Course Descriptions

The list of core courses and elective courses for the M.S. in Health and the Public Interest (HAPI) program are detailed below.  Additional elective courses may be taken with advance approval of the HAPI Program Director. Degree Requirements and information about the Capstone / Internship Project can be found on the links at the top left of this page.

Core Courses

HAPI-600   Health in Context: The Social World of Health and Illness  (Judy Huei-yu Wang PhD, Yulia Chentsova PhD, Sylvia Onder PhD, Leslie Hinkson PhD, 3 credits, Fall Pre-Session)
Cultural, social, political, socioeconomic and corporate forces all affect health. This course will provide students with diverse social science perspectives on the ways in which contextual factors interact with biological factors to shape public health and individual experiences and expressions of physical and mental illness and wellness. This course encapsulates the interdisciplinary nature of the program, describing the current state of knowledge about not only social and cultural determinants of health but the effect of all nonmedical influences on perceptions of wellness and disease, choices of treatments, and health outcomes. Additionally, how we conceptualize who decides what health is; what is in the public interest; who has the right to access treatments and how health fits in with other social issues depends on underlying principles of philosophy, economics, ethics. This course will explore all these issues, using theoretical papers and recent empirical case studies from each discipline to examine the key issues in the field. Evaluation will be based on a paper and exam.

HAPI-601   Theory and Methods 1 –  Epidemiology and Public Health: Evaluating Clinical and Epidemiological Research  (Adriane Fugh-Berman MD, Tony Scialli MD, 3 credits, Fall)
This course will focus on understanding and critically analyzing medical literature regarding diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic interventions in humans. It will cover basic epidemiology and evidence-based medicine, including the appropriate and inappropriate use of observational studies (cross-sectional, cohort, and case-control studies) and randomized controlled trials. Adverse event assessment through passive and active pharmacosurveillance systems will be covered, as well as premarket pharmaceutical and medical device testing required by regulatory authorities (including preclinical studies, and Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III trials). The course will cover sensitivity, specificity, odds ratios, relative risk, power, and confidence intervals. Evaluation will be based on participation and exams.

AGHL-503   The Biology of Health & Disease (Adam Myers PhD and Jason Tilan PhD, 2 credits, Fall)
Understanding biomedical literature, appropriate trial design, and perceptions of healing requires basic grounding in physiologic concepts. This course will focus on major biological systems and cover aspects of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and central nervous systems. Students will develop basic knowledge in and appreciation of human function in health and disease. Evaluation will be based on exams.

HAPI-660   Health Economics (Robert Friedland PhD or Adjunct, 3 credits, Fall)
This course uses the principles of economics to study the allocation of resources used to provide health and long-term care. Market inadequacies and market failures that have affected the financing, organization, and delivery of care are examined. The impact of private and public insurance programs on the organization and delivery of health care are analyzed, and the relationships between politics, policies, and health care markets are explored. Basic economics principles are taught and applied to the study of health care. Evaluation will be based on exams.

HAPI-603/HAPI-623   Seminar  (1 credit Fall and Spring)
The weekly seminar series is a highlight of the program. We take full advantage of the plethora of scholars and policymakers in the Washington DC area. Speakers have included Peter Lurie MD, Director of Center of Science for the Public Interest; Cindy Pearson, Executive Director of the National Women’s Health Network; Thea Lee, President of the Economic Policy Institute; and Greg Pappas MD PhD, of the Food and Drug Administration.

HAPI-700   Health Advocacy  (Adriane Fugh-Berman MD, 2 credits, Fall)
In this highly experiential class, students will learn what advocacy strategies are effective and why. Students will participate in and analyze advocacy events; create and implement group advocacy campaigns with the aim of influencing policy; and will critique current advocacy efforts by national organizations. This course will foster an understanding of cross-disciplinary approaches necessary for creating successful medical and public health interventions.

HAPI-725   Theory and Methods of Inquiry 2: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Methods (Sylvia Wen-ying Chou PhD, 3 credits, Spring) 
This course will cover the basics of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. The primary goal of this course is to prepare students to select the best analytic approaches, analyze data and interpret qualitative and quantitative data presented to them. For qualitative skills, we will cover grounded theory, content analysis, and semantic analysis, including an introduction to participant-observation methods, interview techniques, focus groups, archival research, and discourse analysis. For quantitative skills, we will cover basic research design and statistics including fundamentals of probability, statistical inference, basic statistical assumptions and hypothesis testing using correlations, non-parametric tests, analysis of variance, and linear regression and logistic regression. The course will also focus on ways to integrate these skills in mixed method designs.

Sample Electives

HAPI students have access to electives across many programs and different schools at Georgetown that enable students to tailor the program to their specific interests. Some examples of electives follow:

PPOL 490  International Public Health (Maxine Weinstein MD) The efforts of societies to improve health and increase longevity have constituted a major on-going social revolution of the past 200 years. Our work this semester will be a wide-ranging survey of social, economic, demographic and public health perspectives on that movement. Lectures, readings, and class discussions will cover the social history of health in past times, belief systems about the causes of disease and illness, the evolution of major causes of disease over time, the ecology and etiology of major infectious and chronic diseases, social and economic factors affecting the incidence and severity of illnesses, the social and economic consequences of changes in mortality and health, and programs designed to affect health conditions. Issues relating both to currently industrialized countries and developing countries will be discussed. 

PPOL 601  Issues In Sexuality Law and Policy (Frank Bewkes)This course will explore how American law and policy has confronted and continues to confront issues of sexuality. Topics will include, but are not limited to, sexual orientation and gender identity. While 2015 brought a major Supreme Court win and marriage rights for same-sex couples, the fight for full LGBTQ equality continues. Debates rage over what the policy goals for the LGBTQ rights movement should be now and how to prioritize them. In addition to addressing the continued discrimination many LGBTQ people experience every day, such as in employment and education, the course will explore some of the current debates, Constitutional and otherwise, around topics such as polyamory, sex work, the First Amendment, LGBTQ family formation, and the intersection of sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. The course will provide a grounding in the contours of current sexuality law and policy, while also delving into some emerging areas that remain ripe for new policy formation. We will also look at the regulatory process and the role that has played in American sexuality policy. Where appropriate, how sexual minority rights have been framed and addressed in some international jurisdictions will be considered to properly place our discussions in a globalized world. The course will be approached with a legal lens, but prior legal education or experience is neither required nor expected. 

PPOL 640  Health Care Quality: Recent Policy Issues (William Encinosa) This course provides an introduction to how public policy can be used to improve healthcare quality and the public reporting of quality. Topics include: (1) The National Quality Strategy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA); quality under “Medicare For All” proposals; the Quality Payment Program under MACRA and MIPS; the quality of Medicaid; racial/ethnic disparities in quality; international comparisons; (2) Quality measures and the science of ranking and comparing providers; (3) Designing incentives for rewarding quality: pay-for-performance models versus behavioral economic models (Nudge theory, default theory, peer group effects, shame); shared-savings models; accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other Alternative Payment Models; (4) Protecting the patient: patient safety and medical errors; the Checklist Manifesto; alternative tort reforms, the Apology Initiative; payment policies for hospital-acquired conditions and readmissions; (5) Coordinating care: electronic health records and digital health care; the medical home model; bundled payment design; (6) Measuring preventive care quality: debates over screening guidelines; the science of measuring the cost offsets and outcomes of preventive care and pharmaceuticals; (7) Reporting quality: report cards; consumer use of public reports; physician use of internal reports; crowd-sourced quality ratings; (8) Measuring overuse, underuse, waste, and the costs-savings from quality; comparative effectiveness methods; geographical cost and quality variation; (9) Current policy issues in personalized medicine and genomics; (10) The impact of insurer/provider competition and consolidation on quality; and (11) The Opioid Crisis. By the end of the course, students should be able to think critically about the key health policy issues related to improving healthcare quality.

LING-589 Institutional Discourse  (Heidi Hamilton PhD, 3 credits)
This course will provide opportunities to develop and build on students’ knowledge and practice of discourse analysis by exploring aspects in which institutions and discourse intersect. During the first few weeks of the course, students will read and discuss both classic and current studies by interactional sociolinguists, conversation analysts, ethnographers, and sociologists in order to become familiar with the wide range of notions and phenomena addressed by scholars in the field of institutional discourse. Such topics may include: narratives in institutions; intertextuality; identity construction; ‘talking an institution into being’; institutional gatekeeping encounters; ‘total’ institutions; front- and backstage in institutions; frame-shifting; facework and linguistic politeness; epistemic stance; language and power/agency; discourse shaping effects of professional codes of ethics and principles; and the interrelationships between professional and institutional discourses. *unavailable in academic year 2019-2020*

HAPI-000   Comparative Health Systems  (2 credits)
This course will assess and compare the overall effectiveness of health systems in several developing and developed countries and identify the major determinants of health in these countries. It will also explore the basics of health policymaking, healthcare delivery, and the roles of government, corporations and consumers in the successes or failures of health care delivery systems.