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PhD Global Health

Online applications will be accepted from 15 December 2020 to 15 March 2021. 

Global health promotes equity in health and addresses current and future global health issues in innovative and multidisciplinary ways. The doctoral program in Global Health at McMaster University focuses on the ideas, concepts, and topics that are evolving in the field, with an aim to propel innovative research and solutions to emerging challenges. 

Building on the award-winning Master of Science in Global Health (2016 CBIE Panorama Award recipient for Outstanding International Education Program), the doctoral program encourages independent and original thought, and the application of rigorous methods to the creation of new scholarly research. Students have the option to complete a cotutelle, which enables them to work towards a PhD that is jointly awarded by both McMaster University and Maastricht University, our partner institution in The Netherlands.


This program seeks candidates who show high scholarly promise, and who have a strong graduate background in global health or a related field. Students applying to the PhD program in Global Health require a minimum B+ average.

Program applicants are required to have a thesis-based masters’ degree. Applicants with course-based masters’ will be reviewed by the admissions committee on a case-by-case basis, where graduates with additional research experience may be considered. Successful applicants must also meet all School of Graduate Studies admissions requirements. For further details of admissions requirements for PhD degree and for a cotutelle PhD degree, please refer to Section 2.1.2 and Section 2.1.5 of the Graduate Calendar.

Program Requirements

The PhD in Global Health is a multi-faculty, transdisciplinary program, with the faculty of Health Sciences as the lead faculty. Requirements for doctoral students are outlined below. 

Students are expected to conduct original and innovative research as part of a thesis that expands upon existing knowledge and meets the rigorous criteria for peer-reviewed scholarship.

Students are required to complete four courses for a total of 12.0 Units. The following research methods courses – or equivalent advanced research methods course(s) if those below have already been completed – are required:

1. GLOBHTH 713 Research Methods: A Global Health Perspective (3.0 Units), or equivalent level advanced research methods course in the event the course was previously completed.

2. BUSINESS C755 Analytics and Decision Making in Healthcare (3.0 Units)

For students who have taken these courses as part of the MSc in Global Health: The supervisory committee, in consultation with the program, will determine acceptable alternative courses in advanced research methods.

Students are also expected to design and complete two independent study courses on separate topics based on consultation with their supervisory committee:

3. GLOBHTH 715 Independent Study Course I (3.0 Units)

4. GLOBHTH 716 Independent Study Course II (3.0 Units)

Based on consultation with their supervisory committee, students may elect, or may be required, to take additional courses beyond the four required. Please see the Global Health Program PhD Handbook for a list of pre-approved electives. In addition to coursework, all students will be required to participate in a research and professional development seminar.

The comprehensive evaluation consists of an oral defense of a comprehensive examination portfolio.  The elements of the portfolio include:

1. A literature review comprised of an independent study reviewing a body of published literature and critically summarizing the findings.

2. A review of completed courses describing their contribution to developing the student’s interdisciplinary skills and knowledge related to current issues in global health and the thesis research.

3. A description of relevant publications authored by the student during the course and their contribution to the thesis research

4. The dissertation proposal.

The comprehensive evaluation will require students to integrate the major theoretical writings and pertinent substantive research with their selected research focus. Students will demonstrate an in-depth and broad understanding of the current scholarly literature and methodological approaches in their relevant field of study in global health. The evaluation will be assessed by the supervisory committee on a pass/fail basis.

All students will produce an original piece of empirical research, situated in relevant scholarly literature, which will become the reference point for conceptualizing and justifying a central research question and interpreting the significance of the principal findings. The thesis must be defended in a PhD Final Oral Examination as outlined in the School of Graduate Studies regulations for the Doctoral Degree.

Prior to the program start date, students should have an idea for a research topic that aligns with existing faculty for supervision. This information should be submitted as part of the online application and in the Statement of Interest. The principal supervisor will be a full-time faculty member who has approved privileges for supervising doctoral students in this transdisciplinary program. The composition of the supervisory committee will be made during the course of the first year of studies.

For further details regarding supervision and supervisory committee, please refer to Section 2.7 and Section 4.4 of the Graduate Calendar.

Please refer to the Global Health Program PhD Handbook for additional policies and regulations on course selection and delivery, course and program evaluations, absences, academic integrity and performance reviews.

Areas of Research Focus

As part of the application process, you are required to describe the connection between your research interests to those of current faculty associated with the Global Health Program.

Examples of research areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Culture and cognition in health communication
  • Collaboration with communities
  • Data science
  • Global musculoskeletal trauma
  • Health equity
  • Pandemic planning and infectious disease
  • Refugee health and humanitarian crises
  • Universal health coverage

In all cases, transdisciplinary methodological approaches are encouraged.


How to Apply

Applications are made online via the McMaster University Application site. Applicants are required to upload the information below as PDFs to the online application form, by the application deadline of Monday, 15 March 2021:

Applicants must upload electronic transcripts for all post-secondary institutions attended along with their application. This includes transcripts from courses taken on exchange, through continuing education, summer courses, etc. Unofficial transcripts should include the applicant's full name and the name of the issuing institution.

Applicants who attended an institution outside of Canada: In addition to the electronic transcript, applicants must send an original transcript for all education completed outside Canada. All transcripts must arrive to the Global Health office before the application deadline. If a transcript is not in English, the applicant is responsible for providing an official translated version of the transcript. In this case, both the original untranslated transcript and the official translation are required. The only exception to this requirement is where the official translation is done by the institution (university) issuing the transcript.

Applicants are asked to submit a 1000-word Statement of Research Interest outlining your research interest/topic as a PDF to the Upload Documents page in the application.

The statement should:

• Explain link of prior studies/interests to the current area of research interests
• Discuss proposed dissertation research plans in that topic area of interest
• Describe the connection between your research interests to that of current faculty associated with the Global Health Program. See Areas of Research Focus.

Please include full academic CV uploaded as a PDF to the Upload Documents page in the application.

Two confidential academic references to be completed using the electronic reference form. Referees have the option to upload additional documentation (i.e. PDF reference letter) to supplement the e-reference form. Referee forms will be sent once the application had been fully submitted (typically within 24-48 hours).

All applicants are encouraged to submit the application early to allow referees sufficient time to complete the electronic forms, which will be sent via email directly to the referee's email address inputted in the online application by the applicant. If you need to change your referee at any point, or would like to send a reminder email, this can be done through the application portal (Mosaic) after your application has been submitted.

Applicants who have been out of an academic setting for five years or more (as of September 2021) are permitted to submit one academic and one professional reference (in lieu of the two academic references typically required).

Applicants must submit an academic writing sample in English of up to 25 pages uploaded as a PDF to the Upload Documents page in the application. Preferably this will be a publication in which the applicant was the sole or lead author. A writing sample from course work is acceptable. No particular format is required.

Applicants whose first language is not English or whose previous degree was completed in a language other than English, will be required to upload a language proficiency test result as a PDF to the Upload Documents page in the application. Language requirements as outlined by the School of Graduate Studies are outlined on the School of Graduate Studies website.


Apply to the PhD Global Health via the McMaster University Application site. Applications are accepted from Tuesday, Decempber 15 2020 to Monday, 15 March 2021.

Contact Us

Our admissions officers can be reached via email at or at 905 525 9140 extension 22861.