Advanced Certificate in Public Health Disaster Science, Policy and Practice

The Advanced Certificate in Public Health Disaster Science, Policy and Practice offers online and in-person options for students in good-standing who are interested in a multi-disciplinary approach to the scholarship, policies, and practices associated with preventing, preparing for, responding to, and recovering from public health disasters and complex emergencies. The Certificate requires a minimum of five courses and 15 credits. 

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the Advanced Certificate in Disaster Science, Policy, and Practice, students will be able to:

1. Develop leadership and management decision-making skills for public health and healthcare incident management
2. Develop communication and coordination skills for engaging the public and optimizing a public health emergency preparedness and response system
3. Refine disaster research skills for evaluating emergency systems, assessing the impacts of disasters on vulnerable populations, and designing interventions that enhance preparedness, response, and recovery
4. Use systems thinking to design or critically analyze response and recovery systems, including agent-based modeling techniques

You Will Learn

  • The organizational aspects of public health preparedness
  • A practical understanding of threats, risks, and hazards 
  • The complex systems that constitute public health emergency response systems
  • Methodological challenges to evaluating individual and system readiness, and to researching the factors associated with community, institutional, and individual resilience
  • The evolving standards of professional public health practice for preparedness and response

Who Should Enroll?

The Advanced Certificate in Public Health Disaster Science, Policy and Practice is open to all professionals in public health or related disciplines as a stand-alone certificate. Current NYU students can also complete the certificate in conjunction with the NYU Master of Public Health. 

This certificate provides two paths for students: one for public health practice, and the other for the evolving field of disaster science. The program will be of particular interest to students seeking to enhance their training by gaining additional analytic tools for public health policy making, disaster research, and emergency management in public health and healthcare settings; to mid-career professionals in public health and related fields such as nursing, medicine, or public administration; and to students seeking preparation for further study in doctoral programs of public health, social and behavioral sciences, or public administration.

Students enrolled in the NYU MPH program in Community Health Science and Practice, Environmental Public Health, Epidemiology, Global Health, Public Health Nutrition, Public Health Policy & Management, Social and Behavioral Sciences and Sustainable Development Goals are eligible for this certificate. Upon completion of the MPH and the certificate, students should have a total of 52 credits. The certificate is 15 credits, but only 3 certificate courses (9 credits) may be double-counted with the MPH (46 credits, which includes 9 double-counted credits, plus 6 additional credits).

International Students who pursue the certificate with the MPH are not allowed to receive a Program Extension as the certificate is not required to complete the MPH program. Therefore, they must complete the certificate by the time they graduate from their MPH.


2 or 3 courses (6 credits)
3 courses (9 credits)

* this course is offered online.
** ** Epidemiology, GPH-GU 2106/5106, or it's equivalent, is a prerequisite for this course.

This Certificate offers incredible flexibility. Some students will prefer to complete a number of courses online, while others will appreciate the classroom setting. Both options offer intensive, high-level engagement with our faculty. Students will benefit from unique features including a focus on the global aspects of public health emergency preparedness — with intensive, short term courses offered at NYU global academic centers such as NYU Tel Aviv and NYU Florence — and an emphasis on cutting edge methods such as agent-based modeling. The faculty have extensive portfolios of public health disaster research, and students are encouraged to engage in research projects and publishing. Plus, faculty have close relationships with public health disaster practitioners at the federal, state, and local levels — and students will have ample networking opportunities for internships and possible future employment.
- Robyn Gershon, MHS, DrPH, Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology, Certificate Co-Director

How Do I Apply?

The processes for applying to the certificate differ for current NYU MPH students and non-NYU students.  Current NYU MPH students should fill out an online application found here.

Non-NYU students should apply online through SOPHAS Express, the common application for schools and programs of public health. In order to be eligible for the certificate, you must hold the following:

  • Bachelor's degree or US equivalent from an accredited institution

  • Minimum 2.75 cumulative undergraduate GPA

To apply, you must submit your application as well as the following materials:

  • Scanned copies of transcripts for all post-secondary education completed, regardless of whether a degree was awarded

  • Resume or CV

  • Personal statement of no longer than 1200 words expressing a rationale for pursuing the certificate

  • 1 letter of support from either a professional or academic reference

The certificate program is offered during the fall, spring, and summer terms and follows the NYU academic calendar.

Please email the certificate Co-Directors with any questions at or

Financial Aid

You may be eligible for federal financial aid and/or private educational loans to pursue the certificate program. Learn more about your options for aid from GPH’s Office of Financial Aid.


David Abramson

Dr. David Abramson is a Clinical Associate Professor at NYU’s School of Global Public Health and the director of the research program on Population Impact, Recovery and Resilience (PiR2).  His research employs a social ecological framework to examine the health consequences of disasters, individual and community resilience, and long-term recovery from acute collective stressors. His work has focused on population health consequences, interactions of complex systems, and risk communication strategies associated with hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the Joplin tornado, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, H1N1, and Zika, among other natural, technological, and man-made disasters.  Before joining NYU’s faculty, Dr. Abramson was the Deputy Director at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness at the Earth Institute.

In 2005 Dr. Abramson launched the Gulf Coast Child and Family Health study, an ongoing longitudinal cohort study of over 1,000 randomly sampled Katrina survivors in Louisiana and Mississippi, which is presently a core research project in the NIH-funded Katrina@10 Program (P01HD082032, NICHD).  After Superstorm Sandy he partnered with colleagues at Rutgers University, Columbia University, and the University of Colorado to conduct the Sandy Child and Family Health study, an observational cohort study modeled on the Katrina study. More recently, he was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to study the risk salience of an evolving threat, the Zika virus, among the US population in general and among women of child-bearing age.  In addition, Dr. Abramson serves on two National Academies of Medicine panels, the Standing Committee on Medical and Public Health Research During Large-Scale Emergency Events, and the Committee on Evidence-Based Practices for Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Prior to entering the field of public health, Dr. Abramson spent a decade as a national magazine journalist, having worked at or written for such publications as Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside magazines, and was a nationally-certified paramedic.  He has a PhD in sociomedical sciences, with a sub-specialization in political science, and an MPH, both from Columbia University.

Joshua Epstein

Dr. Joshua M. Epstein’s research focuses on modeling complex social, economic, and biological systems using agent-based computational models and nonlinear dynamic systems.

Dr. Epstein has extensive experience in mathematical and computational modeling of biomedical and social dynamics at all scales - from local to national to planetary. He pioneered the technique of agent-based computational modeling and has applied it to problems in social, behavioral, and biomedical science by modeling patterns of infectious diseases (e.g., Ebola, 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, smallpox, HIV), vector-borne diseases (e.g., Zika), urban disaster preparedness, contagious violence, the evolution of norms, economic dynamics, computational reconstruction of the ancient civilization of the Anasazi, and the emergence of social classes, among many other topics. To design evacuation and longer-term adaptation to climate change, he combined computational fluid dynamics (i.e. toxic plume dispersion) with human behavior to create a stunning 3D artificial Los Angeles. In response to Zika and in collaboration with colleagues and the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Dr. Epstein has developed an artificial New York City to be applied to urban health policy challenges. His work has had a profound influence on emerging infectious diseases, bioterrorism, and the nascent field of disaster health, which is being developed under Presidential Directive (I-ISPD-21).

Dr. Epstein is the Director of the Agent-Based Modeling Lab, which works with large-scale epidemic models and cognitively plausible agents in order to produce a transformative synthesis for global public health modeling through the generative social science approach.

He holds multiple appointments within NYU, including affiliated faculty positions at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and the College of Arts and Science. In addition, he is an External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Previously, Dr. Epstein has worked at John Hopkins University, Princeton University, University of Pittsburgh, George Mason University, and the Brookings Institution. He has also  authored and co-authored seminal books, including Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science from the Bottom UpGenerative Social Science: Studies in Agent-Based Computational Modeling; and Agent_Zero: Toward Neurocognitive Foundations for Generative Social Science.

Robyn Gershon

Robyn Gershon, M.T., M.H.S., DrPH, is a Clinical Professor, Department of Epidemiology at New York University, Global Public Health. Prior to this appointment, she served as Professor, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, with a joint appointment at UC Berkeley. Prior to that, she was a Professor at Columbia, School of Public Health, where she was also the Associate Dean for Research and the Director of the Junior Faculty Mentoring Program.

Dr. Gershon is an occupational and environmental heath interdisciplinary educator and research scientist, with a focus on public health disasters. She currently teaches three highly rated on-line courses on disaster preparedness.  She has conducted more than one dozen large-scale disaster studies.  Her work has focused on barriers and facilitators to disaster preparedness– especially with respect to vulnerable populations and essential workers- including the health care and public health workforce.  Dr. Gershon’s research is designed to inform policy and practice, as exemplified by her landmark “World Trade Center Evacuation Study,” which helped lead to the first changes in the New York City high rise business occupancy fire safety codes in more than 30 years.  One of her most recent studies, entitled: “Mass Fatality Preparedness in the US,” was the first national study on the operational capabilities and readiness of the US for the management of mass fatalities. Dr. Gershon is currently working on the Fifth Edition of the leading textbook on public health preparedness: Public Health Management of Disasters, the Practice Guide (APHA Press).  She has published more than 125 peer review articles and three dozen book chapters on her research, with funding by numerous governmental agencies, including NIH, NSF, DOD, NIJ, HUD, CDC, and others.

Erez Hatna

Dr. Erez Hatna works in the fields of geoinformatics, spatial analysis, agent-based modeling, and studies urban dynamics, residential segregation, scaling laws of urban systems, and infectious disease modeling.

Dr. Hatna studies ethnic and economic residential patterns of cities using agent-based computational models of relocating households. The models simulate the formation of residential patterns as an outcome of relocation decisions of households. Dr. Hatna also studies the statistical regularities of urban systems and urban scaling. His research focuses on how the choice of urban boundaries influences the scaling relationships.

At NYU, Dr. Hatna is part of the Agent-based Modeling Lab, which works with large-scale epidemic models and cognitively plausible agents in order to produce a transformative synthesis for global public health modeling. Previously, he has conducted research at Wageningen University, University College London, and Johns Hopkins University.

Alexis Merdjanoff

Dr. Alexis Merdjanoff is a scholar working at the intersection of public health and sociology.  Her work primarily explores how social inequalities shape the impact of disaster on health, recovery, and resilience, particularly for vulnerable populations.  She aims to reveal important contextual factors that can propel affected residents on different paths of post-disaster recovery.  Her current research considers how exposure to traumatic events influences health over the life course. 

As Director of Research for the Population Impact, Recovery and Resilience (PiR2) research program, she is working on several studies, including the longitudinal Katrina@10 Program, and the Sandy Child and Family Health (S-CAFH) Study to answer fundamental questions about improving the health and well-being of populations exposed to disaster.  More recently, she has been working on two Zika virus studies: the Zika Risk Salience Study and the Zika Women’s Panel Study.

Dr. Merdjanoff frequently engages in mixed-methods research, including semi-structured in-depth interviewing, focus groups, and survey analysis. Trained as a sociologist, she believes in a holistic approach to answering questions surrounding health, disaster exposure, and recovery.  Dr. Merdjanoff teaches several public health courses including, “Qualitative & Field Methods in Global Public Health,” and “Global Issues in Social & Behavioral Health.”

William Rom

Professor Rom is a Climate Change specialist in the science, consequences, health impacts and policy aspects of Climate Change.  He has taught this course over a decade in both CGPH and Wagner Graduate School for Public Policy.  He has worked on climate policy as a Senate Staff (for Senator Hillary Clinton) and with the League of Conservation Voters.  He is co-editor of Climate Change and Global Public Health published by Springer.  He directed the NYU Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine for 25 years with emphases on environmental lung disease, tuberculosis/HIV, and  early detection of lung cancer.  He has published over 354 peer review articles, 11 books, and directed over $300M in federal grants.

Rachael Piltch-Loeb

Rachael Piltch-Loeb, PhD MSPH is a post-doctoral fellow with the Emergency Preparedness Research, Evaluation & Practice (EPREP) Program at the Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health and an associate research scientist with the Program on Population, Impact, Recovery, and Resilience at New York University's School of Global Public Health. Rachael's work focuses on improving public health systems' ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies, focusing on the application of social science theory and methods and communication with the public to improve population outcomes. She has expertise in both natural hazards and emerging threats and has worked on projects funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and European Centers for Disease Control. Rachael completed her doctorate in public health at New York University and received her Masters in Public Health from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.