Theology and Health Care Ethics, Ph.D.

Students who are interested in both bioethics and theological ethics and who wish to write a dissertation on bioethics from a theological perspective should consider Saint Louis University's joint Ph.D. in Theology and Health Care Ethics, offered by the Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics and the Department of Theological Studies. Unlike a dual degree, this program offers one degree: a Ph.D. in Theology and Health Care Ethics. 

Curriculum Overview

The degree consists of 60 credits: 27 credits in health care ethics, 21 credits in theology and 12 dissertation research hours. Pre-comprehensive exam coursework can usually be completed in three years (nine credit hours each fall and spring). Non-coursework requirements include reading comprehension of French or German (or another language with approval of both programs), three research tools requirements in Library Database Skills, Medical Terminology and Statistics and Study Design and written and oral comprehensive exams. 

Fieldwork and Research Opportunities

All joint Ph.D. students take a three-semester, 150-hour clinical practicum to gain experience working in a clinical setting. Students interested in the clinical ethics concentration can complete an additional advanced practicum in which students are placed in active clinical ethics consultation services for 300+ hours. In addition to these fieldwork opportunities, most Ph.D. students graduate with two or more publications.


Graduates of this program are highly qualified candidates for academic jobs in theology departments, religion departments or bioethics centers, as well as administrative jobs in mission and ethics in health care institutions. 

Admission Requirements

  • Transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • GRE scores
  • Resume
  • Writing sample 
  • Professional goals statement


Tuition Cost Per Credit
Graduate Tuition $1,310

Additional charges may apply. Other resources are listed below:

Net Price Calculator

Information on Tuition and Fees

Miscellaneous Fees

Information on Summer Tuition

Scholarships, Assistantships and Financial Aid

For priority consideration for a graduate assistantship, apply by the program admission deadlines listed. Fellowships and assistantships provide a stipend and may include health insurance and a tuition scholarship for the duration of the award. 

Explore Scholarships and Financial Aid Options

  1. Graduates will be able to demonstrate a broad knowledge of the foundational disciplines, methods, topics and issues in health care ethics required for the scholarly analysis of issues in the field. 
  2. Graduates will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the theories and methods that structure the study of theology and religion. 
  3. Graduates will be able to demonstrate a proficiency in formulating original, normative theological arguments on topics related to theology and health care ethics.
  4. Graduates will be able to demonstrate the ability to conceptualize, develop and bring to successful completion an original, sustained and coherent independent research project that contributes to the field (i.e. the dissertation).
  5. Graduates will be able to demonstrate an ability to generate appropriate job search materials (i.e. curriculum vitae, teaching portfolio, writing sample, etc.).
Health Care Ethics Courses
HCE 6010Methods in Philosophical Ethic3
HCE 6020Methods in Religious Ethics3
HCE 6040Interdisciplinary Research in Health Care Ethics3
HCE 6070Foundations of Catholic Morality3
or THEO 5620 Forming of Christian Conscience
HCE 6110Intro-Medicine for Ethicists1
HCE 6120Bioethics and the Law2
HCE 6130Clinical Ethics3
HCE 6140Research Ethics3
HCE 6150Practicum, Health Care Ethics3
HCE 6310Health Care Ethics: Catholic Tradition3
Theological Studies Courses
Courses chosen in consultation with faculty
Historical Theology Courses9
Constructive Theology Courses9
Theology Graduate Elective3
Dissertation Research
HCE 6990Dissertation Research6
THEO 6990Dissertation Research6
Total Credits60

Non-Course Requirements

  • Research Tools Requirements (Statistics and Study Design, Library Research Skills, Medical Terminology).
  • Reading comprehension of French or German (or another language with approval of faculty). 
  • Written and oral comprehensive exams.

Continuation Standards

Students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 in all graduate/professional courses.


Roadmaps are recommended semester-by-semester plans of study for programs and assume full-time enrollment unless otherwise noted.  

Courses and milestones designated as critical (marked with !) must be completed in the semester listed to ensure a timely graduation. Transfer credit may change the roadmap.

This roadmap should not be used in the place of regular academic advising appointments. All students are encouraged to meet with their advisor/mentor each semester. Requirements, course availability and sequencing are subject to change.

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
HCE 6040 Interdisciplinary Research in Health Care Ethics 1 3
HCE 6070 Foundations of Catholic Morality 3
HCE 6110 Intro-Medicine for Ethicists 2 1
Library Database Skills 3  
HCE 6130 Clinical Ethics 3
LAW 8005 Bioethics and the Law 2
HCE 6150 Practicum, Health Care Ethics 4 1
THEO 6XXXTheology Elective (Historical) 3
Year Two
HCE 6010 Methods in Philosophical Ethics 3
HCE 6020 Methods in Religious Ethics 3
HCE 6150 Practicum, Health Care Ethics 1
HCE 6310 Health Care Ethics: Catholic Tradition 3
HCE 6140 Research Ethics 3
HCE 6150 Practicum, Health Care Ethics 1
THEO 6XXXTheology Elective (Constructive) 4 3
THEO 6XXXTheology Elective (Historical) 4 3
Year Three
THEO 6XXXTheology Elective (Constructive) 4 6
THEO 6XXXTheology Elective (Historical) 4 3
HCE 6990 Dissertation Research 6
THEO 6XXXTheology Elective 4 3
Year Four
Comprehensive Exams 5  
THEO 6990 Dissertation Research 6
HCE 6990 Dissertation Research 0
Year Five
HCE 6990 Dissertation Research 0
HCE 6990 Dissertation Research 0
 Total Credits60

Take the Consuming Empirical Literature exam the first day of class. 


Take the Medical Terminology exam the first day of class.


An introduction to graduate-level database and library search skills, taught by library faculty.


Elective must be approved by theology/HCE joint faculty.  


Written exam and oral exam.

Program Notes

Joint Ph.D. students are also required to demonstrate reading comprehension of French, German or another language with the consent of joint program faculty.  This can be satisfied by previous coursework, an exam or by taking additional graduate-level language courses. 

For additional information about our program, please contact

Erica Salter, Ph.D.
Graduate Program Coordinator, Health Care Ethics