PhD in Health Professions Education (HPE)

The Department of Medical Education (DME) is thrilled to announce the establishment of a new online PhD program in Health Professions Education (HPE). The PhD in HPE evolved from our successful former collaboration with the UIC College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction. The PhD in HPE also builds upon the success and strong reputation of DME’s Master of Health Professions Education (MHPE), as well as upon the department’s broader expertise in HPE research and teaching excellence.

What is the UIC PhD in HPE?

The PhD in HPE program will produce exemplary scholars who advance the field of health professions education by developing innovative research agendas that shape educational policy, standards, and practices, with the ultimate goal of improving healthcare. While the PhD in HPE will share course offerings with DME’s renowned MHPE program, it will include a greater emphasis on research design, data collection, and original scholarship for students who aim to serve as principal investigators in HPE studies in the future.

Who is it for? 

Typical students in the program may include students from a wide range of professional backgrounds, including MDs, other clinicians, and non-clinical educators, aiming to deepen their methodological training and increase their knowledge of the health professions education canon. The student body is also likely to be heterogenous in terms of career stage, and thus may include students ranging from trainees (e.g., residents and fellows) to administrators and leaders (e.g., program directors and deans).

The program is designed for students to have the option to pursue the program on a part-time basis, in conjunction with their regular employment or full-time.

What should students expect to gain from this program?

After completion of the PhD in HPE, students will be able to:

  • Integrate theories in the social sciences and health professions to define and understand challenges in health professions education, research, and practice
  • Employ a range of relevant research designs, research methodologies, and other scholarly practices to advance the field of health professions education as an independent investigator and eventual leader of a research team
  • Situate education and education science within the sociopolitical context of health care and health professions education, and translate educational science into practice

Additionally, students will have the opportunity to make numerous connections with experts in HPE in order to grow their professional networks.

What is the PhD in HPE’s format?

The PhD in Health Professions Education is an online program, though some courses included in the curriculum have short-term, in-person requirements. (For more details, see FAQs.) 

What are the PhD in HPE degree requirements? 

Minimum Semester Hours Required: The PhD in HPE degree requires 96 credit hours past the baccalaureate. However, we anticipate that the majority of admitted students will be eligible to receive 32 hours of advanced standing credit for a previously earned relevant master’s degree or advanced clinical degree (e.g., MDs), thus leaving 64 credit hours to complete the degree. (For more details, see FAQs.)

Coursework: The program consists of several different categories of coursework: Foundational courses, Methodological courses, and HPE Area of Study courses. (For more detail, see FAQs.)

Applied HPE Experience: Students must complete a mentored, Applied Health Professions Education Experience in order to better facilitate integration of coursework and their understanding of HPE concepts within applied settings. These experiences might include working on DME faculty members’ research projects, engaging in HPE journal editorial work, helping to teach a course taught by a DME faculty member, or something comparable.


  1. Departmental Qualifying Examination: This comprehensive exam will evaluate students’ knowledge of foundational readings within health professions education and their ability to synthesize and critique these readings.
  2. Graduate College Preliminary Examination: Students are required to draft a dissertation prospectus and defend this prospectus at a virtual hearing in front of their Preliminary Examination committee (and future dissertation committee).
  3. Dissertation Defense: Students are required to complete a written dissertation with a public, virtual oral defense before their dissertation committee and other members of the academic community.

Dissertation: PhD in HPE students must complete a Dissertation research project. Dissertation research must include original data collection (i.e., the research needs to include the development of a dataset, identification of sample/analytic subject, etc.). The project can include one large project with multiple components or serial linked studies/experiments. The most common format for the dissertation is the multiple-article model (three publishable articles, plus an introduction and conclusion), though a single monograph is also acceptable.

How much does the PhD in HPE cost?

The online tuition for 2024 is $925 per credit plus fees (information about fees can be found on the UIC Registrar’s website:

How can I get more info about the program?

For more details, see FAQs.

How do I apply?

Application deadline for Fall 2024: January 15, 2024

Students will be informed of admissions decisions in Spring 2024. Note: All admitted students will be required to attend the 1-week in-person introductory course (MHPE 506), which takes place at the end of July 2024.

PhD Program Admissions Process:

  1. All applicants submit materials via Online Application.
  2. The Department of Medical Education Admissions Committee will then develop a
    ranked short list for subsequent interviews with potential PhD advisors.
  3. Short-listed applicants will interview (via Zoom) with the DGS and two potential
    advisors, all of whom will submit reviews for the applicants, which will then be used to
    develop the final ranked list for admissions.

PhD Program Application Requirements:

1. Prior Degrees:

  • Required: Applicants must have earned a baccalaureate degree.
  • Preferred:
    • A combination of a master’s degree in education, social science, or related fields and
      significant experience in a health professions setting.


2. Grade Point Average: Applicant’s previous grade point average must be above 3.75 on a 5-point
scale or 3.0 on a 4-point scale.

3. Tests Required:

  • The GRE is not required for this program; however, applicants may submit their scores if
    they wish.
  • Applicants whose native language is not English must take either the Test of English as a
    Foreign Language (TOEFL), the exam of the International English Language Testing System
    (IELTS), or the Pearson’s PTE Academic. The test score cannot be more than two years old.
    For English proficiency test score minimums, reporting requirements, and exemptions, see
    the UIC Admissions International Requirements page for more details

4. Application Materials: To be considered for the PhD in HPE, students must demonstrate either
credentials or experience in health professions education. Additionally, applicants must be
actively engaged in, or preparing for, health professions educations scholarship. Applicants
should demonstrate this engagement through their application materials. Applicants must

  • Registrar-issued transcripts from each college and professional school attended
  • Letters of Recommendation (3)
    • Recommendation letters should address the applicant’s academic qualifications,
      research ability/experience, and ability to carry out advanced degree studies
      (including institutional/financial support, if available)
  • Personal Statement—this 2-3 page statement should be a narrative that touches on the
    following topics:

    • Past experience in HPE and/or education
      • This should include previous experience with HPE research, including mentored research projects
    • Present and future research projects or interests
    • Fit with program and why the applicant is pursuing the PhD in HPE at DME
    • Applicant characteristics or experience likely to contribute to applicant success in the PhD program, including experience with online/virtual learning, prior graduate programs, institutional support, local mentorship, etc.
      • If applicants are planning to pursue the degree in connection with their employment (i.e., part-time), they also must include a statement of how the doctoral program of study will fit in with their professional schedules and commitments.
  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV) highlighting research, teaching, and service experience, particularly in HPE

5. International Applicants: International applicants must follow all UIC Admissions International Requirements for graduate admission. Please see
Note: The Office of International Services is working to obtain authorization to allow international students to be admitted to this new academic program. In the event that the authorization is not in place in time prior to the start of the term of admission, admitted international students may defer their admission until the following year.

Who can I contact to learn more about the program?

Laura Hirshfield, PhD
The Dr. Georges Bordage Medical Education Faculty Scholar
Associate Professor of Medical Education & Sociology
Director, PhD in HPE Program

Laura Schaaf, MEd
Assistant Director, PhD in HPE Program

Thank you to the UIC College of Education

In 2010, the Department of Medical Education, in collaboration with faculty in the College of Education, developed an area of emphasis within the PhD in Curriculum and Instruction for students interested in Health Professions Education and Curriculum. This concentration in Curriculum Studies/Critical Pedagogies and Urban Teacher Education (Health Professions Education Area of Emphasis) focused on the exploration of curriculum across multiple educational contexts. The program has successfully graduated a diverse set of students from a variety of social identities, professional backgrounds, and ranks within their profession.

The Department of Medical Education is extremely grateful for the long-term collaborative relationship it has had with the College of Education, especially with the CS/CPUTE program. The department will continue to support students who are currently enrolled in the Collaborative PhD program; however, DME will no longer admit new students into the HPE Area of Emphasis. Instead, the PhD in HPE will effectively replace this offering.


A: The PhD in HPE is similar in content to the MHPE, except that it focuses on developing in students a deeper methodological training, with increased independence and greater knowledge of the HPE canon. The goal of the PhD program is to shift students away from the more applied focus of the MHPE to a broader scholarly, theoretical approach. Specifically, the PhD in HPE shares course offerings with the MHPE program, but the program has a greater emphasis on research design, data collection, and original scholarship for students who wish to serve as principal investigators in HPE studies.

A:  DME’s PhD in HPE is focused on training our students to become independent researchers and scholars in health professions education. Graduates of the HPE PhD program would be particularly well poised to be hired by health professions scholarship units (or organizations and institutions that “share a commitment to the production and dissemination of rigorous educational practices and research”). Clinical faculty who are heavily involved in health professions education research that guides educational policy or practice may also find the degree valuable for deepening their research expertise.

A: To be considered for the PhD in HPE, students must demonstrate either credentials or experience in health professions education. Typical students may include MDs, other clinicians (e.g., nurses and physical therapists), and non-clinical educators (e.g., student services or curricular affairs) aiming to deepen their methodological training and increase their knowledge of the health professions education canon. We welcome applicants from a variety of career stages. That said, all applicants must be actively engaged in, or preparing for, health professions educations scholarship. Applicants should demonstrate this engagement through their application materials.

A:  No, not entirely.  Students are required to come to Chicago for the 1-week on-campus orientation course (MHPE 506), in which they are introduced to core course content and faculty and begin to develop the peer relationships that will form the basis of a lasting community of practice. Students that take MHPE 501, 502, 503 and/or 504 online are also required to attend an annual 3- or 4-day summer session on campus in Chicago, which includes a residency day for each of those courses taken the previous year and the Annual MHPE Summer Conference.

A:  While MHPE 501-504 are all offered online, these courses all have an in-person component. Specifically, online students in MHPE 501-504 participate in a regular schedule of weekly, asynchronous or synchronous activities and discussions throughout the semester. Each of these courses also includes an in-person residency day on campus in Chicago, and a requirement to attend the Annual MHPE Summer Conference. MHPE 506 will be a week-long in-person intensive course held on campus in Chicago at the end of July. For students who are not able to attend (e.g., international students unable to attain short-term visas) alternative opportunities for participation will be negotiated with course faculty members.

A:  It’s hard to say, as it really varies based on a lot of different factors (i.e., if the student must complete 64 or 96 credit hours; how many credit hours a student takes each semester; when courses are offered and the availability in them; how long it takes the student to complete the exams and the dissertation; etc.).  The program will adhere to UIC Graduate College timelines for student completion of the program (

A:  It depends on your workload outside of the PhD in HPE. Most of our students will take the program part-time while they are working full-time; these students generally will take 4-6 credits per semester. Students should work with their advisor and PhD Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to develop a plan that works best for them.

A:  Admitted students may be eligible to receive 32 hours of advanced standing credit for a previously earned relevant master’s degree (or its equivalent; or an advanced clinical degree) toward the minimum 96 semester hours of credit requirement for the doctoral degree, thus making it 64 credit hours to complete the doctoral degree.  For consideration, the degree must be posted as completed on a transcript from an accredited institution, and, if international, equivalent to a U.S. master’s degree (as determined by the Graduate Admissions Office and the Graduate College).  Students who are not granted advanced standing credit will be required to complete 32 additional credit hours of 400-level and 500-level coursework in related areas.  A minimum of 16 of these credit hours must be letter-graded courses (A to F), rather than project or thesis credits. For more information on advancing standing credit, please see the UIC Graduate College website:

A:  The program consists of several different categories of coursework: Foundational courses, Methodological courses, and HPE Area of Study courses. Many of these courses are shared with the MHPE program; however, students are also welcome to take other UIC courses with DGS and advisor approval.

To accommodate the heterogeneity of the expected student body, the curriculum aims to be quite flexible. Rather than being prescriptive about specific courses, the program focuses on the specific domains and competencies that were determined by program faculty to be fitting for rigorous, doctoral-level training in HPE. Specifically, students will work with their advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) to develop programs of study based upon their scholarly and methodological needs.

For more information about the above mentioned MHPE courses, please go to the MHPE brochure

A: Yes, graduates of DME’s MHPE are eligible to apply to this program. However, since many of the courses are shared between the two programs, students in this group will need to take a larger proportion of their coursework outside of DME. If you have additional questions about how this works, please contact us for more information.

A:  The cost of the program varies depending on how many credits you need to complete.  The program requires at least 96 credits from the baccalaureate or at least 64 credits from the master’s degree.  Doctoral students who have previously earned a relevant master’s degree (or its equivalent) from UIC or another accredited institution or health professionals with advanced degrees (e.g., MD, DO, DDS, PA, DPT, etc) may possibly be granted 32 semester hours of credit toward the doctoral degree if approved by the program and the Graduate College at the time of admission. The 32 hours are subtracted from the total hours required for the degree.  Degree equivalency from foreign institutions is determined by the Office of Admissions. To calculate online tuition please see the UIC Registrar’s Graduate Tuition and Fees website:

A: The program/department (DME) does not offer any funding at this time.  Graduate funding at UIC is primarily provided to students who attend their programs on a full-time basis; as such, the majority of PhD in HPE students are not eligible for the most common ways that PhD students at UIC fund their graduate degrees. PhD students may be able to seek funding through their employers.  Also, all full-time students who are eligible to apply for financial support (e.g., scholarships, fellowships, or assistantships) through the Graduate College will be supported in their applications by departmental and PhD program administration.

A: At this time, we are only able to accept up to two students per year.