Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences

The PhD in behavioral and community health sciences prepares students to conduct research and teach in the social and behavioral sciences areas of public health and in academic settings. The PhD is focused on training researchers in the behavioral and community health sciences to integrate state-of-the art theory, designs, and analysis approaches to examine current problems in public health.


Recent graduates hold the following positions:

  • Director, Office of Health Survey Research, University of Pittsburgh
  • Post-doctoral fellows at the University of Pittsburgh, Johns Hopkins University, VA Pittsburgh Health Care System
  • Epidemiology intelligence officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Health services epidemiologist at the Altarum Institute
  • director, Project Silk, University of Pittsburgh Infectious Diseases and Microbiology
  • President and senior technical advisor, INSIGHT: Innovative Social Change in Global Health, LLC

Recent Dissertation Titles

  • Childhood Adversity and Its Effects on Health Over the Lifespan: Analysis of the Allegheny County Health Survey
  • Exploring the Relationship between Cognitive Health and the Social Environment of Older Adults
  • A Participatory Approach to Physical Activity Among People with Severe and Persistent Mental Illness
  • Gays in the Neighborhood: How Neighborhood and Context Impacts HIV and Substance Use Risks and Resiliencies of Gay, Bisexual and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men in New York City
  • Exploratory Research on Health Care Providers' Perspectives on Expedited Partner Therapy to Treat Patients with Chlamydia

Browse titles in D-Scholarship, the institutional repository for research output at the University of Pittsburgh.


Graduates will be able to...

  • Apply critical thinking and problem solving skills using various models and conceptual frameworks from the social and behavioral sciences;
  • Employ a social ecological perspective to the design and implementation of public health research programs;
  • Apply qualitative and quantitative methodologies in order to design and conduct rigorous and scientifically valid research at various levels of human activity including the intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, community, public policy domains.
  • Demonstrate a social justice perspective in the consideration of and sensitivity to ethical issues that influence public health, health policy, and the delivery of health care;
  • Apply data management and analysis skills and demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills in the dissemination of research findings.


  • 72 credits
  • Coursework in health behavior and community education
  • Coursework in public health foundations
  • Advanced coursework in statistics and research methods
  • Teaching practicum and a course in university teaching
  • Advanced dissertation research and coursework in an area of specialization

Full program information

PhD Student Handbook 2020-21

PhD Checklist



Patricia I. Documet, MD, DrPH 
Associate Professor, Director of doctoral programs
6133 Public Health
Pittsburgh, PA 15261

PhD Student News


Egan finds short-term PrEP use protects at-risk men on vacation 

Egan finds short-term PrEP use protects at-risk men on vacation

MEDICAL XPRESS - "We started this as a feasibility study to see if we could identify barriers to short-term PrEP use and make adjustments. But we were excited when we got the results and discovered that almost all the participants were adherent to the point of protection against HIV," said BCHS’ Ja... (08/13/2020)

Understanding and Addressing the COVID-19 Infodemic 

Understanding and Addressing the COVID-19 Infodemic

Since the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, social media misinformation appears to be spreading faster than the virus itself, prompting the WHO to declare an "infodemic" of misinformation. During this conversation, BCHS's Steve Albert and Beth Hoffman (BCHS '19 '23) will discuss h... (05/30/2020)

Alumnus Interview: Jason Flatt 

Alumnus Interview: Jason Flatt

UNLV NEWS CENTER - Pitt Public Health doctoral alumnus Jason Flatt (BCHS ’13) is helping lead efforts on human sexuality while building a research program on LGBTQ and aging at the University of Nevada Las Vegas School of Public Health. "One of the best things about public health is its interdiscip... (03/09/2020)

Beth Hoffman, using systems science and social media data 

Beth Hoffman, using systems science and social media data

Doctoral student Beth Hoffman (BCHS '19 '23) uses system science methods to analyze social media data related to health topics such as vaping and vaccination. Her master's thesis examining anti-vaccine sentiment on Facebook through social network analyses was featured by multiple media outlets incl... (03/05/2020)

Jessica Frankeberger, modeling social-ecological contributions to postpartum opioid use 

Jessica Frankeberger, modeling social-ecological contributions to postpartum opioid use

In her dissertation work, doctoral student Jessica Frankeberger (BCHS '23) will use spatial analysis and modeling approaches to understand the social-ecological contexts that contribute to opioid use and related problems among postpartum women. (03/05/2020)

Jessica Thompson, using systems science in community health 

Jessica Thompson, using systems science in community health

Doctoral candidate Jessica Thompson (BCHS '21) is interested in community-engaged approaches, chronic disease prevention, rural and Appalachian women's health, mixed-methods research, and systems science approaches to community health research. (03/05/2020)
More BCHS Student Stories