San Diego Universities Launch Joint Ph.D. Program

The Division of Global Public Health at UCSD and the School of Social Work at San Diego State have launched a new joint doctoral program in interdisciplinary research on substance use anticipated to begin in Fall 2015. Students involved with the program, which is still open to applicants, will spend time studying at and working with faculty from both campuses.

Research will also be conducted concerning the social and health consequences of such use. Furthermore, researchers will work toward creating prevention programs to reduce high-risk behavior.

Co-directors of the program include Associate Dean of Global Health at UCSD Steffanie Strathdee and Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at SDSU Maria Luisa Zuniga. 

Strathdee said that the types of students accepted into the program will be from a variety of academic backgrounds.

“We are trying to cultivate the next generation of researchers to help on these interdisciplinary-related issues,” Strathdee told the UCSD Guardian. “We’re drawing from students with experience across a variety of fields, not just public health and social work.” 

Students will spend the first year of the program in residence at SDSU and the second in residence at UCSD. Once advanced to doctoral candidacy, participants can take classes on both campuses. 

Applicants are required to hold a master’s degree in a related social science or professional program from an accredited university or college and have foundational research experience. 

Strathdee feels that there is an increasing global need for the kind of research the program will produce. 

“This is the first doctoral program of its kind,” Strathdee.  “It requires an interdisciplinary approach to prevent and treat the harm of substance use. Since it’s a growing issue both in the United States and globally, we thought this was a timely opportunity.”

The doctoral program appears at a time when 30 countries, including the U.S., have decriminalized drugs to some extent. Strathdee feels that the program could benefit the evolution in policy.

“These kinds of national experiments need researchers to evaluate them to inform [the] way forward,” Strathdee said. “We’re hoping to equip people with a broad set of skills to inform this policy.”

Executive Director of Student Health and Well-Being Karen Calfas, who graduated from a joint doctoral program between UCSD and SDSU, feels that the impact will also be felt locally.

“This JDP has the potential to provide opportunities for collaboration and evaluation of new interventions and harm reduction programs that could benefit our campus community,” Calfas told the Guardian. “As you know, drug and alcohol use are a growing concern on most college campuses, and access to work with cutting edge researchers would be very welcomed.”

This will be the 14th joint doctoral program between UCSD and SDSU.