of new multilevel interventions, and the complexities of implementing and evaluating multilevel interventions within a rural context.
RRL 852: Leadership, Management, and Teamwork (3 hours)
This course provides an overview of leadership, management, and teamwork principles to provide the skills necessary to serve as a leader and change agent within rural communities.Topics include strategic planning, leadership theories, management styles, hiring strategies, project management, basic accounting principles, systems thinking, operations management, team-building, and partnership maintenance.
RRL 899: Special Topics in Rural Health (3 hours)
This course allows for the in-depth exploration of a rotating topic with direct application to the improvement of health in rural communities.
RRL 854: Pre-Dissertation Seminar (1 hour)
This course allows students to complete the planning process for their dissertation in a peer-supported/peer-reviewed workshop-style environment.
RRL 861: Dissertation Credits (min. 18 hours)
Provides students the opportunity to complete their dissertations