PHPM672 Data Science for Health Services Research
PHPM677 Data Science in Public Health

Student perspective on this class


The course, PHPM 672 - Data Science For Health Services Research, is a required course during the first year of training for doctoral students in Health Services Research. Coming in with no statistical programming or data management experience, I had no idea what to expect from the course and was extremely nervous about whether I would do well or not.

What I have realized after looking back two years ago was that this course was definitely fundamental in my training. It was without a doubt, one of the most difficult courses I have ever taken, but truly an invaluable one. Because of this course, I now have the confidence to apply the skills I have learned toward my dissertation and future research studies.

This class requires a lot of investment, patience and most of all – perseverance. I devoted many hours a week to this course, but found it very rewarding once I mastered a concept. What I found most helpful was the support of my peers. I thought it was instrumental to work together and to help one another. I would recommend to any student taking this course to take every opportunity to ask Dr. Kum and/or the TA any questions, attend lab and office hours, and utilize Internet resources – The UCLA Statistics Department is an AMAZING resource. And always start early! It’s never too early to begin an assignment or the next task; you never know how long it will take!

The wealth of knowledge I have received from this course was tremendous and I would highly recommend this class to any MPH or PhD student looking to grow their skills in data management and secondary data analysis.

Debra Tan | PhD Student – Health Services Research


Dr. Kum,

I just wanted to thank you for a great semester. Thank you for pushing us outside of our comfort zones—I feel like I learned a lot in just 15 weeks. I wrote a review of PHPM 677 (feel free to post it):

When I decided to take PHPM 677, I was unsure if it would be good fit for me as an epidemiology MPH student. I knew nothing about health services research and was intimidated to take a class primarily aimed at doctoral-level students. What tipped me over the edge, however, was my desire to learn SAS.

Before taking this class, I had limited experience with SAS and data science. I knew how to copy and paste basic SAS commands, but I didn’t really understand it, much less how to think about data. That changed throughout the 15 weeks of this class.

Fair warning: you will probably get very frustrated and discouraged along the way. You will spend hours working on weekly assignments and still feel lost and behind. There’s definitely a steep learning curve. But at some point in the semester, it finally begins to “click.” You begin to understand how to troubleshoot and find new ways of thinking about problems. After a while, you even start to feel confident in your ability to transform and analyze a dataset. I still have a lot to learn and improve upon, but I think now I have a foundation to build upon throughout the rest of my career.

PHPM 677 is probably one of the most valuable classes I have taken in my graduate coursework. I would recommend it to any public health student (in ANY discipline) who wants to learn how to think about and use data. I came into this class wanting to learn SAS and came out beginning to think like a data scientist.

Thank you again!

Tina Johnson

Master of Public Health Student ’18
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
School of Public Health | Texas A&M University
When I decided to take this course, I came with the expectation that I will learn more about electronic health records. After the first class, I realized I signed for something that is far better than what I thought I signed for. I was a novice with no experience, whatsoever, in programming skills, but I had two things: confidence and motivation. I strongly believe these two traits were crucial in my success in this class.

The class is certainly not a class for a person looking for an easy A or a person just looking for an elective course ‎to fulfill his or her degree requirements. But it is certainly not an overly difficult course. If you love and are encouraged by the skills you are learning along the line, you will surely succeed and everything will be fun. In fact, it will make you realize how much of a genius you are when you find out the many ways you can perform a single task, or when you just completed a seemingly difficult task.

The next, and I believe, most critical key to success in this class is collaboration with colleagues, perhaps while maintaing strict observance of the Aggie code of honor. As with any programming course, asking questions will really simplify your task. Ask your colleagues, the ‎teaching assistant, the professor, any other person you know is competent in SAS, and use online resources such as stack overflow.

Lastly, always have a conceptual framework of how you want to perform a given task, think of the little tasks you can perform and conceptualize how bring these simple tasks can lead you to performing the final required task. Then think of what you thought if you can do with SAS you will come closer to performing the task. Then use the mentioned helpers and resources to check if it is possible to actually do it in SAS. Always use the log. Don't panick if you got a return of error when you run your program. Read the log and identify where to fix. Fix it and re-run the program, if there is still an error, reitrate the steps above and you will likely overcome the error.

In summary, I will say be confident, be motivated, ‎Ask questions, use online resources, including videos, and know how to read the log. You will be sure you will excel in this course.

Abdulaziz Tijjani Bako | Master of Public Health (MPH) 'Dec. 15