PhD in Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences

The PhD in behavioral, social, and health education sciences (BSHES) is offered through Emory's Laney Graduate School. This program trains students to identify, analyze, and intervene on today's most pressing public health issues.

Application Deadline

December 1

The Fall 2023 application is now open! You can apply here.

Contact the department with questions, or fill out this form for more information. Please note, applications are processed through the Laney Graduate School (not SOPHAS).

For me, the BSHES PhD program merges training in advanced research techniques with a philosophical orientation rooted in social justice. Without the latter, behavioral scientists can be remiss. The program engages both the mind and the heart to encourage rigorous, ethically-sound research with real-world application.

2nd-year BSHES doctoral student

What You'll Learn

As a PhD student, you will learn how to:

  • Conduct original research on identifying individual and societal determinants of health behaviors, illness, and disease
  • Design, implement, and evaluate behavioral and structural interventions to prevent disease, reduce health risks, and improve quality of life
  • Translate knowledge derived from research to promote public health

Click here to learn more about our current doctoral students and alumni. Here is a list of our current doctoral students' publications for the 2020-2021 academic year. View the competencies for this program here

Admission Requirements


  • A master's degree in public health, or a related field, is required. If you have a master's degree in a field outside of public health, you may need to take some core master's-level coursework in the field.
  • Baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university  
  • Application + $75 application fee
  • 3 letters of recommendation 
  • Statement of Purpose (2-3 single-spaced pages)
  • Transcripts from each post-secondary institution you have attended (should be uploaded through the online application, not mailed). Unofficial transcripts issued by the Registrar to you (the student) are acceptable.
  • Resume/CV
  • You will be asked to select up to three faculty advisors in the application.

Submitting a writing sample is optional. The sample can be a journal article, paper, essay, or any other type of work that has been written by the applicant.

A small number of applicants will be invited to interview and visit the campus in late winter at no cost to the applicant.

International Applicants

In addition to these requirements, all departments require international students to submit Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores.

TOEFL scores should be at least 560 on the paper-based test or a 100 or higher on the Internet-based test. Students who earned a degree from an institution within the United States are waived from the TOEFL requirement.

Paying for your PhD

All full-time Emory PhD students receive merit-based support packages consisting of full tuition scholarships each year and annual living stipends for two years. The awards are renewed each year, contingent upon satisfactory academic performance. Beginning September 1, 2019, doctoral students will receive annual stipends of approximately $31,000 for the initial two years and will be supported by research projects, fellowships and/or grants for the following years. You may also choose to work as a research assistant or in other activities related to your professional development during the summer months for additional income.

Degree Requirements

The program is designed for full-time students and typically takes four years to complete. During your first two years, you'll take all required course work, gain teaching experience, and work as a research assistant before developing your own research project. During your third and fourth years, you'll develop, complete, and defend your dissertation.

Please see the most recent Student Handbook, which describes all degree requirements in depth.  You can also consult this data that the Laney Graduate School keeps on students and graduates of our program.



All PhD students must participate in the Teaching Assistant Training and Teaching Opportunities (TATTO) program. You will receive an orientation to effective teaching and a course on teaching techniques in the field and gain experience working with students as supervised teaching assistants and/or classroom instructors or co-instructors. More about TATTO

Comprehensive Exam

After completing all required 48 credit hours of coursework, with a B average or greater, you will take a comprehensive exam. The exam evaluates your abilities in the application of theory, research methods, and analysis to important public health topics. After passing the exam, you are encouraged to select a doctoral dissertation committee.

Research Rotations

Starting with your first semester, all BSHES PhD students participate in two, unpaid research rotations, which require approximately 10-12 hours of work per week.

Jones Program in Ethics

You will also need to complete the Jones Program in Ethics. This program provides students with a foundational, cross-disciplinary introduction to the question of ethics for their research, training, and careers.


All PhD students are required to complete and defend a dissertation. Students are encouraged to begin exploring potential research topics as soon as they enter the program by meeting with faculty advisors

The doctoral dissertation must meet the requirements of both the department and Laney Graduate School. In particular, the dissertation must make a new contribution to the student’s field of study, or present a unique new interpretation on existing knowledge. Students are required to pass an oral defense of the dissertation proposal. 

Name Year Graduated Position
Ghenet Besera 2022

Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer, CDC

Halley Riley 2021

Data Services Specialist, Assistant Professor; Georgia State University

Caitlin Allen 2021 Assistant Professor; Medical University of South Carolina, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine
Rachael Spencer 2021 Postdoctoral Fellow; Emory University; Department of Global Health
Ha Ngan (Milkie) Vu 2021 Postdoctoral Fellow, Northwestern University
Dana Robinson Williamson 2020 ASPPH Research Fellow; US EPA Office of Research and Development
Anna Newton-Levinson 2020 FIRST Postdoctoral Fellowship; Rollins School of Public Health
Sara Redd 2020 Postdoctoral Fellow; Emory University; HPM
Juan Rodriguez 2020 Epidemiologist, Program Director; Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, CDC
Shauna St. Clair Flemming 2019 Research Scientist; NORC, University of Chicago
Casey Hall 2019 Postdoctoral Fellow;  Northwestern University
Jingjing Li 2019 Postdoctoral Fellow; CDC
Ilana Raskind 2019 Senior Research Scientist; Health Resources in Action
Leslie Johnson 2018 Assistant Professor; Emory University School of Medicine
Kathleen Krause 2018 Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer; CDC
Sasha Mital 2018 Epidemiologist; CDC, Heroin Response Strategy, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention
Riley Steiner 2018 Health Scientist; CDC, Division of Adolescent and School Health
Rebecca Woodruff 2018 Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer; CDC, Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
Robin McGee 2017 Assistant Teaching Professor; Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences
Nancy DeSousa Williams 2017 Assistant Director, Office of Multicultural Affairs; Emory University School of Medicine
Umedjon Ibragimov 2017 Research Assistant Professor; Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences
Daniel Murdock 2016 Recruiter Consultant; Decision Information Resources
Danielle Haley 2016 Assistant Professor; Northeastern University, Bouve College of Health Sciences, Department of Health Sciences
Yen-Tyng Chen 2016  Assistant Professor; William Patterson University, School of Public Health
Bethany Caruso 2015

Assistant Professor; Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Hubert Department of Global Health

Aaron Vissman 2015 Associate Director; Talbert House
Gillian L. Schauer 2015

Executive Director at the Cannabis Regulators Association (CANNRA)

Rebecca Fielding-Miller 2015 Assistant Professor of Infectious Disease and Global Health; UC San Diego School of Medicine
Lisa Oakley 2015 Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer; Kaiser Permanente of Southern California, Office of Research and Evaluation
Amanda Garcia Williams 2015

Behavioral Scientist; CDC, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases

Erica Smearman 2015 Plastic Surgery Resident; Emory University
Emily Dauria-Russell 2014 Assistant Professor; University of California,  UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences
Li Sun 2014 Associate Chief Physician; Sichuan Provincial CDC in China
Liz Walker 2013 Associate Teaching Professor/Director of Evidence-based Learning; Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences
April Young 2013 Associate Professor, University of Kentucky, College of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology
Nicola Christofides 2012 Associate Professor; University of the Witwatersrand, School of Public Health
Sara Head 2012 Health Scientist, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration
Michelle Hynes 2012 Data analyst; CDC NCCDPHP
Shilpa Patel 2012 Senior Evaluation Scientist; ICF Macro
Amy Patterson 2012 Associate Professor/Chair; Agnes Scott College,  Linda Lentz Hubert School of Public Health
Aaron Siegler 2012 Associate Professor; Emory University, Rollins School of Public Healh, EPI
Erin Bradley 2011

Assistant Professor; Agnes Scott College, Linda Lentz Hubert School of Public Health

Ariela Freedman 2011

Learning and Development Consultant; MavenTree Consulting
Adjunct Assistant Professor; Emory University, Rollins School of Public Health, BSHE

Laura Lessard 2011 Assistant Professor; University of Delaware, Department of Behavioral Health & Nutrition
Evaluation Director, Delaware IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE)
Lara DePadilla 2010 Behavioral Scientist; CDC Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention
Kathy Hageman 2010 Branch Chief of Strategic Information; CDC Tanzania
Julia Painter 2010 Senior Epidemiologist; Fairfax County Health Department
Christina Borba 2009 Director of Research; Boston Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry
Darren Mays 2009 Associate Professor; Ohio State University, Comprehensive Cancer Center
Ashli Owen-Smith 2009 Assistant Professor of Public Health; Georgia State University