McMaster University

McMaster University

Fields of Specialization

MSc & PhD Fields of Specialization

Following the recent successful review by the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies (OCGS), the HRM Program now offers students the opportunity to specialize in one of five fields. The fields of specialization are:

All offered at the MSc and PhD level, except for Biostatistics, which is offered at the PhD level

Clinical Epidemiology / Biostatistics / HSR / Public and Population Health / HTA / HRM Classic

Clinical Epidemiology

Clinical epidemiology employs sound research principles, tempered with practicality, to find the best answers to “real world” questions about clinical practice and health care. Individuals training in this field (who usually have a clinical background) acquire the skills required to undertake research that addresses fundamental questions about the effectiveness of clinical therapies, usefulness of screening and diagnostic tools, prognosis and disease causation. Issues related to research synthesis and knowledge translation may also be a focus. Individuals training in clinical epidemiology work alongside world leading clinical epidemiologists who are conducting their research in multiple sites around the world and changing the way medicine is practiced globally. The field of clinical epidemiology in the Health Research Methodology Program offers a unique opportunity to learn and work with the best clinical epidemiologists in the world, thus enabling graduates to make profound contributions to the practice of clinical medicine through research.
Current HRM students who are not designated health care providers but want to appeal the Clinical Epidemiology field of specialization should consult with their supervisor to first discuss if appropriate and may consult the HRM Program for details re: the required summary of research to provide to the Clinical Epidemiology Stream Committee for review and consideration.


Students can enter the clinical epidemiology stream if they fulfill the following criteria:

1. They have a designation of a health care provider based upon a degree or diploma (e.g., doctors, physiotherapists, nutritionists).

2. Their HRM degree research primarily focuses on studies directly relevant to patients (e.g., randomized cotnrolled trials, observational studies, or systematic reviews of health related questions).

If a student is not a designated health care provider and wants to appeal these criteria then towards the end of their HRM training they can submit a summary of the research (e.g., course papers, studies and research) they have undertakent to the Clinical Epidemiology Stream Committee. The committee will review the student's request to determine if it merits the designation of the clinical epidemiology stream.



The HRM Biostatistics PhD field is specially designed for applicants with an MSc in Mathematics and/or Statistics who wish to pursue doctoral work in Biostatistics. The program aims to provide trainees with the skills they need to conduct independent research into biostatistical topics, provide leadership as biostatistical collaborators in clinical, health systems and population health investigations, and effectively teach biostatistics from introductory through to advanced levels. Graduates will possess the following skills: ability to apply biostatistical concepts, techniques and data-analytic strategies across the full spectrum of research questions and study designs; ability to contribute to grant proposals in the areas of research design, data analysis and interpretation; ability to teach biostatistical concepts to research colleagues who are not biostatisticians; and ability to adapt existing statistical techniques or to develop new techniques to solve research design and analytical programs. Graduates may pursue career opportunities in academia, government or private industry.



Health Services Research

Health services research focuses on questions about the most effective ways to organize, manage, finance, and deliver high quality clinical and health care, reduce medical errors and improve patient safety. The research domains utilized by health services researchers may include individuals, families, organizations, institutions, communities, and populations. Graduates acquire a broad range of skills in research synthesis, research design, data analysis and writing for publication that enable them to conduct rigorous research in numerous areas including: patterns of care/process of care, small area practice variation studies, appropriateness of care, knowledge translation, economic analysis of health care, service and system organization, patient experience, theoretical underpinnings of health services organization, management, and financing and delivery. The curriculum emphasizes mixed methods approaches that utilize skills in both quantitative and qualitative research.



Population and Public Health

Canada faces many public health challenges, including emerging and existing infectious diseases and alarming increases in many chronic diseases. Research to address the determinants of these health problems is of paramount importance to maintaining a healthy population. The field of population and public health provides students with the methodological expertise needed to conduct cutting edge research, including investigations into the biological, economic, and social factors that protect, precipitate or perpetuate disability and disease, and to improve public health. Graduates will acquire the following skills: ability to critically appraise and interpret research evidence, formulate research questions, justify research and analysis methods and understand ethical issues involved in research in this field; ability to conduct research into biological, social, cultural, and environmental determinants of health; ability to conduct basic or applied research in public health aimed at improving the health of individuals,  communities and populations; and ability to apply population and public health methods across a range of disease conditions.



Health Technology Assessment

Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is defined as the evaluation of the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and broader impact of drugs, medical technologies, and health systems, both on patient health and the health care system.  HTA has gained increasing importance in health care decision making locally and around the world and over the last decade there have been numerous important methodological advances in the techniques of HTA.  As a result there is a growing gap between the need for HTA and the availability of skilled researchers to conduct HTAs. The goal of the HTA field of specialization is to train individuals who, upon graduation, will have the necessary skills to be actively involved in independent and collaborative research in the field of HTA. Graduates will possess the following skills: a strong foundation in the basic principles of HTA; advanced decision analysis; ability to apply research methods derived from health economics; understand and use basic and advanced biostatistics; and utilize health services research and health policy analysis concepts and methods.

HRM faculty members in the HTA Field of Specialization

Gord Blackhouse
James Bowen
Daria O'Reilly
Jean-Eric Tarride
Xie, Feng

Please note that you may consider other HRM faculty members to be your advisor/supervisor to specialize in this field. The faculty listed are HRM faculty members who have identified Health Technology Assessment as their primary field of specialization. Special Note for interested applicants: you must also check whether the HRM faculty member has approved graduate status at the appropriate level (i.e, MSc supervision or PhD supervision).

If you have any questions about the Health Technology Assessment Field of Specialization, please contact Kristina Vukelic at


HRM Classic

Students who don't wish to declare a field of specialization should enroll in HRM Classic. The advantage centres on the high level of flexibility HRM Classic offers, enabling students to tailor their educational plan to their own unique needs and interests. Students pursue a general methods degree, or explore other exciting emerging fields. For example, applicants interested in medical and health sciences education research can work with faculty in the Program for Educational Research and Development on research related to the evaluation of clinical competence. Alternatively, students in HRM Classic might work on medical informatics and knowledge translation research topics, investigating the use of evidence by different professional groups such as health care providers, health systems administrators and government policy-makers, and contributing to an improved understanding of the behavioural and contextual factors that determine effective knowledge uptake. Many other areas, including health ethics, can be selected as the focus of study.

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