Interdisciplinary Health Ph.D. Program

The Interdisciplinary Health (IH) PhD Program is a collaborative effort between the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) and the College of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is designed to educate and train the next generation of health researchers, advocates, and educators. Graduates from this degree program will be prepared to engage and collaborate with others to address complex state, regional, national, and international issues pertaining to health equity, disabilities, and psychosocial health. Graduates of this program will possess the knowledge to empirically answer important questions regarding theoretical and practical issues and skills to conduct applied research. Theoretical and applied knowledge are integral to understanding primary and secondary health promotion efforts in diverse populations and the multi-level social production of health in local, regional, and global context and health promotion efforts in diverse populations.

Top Faculty in Health-Related Disciplines 


The IH PhD program draws on the research, teaching, and mentoring strengths from core and affiliate faculty located in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (Anthropology, Applied Indigenous Studies, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Family Violence Institute, Geography/Parks & Recreation, Institute for Human Development, Psychological Sciences, Politics and International Affairs, Sociology, and Social Work) and the College of Health and Human Services (Communication Sciences and Disorders, Dental Hygiene, Health Sciences, Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy/Athletic Training, and Physician Assistant Program). Individuals who are interested in applying to the program should consult the list of IH PhD principle faculty who have active research projects and available spots for prospective PhD students (detailed lists of steering committee, principal, and affiliated faculty). There are many more faculty across NAU that also have health-related teaching and research interests. This list of affiliated units and faculty is available here. 

Cutting Edge Research 

The IH PhD Program faculty provide students with opportunities to engage in interdisciplinary health-related research. The research and curricular topics address important questions and issues related to health equity, disability, and psychosocial health. The goal of the program is to train students to engage in interdisciplinary health-related research of the highest quality. Faculty research expertise is focused in the following areas: 

Health Equity
Health equity focuses on the social and health care systems that support optimal health for all individuals and communities and informs program and policies designed to provide health-promoting environments regardless of ethnicity, income, education and other social determinants of health. Health equity is a research priority at NAU. In addition to a multidisciplinary core of health equity researchers from HHS and SBS, the Center for Health Equity Research (CHER) at NAU directs a health equity research and dissemination program funded by the National Institutes of Minority Health and Health Disparities. Examples of projects include a regional health needs assessment for six northern Arizona counties, comparing social network transmission of infectious diseases within and across ethnic groups in northern and southern Arizona, understanding pathways of cardiovascular health and risk across socioeconomic status among US residents, and examining possible biological determinants of dental health in rural Arizonans.
Disability research seeks to maximize the inclusion of persons with disabilities, in all aspects of life, across the lifespan. Persons with disabilities may face health challenges similar to persons without disabilities and/or health challenges unique or specific to a type of disability.  In either situation, health status may impact the extent to which a person with a disability can fully engage in life activities. Examples of projects include studying interventions for diabetes management among persons with disabilities, examining the impact of virtual reality-assisted rehabilitation for patients with neurologic diagnoses, or designing protocols for improving patient care practices for women with disabilities. Faculty conducting research in these areas are drawn from HHS and SBS, including several from the SBS Institute of Human Development (a designated University Center for Excellence in Disability) whose grant-funded projects are focused on issues of access, attitude, and inclusion.
Psychosocial Health
Psychosocial health encompasses the mental, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of well-being and resilience. Empirical examinations in this area focus on predictors of psychosocial health, with an emphasis on these issues in the face of stressors or challenges, including those relevant to health equity and disability. Researchers from SBS and HHS conduct research on topics related to how personality characteristics, coping strategies, social support, and other individual, interpersonal, social, and cultural factors impact psychosocial health. NAU faculty conduct both basic and applied research in a variety of populations. Examples include the role of social support on health, predictors of affective reactions to stress, and psychological, social, and cultural predictors of health and health-related behavior.


The IH Ph.D. is a 60-credit hour degree program. In year one, IH PhD students are required to take two (3-credit hour) core courses in Interdisciplinary Health Theory and Application (fall and spring), a course (3-credit hour) in health-specific research methods (fall) and a course (3-credit hour) in health-specific scholarship and grant writing (spring). Students are also required to take 12 credit hours of analytical and research skills courses, 12 credit hours in area of specialization, and 6 credit hours of electives. These courses build the foundation upon which students build their own doctoral research. Students will perform their own original research, write a dissertation, and make an oral, public presentation of their dissertation results. With approval, up to 12 credit hours of previous coursework may be considered for transfer.

Financial Support 

For students admitted to the program that are in need of financial support, a number of three-year graduate assistantships are available. The application process is competitive. Find out about available the Presidential fellowship program, scholarships, assistantships and tuition waivers on the website of the Graduate College/Resources/Financing. All admitted students are eligible for full-tuition waivers.

Admission Requirements and Procedure 

There are minimal requirements for the NAU graduate programs. Please follow this link to read more about it. In addition to the NAU Graduate online application, the application for the IH PhD program requires:

  • BA, BS, MA or MS degree (or equivalent) from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A"), or the equivalent. 
  • Official Transcripts.
  • GRE® revised General Test.
  • Names and contact information of three references. Your references will be asked by the Graduate College to complete a reference form.
  • Personal statement of research direction and why the NAU IH PhD program is a good fit. 
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae.

For details on graduate admission policies, please visit the Graduate Admissions Policy. International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy

Completed applications will be reviewed beginning February15, 2018. The final deadline for applications is March 15, 2018. 


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