Doctoral Degrees (PhD and DHCE) in Catholic Healthcare Ethics

Doctoral Curriculum

The Doctoral Curriculum requires twelve courses (36 credits) beyond the Master’s degree. After Comprehensive Exams, both Doctoral Degree Programs require 6 credits of dissertation hours. The Research Projects and the Research Essay in the courses will deal with topics related to Catholic health care.

Students in HCE MA Degree track who continue on in the Doctoral Degree programs must complete 6 additional courses after their 10 MA courses, so that 16 courses (48 credits) have been completed before they apply for the comprehensive examination. 

Baccalaureate Admission track requires sixteen courses (48 credits) beyond the Baccalaureate Degree.

The Ethics Rotation Program is titled, Clinical and Organizational Rotations in Ethics (CORE). The Program provides HCE students with an experience-based curriculum to learn in a supervised, step-by-step manner the scholarly knowledge and professionals skills for providing ethics services in health care. The curriculum focuses on integrating clinical, organizational, and professional ethics across the healthcare organization. The program also seeks to provide a Mentored Apprenticeship to train students to undertake clinical ethics consultations, including the pre-consultation phase.

The junior rotations (HCE 746, 747) are intensely supervised and occur at UPMC Mercy Hospital which is adjacent to Duquesne University. The senior rotation internships (HCE 781, 782), in which students function as an ethicist-in-residence, occur at UPMC Mercy Hospital or at another healthcare institution. HCE has multiple partnerships with local, regional, and national health care providers to facilitate these internships. Internship duties include professional ethics education for facility personnel, ethics research, policy review or development on ethical issues, and prospective and retrospective case consultation. Each three-credits Internship requires approximately 150 hours of work within the assigned facility.

Typically, ethics rotations and internships may be initiated after completion of 18 credit hours of coursework. The CORE Program adopts an Integrated Ethics approach, as developed by the Veterans Health Administration, to implement the Core Competencies for Clinical Ethics Consultation (recently revised by the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities). A detailed outline of the CORE Program is available in the HCE Handbook of Policies and Guidelines.

Doctoral Course Planner

The Doctoral Degree Program adopts the following Course Planner to enable students to track their coursework. All courses are 3-credit hours. All course selections must be approved by the student’s academic advisor. The only mandatory course is HCE 759 Methods in HCE. Students choose their remaining courses from the following:


Doctoral Courses:

  •  HCE-742, Multicultural Society 
  •  HCE-743, Ethics of Care
  •  HCE-745, Comp. Rel. Bioethics
  •  HCE-748, Clinical Ethics
  •  HCE-753, Genetics & Ethics
  •  HCE-754, Research Ethics
  •  HCE-755, Global Bioethics
  •  HCE-756, End of Life Ethics
  •  HCE-757, Public Health Ethics
  •  HCE-758, Intensive Research
  •  HCE-759, Methods in HCE
  •  HCE-760, Research Writing in HCE
  •  HCE-762, Organizational HCE
  •  HCE-790, Independent Study



  • Clinical Rotation, HCE-746, Clinical Rotation, #1
  • Jr. Rotation, HCE-747, Clinical Rotation #2. 
  • Sr. Internship, HCE-781, Clinical Rotation #3. 
  • Sr. Internship, HCE-782, Clinical Rotation #4.

Comprehensive Exams

Written comprehensive examinations occur after a student completes doctoral degree coursework requirements. There are two full-time HCE faculty examiners. A detailed outline of the Comprehensive Exam process is available in the HCE Handbook of Policies and Guidelines.

Doctoral Dissertation (Ph.D.) or Project (DHCE)

The Ph.D. degree is a research degree that combines academic and clinical education to train students in a systematic and critical manner to be scholars in the field. Hence, the Ph.D. dissertation focuses on appropriate research and writing competencies to be successful scholars in the field.

The DHCE degree is a professional degree that combines academic and clinical education to train students in a systematic and critical manner to be clinically oriented professionals in the field. Hence, the DHCE project is a practical endeavor that focuses upon the appropriate clinical and writing competencies to be successful professionals in the field.

A Faculty Committee (Director and Readers) is assigned to supervise the student in the phase of doctoral writing. After the Committee ascertains that the dissertation or project has been completed satisfactorily, there is an oral Doctoral Defense with the following possible outcomes: formal approval or the requirement to resubmit the text based on critiques at the defense.

Upon successfully completing the above the student proceeds to Graduation, following the requirements of the University for submitting the doctoral text and planning for graduation.

A detailed outline of the process for doctoral writing, the doctoral defense, and graduation is available in the HCE Handbook of Policies and Guidelines.