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AHRQ Pre-doctoral and Post-doctoral Traineeships in Health Services Research and Healthcare Quality Improvement


AHRQ Traineeships in Health Services Research

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) awards National Research Service Award (NRSA) institutional training grants to academic institutions to develop health services research training opportunities across the Nation. The purpose of the NRSA program is to help ensure that adequate numbers of highly trained individuals are available to carry out the Nation's health services research agenda in order to improve quality of health care, assure value for health dollars spent, and enhance access to services. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Program in Population Health has been awarded one of these prestigious training grants.

A goal of this program is to equip students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and experiences to conduct future research which will meet the needs of patients, providers, health care plans, purchasers, and/or policymakers. NRSA institutional training grants assist these programmatically diverse domestic institutions in supporting pre-doctoral and postdoctoral academic training by providing support for student stipends and tuition. Approximately 160 students nationally receive support for their research educational development under this program annually. 

AHRQ Traineeships at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we support the doctoral studies of 4-5 students each year through this training grant and post-doctoral training for 2 MD or PhD graduates.  Students are generally appointed to a traineeship position which they retain throughout their graduate studies until the dissertation stage, when they often transition to other funding under AHRQ dissertation grants, research funding through their dissertation supervisor, or other fellowships.

The program at the UW-Madison seeks to produce highly skilled health services researchers who have a strong interdisciplinary foundation in applied research settings, healthcare systems and quality improvement, and evaluation methods

Trainees are supported for doctoral or post-doctoral study in health services research within the PhD program in Population Health, or in the doctoral program in Industrial Engineering emphasizing Health Systems, Human Factors, and Quality Engineering.

Trainees can choose from a variety of research areas including:  

  • Translating research into practice and policy
  • Patient safety and quality
  • Quality improvement
  • Patient-centered care
  • Payments, markets, and organization
  • Healthcare disparities
  • Large database methods

What does a Traineeship Involve?

Doctoral students enrolled in the Population Health program will take electives in quality engineering and/or human factors and ergonomics, and students enrolled in the Industrial Engineering program will be expected to complete core courses in Population Health.  All students will work closely with research mentors from the two faculties. 

As long as they are making satisfactory progress toward the degree trainees may expect to be funded by the traineeship up to 4 years, with a 5th year only in extraordinary circumstances.  In the dissertation year students are strongly encouraged to seek other funding through dissertation grants, work with their supervisor, or other sources.

Post-doctoral trainees will conduct research in their stated field of interest with a primary mentor, prepare papers for publication in scholarly journals, design a research proposal for possible external funding, and participate in seminars and attend formal courses as needed.


To be eligible for a pre-doctoral traineeship, students

  • must be U.S. citizens
  • accepted for PhD study in a relevant area of either the Program in Population Health or the Industrial Engineering graduate program
  • must be enrolled as full time students (as defined by the Graduate School)
  • cannot receive other federal grant funds while a trainee

To be eligible for a post-doctoral traineeship, trainees

  • must be U.S. citizens
  • cannot receive other federal grant funds while a trainee

To Apply

Eligible students who wish to apply for the traineeship should contact one of the training grant directors (see below) to discuss qualifications, career aspirations, and research areas of interest and to arrange formal interviews with the program directors.  Rarely is more than one new traineeship awarded in any given year.  New awards are not made in all years.  

Training Grant Directors

Maureen A. Smith, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Director, Department of Population Health Sciences
 Phone: 608-262-4802;

Pascale Carayon, Ph.D., Associate Director, Department of Industrial Engineering
 Phone: 608-262-9797;

Training Grant Faculty

Doctoral and post-doctoral trainees acquire knowledge through coursework, but conduct of research is the primary focus of graduate study.  Upon admission doctoral students are assigned an academic advisor, but before the end of their second year should identify and associate with the faculty member who will be their major professor and research supervisor.  Usually doctoral students work with their major professor on research supported under grants held by the professor, hold a position as a trainee on a department’s training program, or are supported by competitive doctoral dissertation grants or fellowships secured by the student.  Post-doctoral trainees will develop an individualized Career Development Plan with activities geared to each scholar’s career level, interests, and learning needs.  Each plan will be formulated in collaboration with the scholar, the scholar’s faculty mentors and the program directors.


Core Training Grant Faculty
Area(s)of Research
Human factors and systems engineering in healthcare and patient safety
Patient safety; technology change; health systems engineering
HIV prevention and tobacco control, with emphasis on Latino populations and health disparities reduction
Health economics
Access to care; quality of care; patient safety; patient-physican relationship
Health Economics, Health Care Technology Assessment, Cost-effectiveness
Social, behavioral, and psychological factors that contribute to healthy aging across the lifespan


Affiliate Faculty
Area(s)of Research
Frail, older adults in both community and residential settings
Patient-physician communication and shared decision making
Health economics
Health policy
Public health; cancer prevention
Social work;sociology; socioeconomic status and health in aging
Race/ethnicity across the life course; health consequences of social inequalities; and intergenerational relations
Health economics; public economics