Course Descriptions

Required Courses

Theoretical Foundations of Family Medicine (0.5 credits)

This course reviews the relevant literature on the scientific and theoretical basis of Family Medicine. Topics include: medicine and science, technology, craft and art; theory of diagnosis; classification of disease; natural history of disease; concepts of aetiology; concepts of health and disease; and social influences of health and disease. This course will explore whether family medicine represents a paradigm shift within medicine.

Advanced Patient-Centered Medicine (1.0 credit)

This course introduces the four components of Patient-Centered Clinical Method. Drawing on developmental theory, systems theory and life cycle issues, the course will examine the contextual influences that impact on a patient’s experience of health, disease and illness. Attention will be given to understanding the whole person and enhancement of the patient-doctor relationship. The course will also examine the broad determinants of health in order to expand the student’s understanding of contextual influences.

Research Methods in Family Medicine (1.0 credit)

This course deals with research principles and methodologies relevant to family medicine. Five types of epidemiological studies are reviewed: descriptive, cross-sectional, experimental, cohort, and case control. Evaluation methods and research synthesis are also covered. Theoretical principles that underline qualitative methodology are explored. Two specific qualitative methods – in depth interviews and focus groups will be demonstrated. In both the quantitative and qualitative methods the following details are covered: posing the research question, sampling, data collection methods, and analysis. Studies relevant to family practice are used as examples.

Canada's Primary Health Care System (0.5 credit)

Canada’s Primary Health Care system is universally recognized for its emphasis on access, equity and quality. However, like all health care systems across the world, the system could be made to function better. This course is structured to offer interested students an in-depth look at pertinent issues facing the Canadian Primary Health Care system.   

Doctoral Seminar (0.5 credit)

The Doctoral Seminar will offer students an opportunity to discuss their thesis research and the integration of their course work with their thesis. Early in the seminar students will be able to present their ideas and research question in this forum and receive feedback from faculty and peers. There will be ongoing presentations of the students’ thesis work (ie research questions, presentation of relevant literature, methodology analysis plan) with a final presentation of the proposal. In addition, faculty will provide lectures and guest speakers will be invited to present on special topics. This will promote an active intellectual dialogue amongst students and faculty.

Advanced Quantitative Research Methods Course (1.0 credit)

This course on Advanced Quantitative Research will expose the student to complex quantitative research designs and statistical techniques that are capable of revealing the complexities inherent in Family Medicine/Primary Health Care. Using examples of seminal studies in family medicine on clinical and health services topics, quantitative advanced design issues (e.g. mediating factors, multi-stage sampling) and advanced statistics (e.g. multivariable analysis, adjustment for clustering and multilevel modeling) will be covered.

Advanced Qualitative Research Methods Course (1.0 credit)

Using examples of seminal studies in family medicine on clinical and health services topics qualitative advanced design issues (eg. phenomenology, ethnography, participatory action research) and advanced qualitative analysis (use of computer software, interpretation – iterative approaches to analysis) will be examined. This course will also explore the use of multi-method designs in family medicine research. 

Optional Courses

Students will also have an opportunity to take graduate courses offered by other disciplines at Western University as per the agreement of the "Interdisciplinary Health & Social Science Cooperative Directory”. 

Program Milestones

Comprehensive Examination Requirements:

  1. All students enrolled in the PhD program must successfully complete a comprehensive exam at the completion of their coursework.
  2. The PhD comprehensive examination will be in the form of a major paper written by a student in his/her area of research interest. It is expected that this paper will make a substantive and original contribution to knowledge in this area.

As a very general guide, the paper may address the following issues:

  • Theoretical approaches to the content domain (historical and contemporary).
  • Identification of major theoretical issues in the content domain.
  • Strengths and limitations of various research methods used in the content domain.
  • Assessment/measurement issues.
  • Future directions in theory and research.

In addition to a written paper, students will have an oral examination on the content area covered by the paper. The purpose of the oral examination is to give the committee members an opportunity to seek clarification of points and issues contained in the paper. As the students may not be able to come to Western for the oral examination they may use video or teleconference to do their oral examination.

The comprehensive examination committee is responsible for evaluating both the written and oral components of the comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examining committee will consist of the following three faculty members: the student’s dissertation advisor, a second reader, and a member of the comprehensive examination committee.


Once a student has completed their comprehensive examination requirements, their dissertation committee will be formed. This may include the Chair and other members of their Comprehensive Examination Committee. Committee composition will be finalized with the aim of affording the student both depth and breadth of expertise in the student’s area of study as well as expertise related to more general issues in Family Medicine.