Classroom Experience: Fundementals of Epidemiology
TLC members and guests are invited to sit in on the first hour of a fundamentals of epidemiology class taught by professor Julie Buring. The classroom session will focus on the main priciples of desigining and conducting a randomized clinical trial. A number of clinical trials that are ongoing in our community will be used as examples, including those evaluating the prevention of heart disease and cancer in healthy people with the use of vitamin supplements.
Julie Buring, SD’83
Professor of Epidemiolgoy, HSPH; Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School
Virus Hunting: New Frontiers in the Battle to Stop the Next Global Pandemic
Biologist and renowned “virus hunter” Nathan Wolfe has described this as “the most exciting time in history” for the study of unknown life forms, most of them bacteria and viruses, on our planet. We know almost nothing about the unthinkably large numbers of microscopic life forms that inhabit this planet, yet the stakes could hardly be higher. New viruses, which might in the past have gone extinct before infecting many humans, are now able to travel rapidly to urban areas and take advantage of global transportation systems to reach every corner of the earth. The specter of global pandemics is now very real. Fortunately, we also have new tools that allow us to explore these complex and dangerous life forms and understand them as never before. Dr. Wolfe will explore the nature of the challenge facing scientists who seek ways to prevent future pandemics. He will also describe new methods, collaborations, and frontiers for discovery opening in virology and genetics—including uncharted territory within our own cells known as biological “dark matter”—and the work of his own research group in viral forecasting and efforts to control recently emerged viral pathogens.
Nathan Wolfe, AM ’97, SD ’99
Lorry I. Lokey Visiting Professor in Human Biology at Stanford University, founder and CEO of Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, and author of the book The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age
Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the Future of Medicine
“Juan Enriquez will change your view of change itself.” That’s what Nicholas Negroponte has said about Juan Enriquez, Managing Director, Excel Venture Management, co-author of the book Homo Evolutis, and former founding director of Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project. Mr. Enriquez, a broad thinker whose vast range of accomplishments spans helping to negotiate a cease-fire with Mexico’s Zapatista rebels to collecting genetic data from the world’s oceans, is a visionary in the field of human evolution. He’ll bring his perspectives on the intersection of science, business, and society to explore how extraordinary discoveries and new technologies are fundamentally changing what we can do to the human body. The talk will provide an overview of the most important trends and changes driven by life science and review some of the obstacles to implementing them.
Juan Enriquez, AB ’81, MBA ’86
Managing Director, Excel Venture Management, former founding director of Harvard Business School Life Sciences Project, and co-author of the book Homo Evolutis
Revolutionizing Health Science and Technology: From the Genes to the Globe
Sustainable solutions to today’s big health challenges call for strategies that combine biomedical research, social science, public policy, business, and innovative approaches to teaching current and future leaders. This goes beyond the traditional notion of the “interdisciplinary approach” to what we call “the genes to the globe”—an approach that integrates not only related disciplines, but also such diverse perspectives as genetics and economics or biostatistics and political communications to tackle highly complex problems. Exploring examples such as malaria and breast cancer, Drs. Dyann Wirth and David Hunter will describe revolutionary developments in how the School approaches large-scale problems and educates students and public health leaders to achieve lasting impact. They will also discuss HSPH’s unique ability to bring such a broad range of expertise to bear on health issues and consider the School’s role in confronting critical health challenges on a national and global scale.
Dyann F. Wirth, PhD
Richard Pearson Strong Professor of Infectious Diseases and Chair, Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, HSPH
David J. Hunter, MPH ’85, SD ’88
Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention and Dean for Academic Affairs, HSPH
AGING: Confronting a Demographic Sea Change
Within the next five years, Americans age of 65 and older will outnumber those under the age of 5 for the first time. By 2030, nearly 20% of the U.S. population will be over the age of 65, and these older Americans will be a more diverse group—both racially and economically—than ever before. Who will stay sharp and engaged as a 90-year-old? Who will suffer from depression? Who will develop Alzheimer’s? Who stands the best chance of benefitting from an experimental new therapy? These are just a few of the questions confronted by individuals, researchers, and entire societies as we confront demographic shift of historic proportions. Dr. Rebecca Betensky, Director of Statistics for the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center, will discuss some of the unique challenges researchers face in the study of neurological diseases—particularly Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke—and some novel ways of overcoming these challenges. Social epidemiologist Dr. Lisa Berkman, Director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, will share insights into how social factors influence health and policy responses that can help improve the lives of older and younger generation alike.
Rebecca Betensky, PhD
Professor of Biostatistics, HSPH
Lisa Berkman, PhD
Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology, HSPH and Director, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies
CANCER: What Have We Learned and Where Do We Go from Here?
Declining death rates from cancer among Americans since the early 1990s clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of investment in cancer research and prevention programs. However, cancer remains a leading killer in the U.S. and around the world, particularly in developing countries whose burden of cancer is expected to more than triple in the next few decades. At the same time, the number of cancer survivors has grown considerably, and in the U.S. alone there are 13 million cancer survivors today. For these individuals and their families, there is an urgent need for evidence-based advice on what lifestyle factors they can engage in to improve cancer-specific survival, quality of life, and overall health. Many questions remain: What interventions work to improve cancer survival and quality of life? Where should our research efforts focus? Dr. Lorelei Mucci, who co-leads a number of major international studies of prostate cancer as well as a large-scale study of cancer among 300,000 Scandinavian twins, will share findings on the inherited aspects of cancers in families and the effects of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors—from coffee consumption to regular exercise—on cancer survival and global health among cancer patients. Dr. Karen Emmons will explore the topic from her perspective as a leading expert in behavior change, community-based approaches to cancer prevention and control, and policy interventions to improve cancer risk, particularly in low-income communities.
Lorelei Mucci, SD ’03
Associate Professor of Epidemiology, HSPH
Karen Emmons, PhD
Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health, HSPH
OBESITY: Can Research Outrun the Epidemic?
In the United States, two in three adults are overweight or obese and fewer than half get enough exercise. Among young people, one in three is overweight or obese. Obesity and lack of physical activity are critical problems facing not just the wealthiest nations, but increasingly low- and middle-income countries as well. What are the implications of this massive epidemic? In economic terms, obesity in America now accounts for as much as 21% of all medical spending—$190 billion in 2005—according to one widely-cited report. And in human terms the cost—measured in increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, and many cancers—is incalculable. For nearly a decade Drs. Gokhan Hotamisligil and Eric Rimm have been working together at the intersection of nutrition, genetics, and human epidemiology. They will share some of the remarkable discoveries they have made, including fundamental insights into the roles played by inflammation, nutrition, and the immune system, in their efforts to generate new ways of preventing and treating obesity and the deadly diseases it causes.
Gökhan S. Hotamisligil, MD, PhD
J.S. Simmons Professor of Genetics and Metabolism and Chair, Department of Genetics and Complex Diseases, HSPH
Eric Rimm, SD ’91
Associate Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, HSPH