PhD Program: Health Infrastructures & Learning Systems
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Health Innovation & Improvement

Lead, change and learn across multiple levels of scale to promote innovation and improvement in health.


Program Overview

Health Infrastructures and Learning Systems (HILS) is housed within the Department of Learning Health Sciences, a first-in-the-nation basic science department focused on learning across multiple levels of scale (i.e. individual, group, organization, region, nation) to promote innovation and improvement in health. The program and its faculty also have close affiliations with the Schools of Information, Public Health, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Nursing and others.

The HILS program is part of an international movement to promote learning health systems, which are organizations or networks that continuously self-study and adapt using data and analytics to generate knowledge, engage stakeholders, and implement behavior change to transform practice.

HILS primary focus is to address the social and technical challenges systems face in making continuous health improvement routine. By developing and studying health infrastructures and learning systems, we can find effective approaches to:

  • Discover new knowledge
  • Identify how to best implement that knowledge
  • Turn it into routine process

The HILS program places you at the forefront of this emerging science.


Apply through our PIBS application

Program Details

The variety of research undertaken by HILS faculty matches the myriad of ways that learning health system principles are applied to the many challenges facing health and medical education improvement. The faculty’s interdisciplinary expertise includes: behavior and organizational change, data science, informatics, systems science, public health, and quality and performance improvement methods.


Four types of courses are required for all students in the HILS PhD program:

  • Two courses in health infrastructures: LHS 650 and 750 Health Infrastructures Pro Seminars 1 & 2
  • Two Courses in the components of the learning cycle: LHS 610 Exploratory Data Analysis for Health and LHS 621 Implementation Science in Health 1
  • LHS 671 Ethics and Policy Issues for Learning Health Systems
  • Research methods courses including LHS 665 Applied Biostatistics for Health Researchers
  • At least one cognate and one elective course

Preliminary Examination

Students complete a two-part qualifying exam (written and oral) after completion of the required courses in health infrastructures, data analysis, implementation science, ethics and policy and biostatistics.

Teaching Requirement

HILS has no formal teaching requirement, but will provide access and training to individuals that want a teaching experience.

Expected Length of Program

The HILS program is designed for students to graduate in five years of training.

HILS PhD students bring a diverse set of education and experience to their studies including public health, health informatics and health information technology, health professions and clinical disciplines, business and engineering mirroring the interdisciplinary nature of the academic program.

Students and faculty meet weekly to exchange ideas and learn from each other in the HILS Seminar around the themes of research and scholarship, academic skills, career development, diversity, equity and inclusion, health and wellness and culture and community. In addition, students are encouraged to participate in lectures, workshops and events sponsored by the Department of Learning Health Sciences.

HILS graduates are prepared to become transformative leaders within academia, government, health care systems, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector in research and senior administrative roles. HILS alumni may be found working at the CDC Foundation, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, IDC, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), IDC, University of Michigan and University of Washington.

Creating an impact

Learn more about the Department of Health Infrastructures & Learning Systems.

Visit HILS