The Hub Faculty of Health Disciplines exploring new doctoral programs

Faculty of Health Disciplines exploring new doctoral programs

Advances and innovations across the health disciplines are driving the need for higher levels of knowledge and practice—and Athabasca University’s Faculty of Health Disciplines (FHD) is exploring options for meeting this growing need.

“We regularly receive many queries about doctoral programming in all health fields,” said dean Dr. Margaret Edwards. “We know there is strong societal, health care, and learner need and interest, so are keen to investigate opportunities to offer advanced credentials.”

The faculty has recommended the development of a suite of doctoral programs, and has been granted approval to explore the potential and possibility of offering five new doctoral programs: Doctoral Studies in Health: Post Masters Certificate (DSH:PMC); Doctor of Health Studies (DHS); Doctor of Nursing (DN); Doctor of Psychology (DPsych); and Doctor of Philosophy in Health Disciplines (PhD).

A graphic showing how the new Faculty of Health Disciplines programs fit together.

As currently envisioned, all would be offered digitally and in community, removing many of the time-and-place barriers inherent in traditional programs.

FHD’s approach to these programs is new and novel.

All would be intentionally designed to “stack” onto master’s and post-master’s programs, and on the innovative new DSH:PMC, which would be the common first year for all doctoral programs and could also be completed as a standalone.

“Our goal is to enable learners to begin their doctoral journey with a manageable one-year commitment —the doctoral certificate—that ends with a credential and also forms the foundation of further doctoral work,” Edwards said.

Professional doctorates, well-established globally but new in Canada, are research based and practice oriented. They enable working professionals to balance advanced education with career or family commitments.

The faculty is currently investigating all facets of program development, including conducting market assessments, creating curricula and engaging with regulatory and government bodies.

The launch of the new programs is contingent upon many approvals outside FHD’s control. It is possible that the DSH:PMC could be offered in 2021; the professional doctorates and PhD could launch one year later.

News about program development progress will be published on the FHD website and in News Brief, the faculty’s biannual newsletter.

As a group, the programs would be an important addition to learning options for working professionals who wish to expand their knowledge and practice to provide better care for patients and clients.

“Across the health disciplines, there is growing emphasis on ‘health care’ instead of ‘sick care,’” Edwards said, explaining FHD’s strategic approach.

Edwards said FHD’s strategic approach is informed in part by a growing emphasis on “health care” rather than “sick care” within the health disciplines.

“At the same time, we are seeing an expanded role of counselling in health, mental health and well-being, in practice implications stemming from a wealth of research worldwide, and in the desire of governments to control rising health spending costs through more-effective management,” she said.

“As a leader in online health education, and with graduates across Canada knowing firsthand how having flexibility in learning makes acquiring an advanced credential possible, the faculty is clearly in a strong position to respond in an exciting and innovative way.”

For additional information about the proposed new programs, see the backgrounder on the FHD website.

  • July 4, 2019