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PhD, Maternal and Child Health

Black mother and child looking at each other

Advance the health and well-being of women, children and their families

The Ph.D. program in family science provides a research-oriented approach to the discovery and application of knowledge about families, family theory, research methodology, family policy, family programs and ethnic families.

Perfect for...

  • Students looking for a unique program focused on the entirety of the family system and family health policy.
  • Students looking for a program with an emphasis on low-income and minority populations.

Career Paths

  • Academic and research positions in colleges and universities
  • High level administrative or research positions in city/county/state/national health and human service agencies
  • Leadership positions in nongovernmental and advocacy organizations.
  • Positions in hospitals, HMO and health insurers

Program Overview

The maternal and child health doctoral program provides interdisciplinary training in research, theory, policy and practice relevant to health and well-being as well as services for women, children, and their families. Graduate students learn about health disparities, the life course perspective, mental health, obesity, childhood injury, family and health policy, adoption, domestic and child abuse, family support, epidemiology, and research methods.  Students graduate with the skills and knowledge for professional work in educational, governmental, and clinical settings. 

Visit the Department of Family Science site.

For more information, see the Family Science flyer.

Upon graduating with a PhD in Maternal and Child Health, students will be able to:

  • Describe the independent and interdependent determinants of health, disease, and disparities; including individual, familial, social, cultural, racial/ethnic, medical and environmental factors.
  • Design a study to test hypotheses on an MCH issue. Review literature, select appropriate design, data, methodology and methods, analyze data, draw appropriate conclusions, and summarize findings for publication.
  • Identify, analyze, and evaluate U.S. health care policy, program, and data surveillance systems.
  • Synthesize and translate MCH knowledge into understandable information to advance health literacy.
  • Formulate advocacy strategies to implement MCH policy while balancing interests of diverse stakeholders.

The MCH Ph.D. curriculum requires 57 graduate credit hours beyond the master’s degree public health core (15 credits), including maternal and child health core courses (20 credits), research methods courses (16 credits), electives (6 credits), research internship (3 credits), and dissertation credits (12 credits). Please consult with your advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies as individual study plans may differ. Students in the Ph.D. program advance to candidacy after completing required coursework and passing a written qualifying examination. After advancement to candidacy, students must complete a dissertation proposal and oral defense, followed by the doctoral dissertation and oral dissertation defense. 

Explore All Degree requirements on the UMD Catalog
Course Title Credits Course Description
FMSC-601: Doctoral Seminar in the Process of Inquiry 1 This small, team-taught pro-seminar is designed as an introduction to the integration of family science and public health paradigms. The focus is the full, complex "process of inquiry", with emphasis on the conceptualization phase of the process, as it leads to related design, planning, empirical, and analytic phases. Instead of emphasizing content, the pro-seminar will help students develop a broad "way of thinking" about scientific inquiry, which will guide their coursework, assessments, and independent scholarly work during their doctoral training.
EPIB-650: Biostatistics I 3 Basic statistical concepts and procedures for Public Health. Focuses on applications, hands-on-experience, and interpretations of statistical findings.
EPIB-610: Foundations of Epidemiology 3 Introduction to the discipline of epidemiology and its applications to health issues and practices. Basic epidemiologic concepts and methods will be covered.
FMSC-750: Family and Health Policy 3 Development and analysis of public policies affecting the health and well-being of children, youth, and families, with an emphasis on low income and ethnic minority populations. Examination of social, economic, and political dynamics that influence family and health policies and the delivery of health care. Introduction to health advocacy within the US public health system.
FMSC-740: Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology 3 Focuses on current research, controversial issues, and methodological challenges in the epidemiology of reproductive and perinatal health. Reproductive health topics will include fertility and fecundity, quality family planning services, hormone replacement therapy, and reproductive health cancers. Perinatal health topics will include fetal growth, adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, fetal/infant/maternal morbidity and mortality, and birth defects. Lectures will focus on the biology, measurement, and application of study designs and analytic strategies for examining these topics. Course readings and discussions will critically review the broader context of reproductive and perinatal health within families and communities.
FMSC-850: Maternal & Child Health Epidemiology 3 Determinants and trends in Maternal and Child Health, including analysis of the role of economic inequalities, race and ethnicity, community contexts, and psychosocial factors across the life course. Overview of methods and data systems used to monitor Maternal and Child Health. Development of a complete population health study.
EPIB-651: Applied Regression Analysis 3 An introduction to important statistical methods used in public health research, including nonparametric hypothesis testing, ANOVA, simple and multiple linear regression, logistic regression, and categorical data analysis.
FMSC-606: Ethnic Families and Health Disparities 3 Historical, psychosocial, economic, and political factors influencing the structure and functioning of ethnic families. Overview of racial and ethnic health disparities over the life course and ways in which they are influenced by multi-level contextual factors.
EPIB-612: Epidemiologic Study Design // FMSC-720: Study Design in Maternal Child Health Epidemiology 3 (Either/Or) Application of epidemiologic study designs, analytic methods used for analysis of cohort, case-control, cross-sectional, and clinical trials research. // A detailed survey of key epidemiologic study designs provided through readings, lectures, and exercises. Lectures begin by considering the evolution of epidemiologic thought and parallel developments in design of epidemiologic studies. Topics covered include assessment of causality in observational studies, investigation of acute outbreaks, survey design, cohort and case-control study designs, clinical randomized trials, and discussion of issues pertaining to measurement error in the assessment of exposures and outcomes in epdemiologic studies.
FMSC-710: Maternal and Child Health from a Life Course Perspective 3 Survey of current science in maternal and child health informed by a life course perspective. The surveyed topics include inutero exposure to toxins, feeding and growth, and effects of chronic stress, maternal and child health.
FMSC-780: Qualitative Methods in Family and Health Research 3 Theoretical perspectives and methodological tools to conduct research with individuals and families across the life span. Review of research designs, participant fieldwork, observation and interview projects, data collection, computer-assisted data analysis, and development of grounded theory.
EPIB-611: Intermediate Epidemiology 3 Analysis of epidemiologic methods as applied to epidemiologic research, analysis of bias, confounding, effect modification issues, overview of design, implementation, and analysis of epidemiologic studies.
FMSC-879: Preparing Future Faculty and Professionals Seminar 1 Development of skills necessary to obtain and succeed in academic and non-academic positions in family science and public health. Topics include: career mapping, networking, teaching/teaching portfolios, independent research, publishing, grant writing, program and policy evaluation, consulting, job search, interviewing and negotiation, mentoring, diversity, work-family balance, and ethical issues in the workplace. Periodic visits to universities and government/nonprofit employers.
FMSC-689: Research Internship 3 Research experience resulting in a scholarly article suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.
FMSC-899: Doctoral Dissertation Research 12 Doctoral Dissertation Research
FMSC-730: Key Topics in Maternal and Child Health (Elective) 3 Review of key issues on the frontier of maternal and child health research and practice within broad public health and socio-cultural context. Examines current maternal and child health issues such as ethics, child and family health, health and socioeconomic disparities, child nutrition and obesity, military family health, and global health.
FMSC-686: Law, Public Health and the Cuban Family (Elective) 4 A comparison of family problems in the United States, a capitalist society, with Cuba, a socialist one, as evaluated within the context of legal, public health, social, cultural, and economic changes. The highlight of the course is time spent in Havana, Cuba where students may gain first-hand knowledge of these issues through visits to a hospital, fertility clinic, rural doctor's office, medical school, law offices, museums, and a slave rebellion site and while meeting with the U.S. Ambassador in Cuba, Cuban judges, lawyers, doctors, professors, and health care professionals and the Cuban people as their host families and beyond.
FMSC-760: Legal Issues & Families (Elective) 3 Analysis of marriage and family issues from a legal perspective. Review of legal decisions affecting families, including procreative rights, marriage, termination of marriage, parental and child rights, adoption, child custody, and child/family medical treatment. Relationship between family law and family policy.
FMSC-667: Restorative Justice and Family Health -- Comparing Educational and Correctional Practices in the U.S. and Norway (Elective) 3 Short-term study abroad course that provides students with a unique opportunity to compare philosophies of restorative justice and the effects of individual autonomy within educational and correctional practices in the U.S. and Norway. This course teaches students valuable comparative and evaluative skills in this cross-cultural experience. Students of all levels can benefit from this unique opportunity and the course content overlaps with several disciplines including family science, education, criminology and criminal justice, public health, public policy, politics and political science, social work, psychology, and other related disciplines.