The Urban Health Specialization Track of the Joint Urban Systems PhD Program


The Urban Health Specialization track (closed to admissions in 2017) was part of the Joint Urban Systems PhD program.  At its inception, this interdisciplinary PhD program was sponsored jointly by the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT)Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).

The Joint Urban Systems PhD program was predicated on the idea that urban problems are multifaceted and cannot be understood or solved within the confines of an individual discipline. Based on this concept, three different specialization tracks were created in the program to allow students to focus on social science research in one of three areas: urban health (via the Urban Health Specialization track), the urban environment (via the Urban Environment Specialization track) or urban education (via the Urban Education Specialization track). 

All Joint Urban Systems PhD program students were required to complete a common core curriculum that familiarized them with the history, issues, and problems of all three specialization tracks. Each track is described briefly below.

The Urban Health Specialization accepted students from 2001-2017, when it was closed to new admissions.  It was first housed in the UMDNJ School of Nursing. Later, after UMDNJ and Rutgers merged, it became part of the Rutgers School of Nursing. 

The Urban Environment Specialization was housed in NJIT’s School of Architecture, and the Urban Education Specialization was housed in the Department of Urban Education on the Rutgers-Newark campus. As of summer 2021, the Urban Environment Specialization track at NJIT was still open and accepting students. The Urban Education Specialization track later became Global Urban Studies (GUS) and was still accepting students in summer 2021.

The Joint Urban Systems PhD program core curriculum provided a strong background in the history and social organization of U.S. cities. Two of these six courses examined the complex interrelationships among the social, cultural, political, economic, geographic, organizational, and bioenvironmental factors that influence the health status and health behaviors of urban populations.

The Urban Health Specialization track curriculum also included several other groups of courses.  The research core courses consisted of several methods classes and one elective.  The Urban Health specialization core explored the history of the U.S. medical system, health care policy, program evaluation methods and the social and cultural construction of health.

Faculty and Teaching

A small faculty of health researchers working across a range of disciplines taught these courses.  The social scientists in this group were trained as nurses, physicians, educators, statisticians and anthropologists. Together, they taught Urban Health doctoral students to conduct independent research with the strong potential to improve the health of individuals and communities located in our nation’s cities.

In its later years, the Urban Health Specialization was mission-driven. Its directors recruited scholars from urban and marginalized communities, encouraging them to become scholar-activists. Urban Health graduates were strongly encouraged to choose dissertation topics that focused on population health, with a special focus on the social determinants of health. Students were also strongly encouraged to select projects that addressed racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care.

Over the course of its lifespan, Urban Health Specialization faculty included the following scholars: Rubab Qureshi, PhD; Peijia Zha, PhD; Rula Btoush, PhD, RN; Barbara Caldwell, PhD, APN-BC; Karen D’Alonzo, PhD, RN, APN-c, FAAN; Tony Forrester, PhD, RN, ANEF, FAAN; Susan Salmond, EdD, RN, ANEF, FAAN; Dennis Carmody, PhD; Dula Pacquiao, EdD, RN, CTN-A, TNS; Jeffrey Backstrand, PhD, and Sabrina Marie Chase, PhD. Note: this list is not exhaustive.

The Urban Health Specialization track was headed by a series of urban health-focused scholar-researchers, including Barbara Caldwell, PhD, APN-BC; Jeffrey Backstrand, PhD; Dula Pacquiao, EdD, RN, CTN-A, TNS; and Sabrina Marie Chase, PhD.

More About the Urban Health Curricula

The Urban Health Specialization curriculum evolved over the course of its lifespan. There were two major curricula, and the over time, a number of smaller changes were also made. The first curriculum required 72 credits.  The 18-credit Joint Urban Systems core curriculum, noted above, included 6 required courses, 2 in each of the 3 specializations. The Urban Health Specialization track curriculum also featured a 12-credit research core, an 18-credit specialization core with 3 required courses and 3 electives, and 24 required dissertation credits.

In 2016, a new 51-credit curriculum was approved. It featured a 9-credit core curriculum that included 3 required courses (1 in each of the 3 specializations). It also incorporated a 12-credit research core, an 18-credit specialization core with 2 required courses and 4 electives, and 12 required dissertation credits.

The original 72-credit curriculum is listed below. The 51-credit curriculum differed in requiring only 3 of the original 6 listed core curriculum courses, 2 of the 3 originally required specialization core courses, and 12 dissertation credits instead of 24.

72-Credit Curriculum

  • Urban Systems I: History and Future of the Metropolis/Global Metropolis
  • Urban Systems II: Urban Populations
  • Urban Systems III: Cities in World Perspective/Global International Migration
  • Determinants & Consequences of Urban Health
  • The Good City
  • Urban Education Systems

Research Core

  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Advanced Statistics
  • A research elective by advisement

Specialization Core

  • Social and Cultural Construction of Health
  • Urban Health Systems: History, Structure & Challenges
  • Urban Health Policy & Program Evaluation
  • Special Independent Study Elective: Foundations of Scholarship
  • Other specialization electives, by advisement

Dissertation Research

  • Continuing dissertation preparation – 24 credits prior to Fall 2016 or 12 credits from Fall 2016 forward

Student Handbooks

See each student handbook, by year, below. Student handbooks summarize the rules, regulations, best practices and curriculum changes (small and large) for each iteration of the Urban Health Specialization track.

Program Graduates

The following is a list of Urban Health Specialization track graduates as of summer 2021.  Please note: this list is not exhaustive.  Some Urban Health Specialization graduates may not be listed, particularly those graduating in Fall 2021 or later.


  • Della Campbell


  • Jeff Kaluyu


  • Sallie Porter
  • Rubab Qureshi


  • Hanaa Hamdi
  • Teri Lassiter


  • Leo Jurado
  • Sharese Porter


  • Yuri Jadotte
  • Desiree James-Barber
  • Kathleen Mahoney


  • Aramide Ayorinde
  • Debra Baldauff
  • Noel Ferguson
  • Patti O’Brien-Richardson


  • Phoebe Del Boccio
  • Carlos Perez


  • Harlem Gunness


  • Komal Chandra
  • Veronica Jones
  • Julane Miller-Armbrister
  • Lois Rockson
  • Tyshaneka Saffold


  • Denise Anderson
  • Constance Kozachek
  • Paulette Forbes
  • Frank Giannelli
  • Lisa Dunn
  • Jeannie Garmon
  • Nazsa Baker
  • Jennifer McGee-Avila