Educating the Next Leaders in Applied HEOR: Jefferson’s Unique Approach

A Video Interview with Program Director, Dr. Vittorio Maio

A sponsored blog by Thomas Jefferson University

Online education for the working professional is experiencing exponential growth. In the field of Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR), there are several paths a student can take for experiential, innovative, and respected graduate education. 

Dr. Patti Peeples, CEO of HealthEconomics.Com, turned to the venerable institution of Jefferson (formed from the 2017 merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University) to discuss their 100% online Applied Health Economics & Outcomes Research graduate program. Jefferson has offered a graduate fellowship in HEOR for 25 years; the online Applied HEOR program has been educating graduate students in the discipline for a decade.. 

In this blog, Dr. Peeples interviews Dr. Vittorio Maio, Jefferson’s AHEOR Program Director and they discuss how his team has devised a curriculum and an online experience that enables working professionals to enhance their career while maintaining their full-time job.

Dr. Peeples:  Graduate level education is almost essential in the HEOR field, whether it is a certificate, master’s degree, fellowship, or PhD. What is unique or special about the Jefferson Applied HEOR graduate program?


Dr. Maio: At Jefferson, we are passionate about HEOR. And we know what we are doing. Since 1994, educating the next generation of HEOR professionals is one of our core missions.

Not only have we been educating students for the past 25 years through our fellowships and later, our in-person and online graduate programs, but we have been active researchers and visionaries in HEOR since the beginning.  Our faculty was highly engaged in the early research essential to the establishment of the discipline of HEOR, real world evidence and the principles of outcomes research.  In fact, Jefferson was a founding member of ISPOR, The Professional Society for Health Economics and Outcomes Research.

We are proud to have the longest running post-doc HEOR fellowship program in the country and, most likely, in the world.  Our fellowship program is primarily sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. This means we have excellent industry relationships, which directly benefit our students. Our fellowship program has more than 50 graduates, and these alumni are in HEOR leadership roles around the country. Many of your readers may have worked with one of our graduates or faculty!

Through this strong relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, we know what they need in terms of HEOR skills and knowledge. As such, we have constructed the curriculum of the AHEOR program to build not only strong applied research skills, but also to develop the next generation of HEOR professionals to take the lead in the healthcare industry. All courses have a practical approach that would provide the students with an immersion in the real-world application of the HEOR principles.



Dr. Peeples: What three words do you associate with the Jefferson Applied HEOR online graduate program and why?

Dr. Maio: Passion.  Reliability.  Mentoring.

Listen to Dr. Maio explain why he chose these three words.

Dr. Peeples: Can you describe the program, degree options, and how it works for a working professional with a full-time job?

Dr. Maio:  The program is designed specifically for full-time working professionals.  Students can choose a graduate certificate or a master’s degree program. Both options are 100% online, therefore it is highly flexible for the student with a full-time job, family, or who travels for work. 

The curriculum is asynchronous, which means that course content is posted online, and students listen to pre-recorded lectures, complete assigned readings, and participate in weekly discussion postings. Students really love the discussion board! Because we have students with diverse backgrounds (i.e. healthcare professionals, industry managers, pharmacists, etc.), they each bring their own perspective to the discussion so that students can learn more from each other.

Courses are each 7-weeks in length; the syllabus is focused and relevant to the real-world. 

It takes about one year to complete the graduate certificate program, and two years for the Master’s of Science degree, without interrupting one’s career. 

Enrollment is in the Fall or Spring of each year.  Students can go full-time (6 courses per year) or part-time (3 courses per year).

Dr. Peeples:  What makes this program applied and real world, and how is it different from similar programs at other universities?

Dr. Maio:  The instructors for our courses are HEOR professionals coming from different segments of industry. As such, our instructors apply a practical flavoring to their teaching, which allows students to understand the real-world application of HEOR principles.

For example, my esteemed colleague Adam Powell is an instructor in our program. Dr. Powell has a PhD in Healthcare Management and Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. As a renowned health economist, Adam has a prominent role in a management advisory and operational consulting firm focused on the managed care and healthcare delivery industries. His expertise gives an opportunity to students to have a real grasp of the impact of HEOR in the decision-making process.

We place a high-value on staying current and addressing the business and policy issues of the day, and we ensure that our instructors have all the tools they need to offer an excellent learning experience.  Here are some of our guiding principles:

  • Content is regularly updated with state-of-the-art knowledge and professional competencies. Our faculty are expert practitioners and undergo 6 months of training in how to teach online.
  • Extensive real-time evaluation and course improvement
  • The online learning offers a highly interactive environment for peer learning and discussion. To this purpose, we keep the size of the class small, no more than 18 students.
  • The MS program includes a culminating capstone activity so that students leave the program knowing how to apply the skills and concepts they have learned.


Dr. Peeples:  What types of students does the program attract?

Dr. Maio:  Our students are very diverse.  Many come from industry, but we also have clinicians (physicians, pharmacists, nurses) and others who work in various healthcare jobs but want to focus more on health economics and outcomes research because the field is growing so rapidly. 

Job titles of students when they enter the program include Medical Science Liaisons, Medical Affairs Operations Management, Scientific Communications Manager, and Clinical Pharmacist. 

When they complete the program, many if not most are poised for job promotions, salary increases, or they’ve set themselves up to move into a new area because of their new skillset.



Another of our former students who is currently an Associate Director in HEOR in a prominent pharmaceutical firm, summarized very well how important our AHEOR program was for his own achievements:



Dr. Peeples:  Tell us about the capstone project, including what is required, and provide some examples of projects pursued by students?

Dr. Maio:  As a culminating experience, a capstone project is meant to prove the AHEOR knowledge and competencies acquired by the student during their coursework. A capstone project is an immersion in the real-world application of the HEOR principles. Students produce high-quality work that could be used for presentation in national/international conferences and for publication.

Students must do an oral presentation of the culminating experience and a written paper.
Capstone projects may include economic assessment of medications or specific types of medical interventions, or modeling to predict the cost-effectiveness of drugs and medical devices. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Jefferson AHEOR program, visit the website.  Would you like to speak directly to someone?  Contact April Smith, Admissions and Recruitment Manager, JCPH.Admissions@jefferson.edu, or Dr. Vittorio Maio, Program Director, Vittorio.Maio@jefferson.edu.

Dr. Maio closes out our interview with an enthusiastic invitation for prospective students to learn more.




Patti Peeples, R.Ph., Ph.D.

Dr. Patti Peeples is a respected health economist, pharmacist, and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in the pharma and healthcare communications industries. She writes. A lot. And she likes to start new things. The author of over 200 publications and creator of two successful business, Dr. Peeples was at the forefront of the health outcomes and market access movement in the United States. She is considered a pioneer in using the internet and digital media for communication and marketing in the health economics field.

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