Epidemiology

Epidemic MapStudents in this field of study will be affiliated with the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems. Various methods can be used to carry out epidemiological investigations: surveillance and descriptive studies can be used to study distribution; analytical studies are used to study determinants.

What are the Areas of Specialization within this Field of Study?

  • Cancer Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention: this area includes a breadth of courses on cancer research methodology, substantive courses on cancer epidemiology and prevention, as well as courses on genetic epidemiology and biomarkers. The focus is on enhancing the skills and training of cancer epidemiology through the integration of biologic and environmental factors into a deeper understanding of disease etiology and for translation into cancer control.
  • Cardiovascular Epidemiology: this area focuses on determining the etiologies of and effective preventative measures for cardiovascular disease, deepening their understanding of cardiovascular disease determinants and prevention through research synergy, grant success, training and mentoring, and an array of courses in pharmacoepidemiology, women’s health, genetics, biostatistics, policy and risk analysis and environmental epidemiology.
  • Clinical Epidemiology: this area applies the concepts and techniques of epidemiology, statistics, and decision analysis to clinical problems.
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology: this area seeks to investigate and prevent health risks associated with environmental and occupational hazards by conducting original research, with emphasis in biomedical aspects of disease and injury, human studies, and molecular epidemiology.
  • Epidemiologic Methods: this area focuses on providing training in the development and application of new methods in epidemiologic research, as well as study design, and data analysis.
  • Epidemiology of Aging: this area focuses on the epidemiologic aspects of the study of aging and research methods, including diseases most common in older person, such as neurodegeneration.
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology: this area focuses on the appearance of new infectious diseases and resurgence of old ones, often in new and drug-resistant forms. This area provides cross-training in classical epidemiology, and approaches such as mathematical modeling, behavioral science, pathogen evolution and genomics.
  • Nutritional Epidemiology: this area focuses on methods of nutritional assessment and their related strengths and weaknesses. Research in this area includes the examination of dietary factors in relation to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases; a study of the interactions between nutritional and genetic determinants of disease; and the assessment of nutritional supplementation in relation to infectious agents and malnutrition.
  • Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics: this area focuses on the genetic dissection of complex human diseases, with special emphasis to deciphering the molecular mechanisms underlying cancer to improve capacities for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and treatment, as well as prevention.
  • Pharmacoepidemiology: this area focuses on the determinants of both unintended and expected effect of drugs, vaccines, biologics, medical procedures, and medical devices. Studying the patterns of utilization, cost-benefit and risk-benefit analyses, and investigation of the distribution of diseases possibly amenable to medical intervention represent important secondary themes.
  • Neuro-Psychiatric Epidemiology:
    • Neuroepidemiology: this area provides training in research methodology and the epidemiology of neurological diseases. Research in this area focuses on the roles of diet, infections, and environmental exposures in the etiology of neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and integrates biomarkers and genetic factors.
    • Psychiatric Epidemiology: this area focuses on concept and methods for studying the genetic and psychosocial factors that relate to the prevalence incidence, and outcome of different types of psychiatric illness. This area emphasizes issues of reliability and validity in studying such disorders among children, adolescents and adults.
  • Reproductive, Perinatal and Pediatric Epidemiology:
    • Reproductive: this area focuses on pubertal development, gynecologic disorders, female reproductive cancers, sexually transmitted infections, menstruation, menopause, female and male fertility, and assisted reproductive technologies.
    • Perinatal: this area focuses on pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, as well as pregnancy outcomes such as labor and delivery, preterm birth and birth defects.
    • Pediatric: this area focuses on disorders and diseases in childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood, including eating disorders, obesity, asthma, allergies, migraine, and depression.

What research competencies and skills will students develop?

  • Demonstrate basic skills in core public health sciences of epidemiology and biostatistics.
  • Develop comprehensive knowledge of the role of epidemiology as a basic science for public health and clinical medicine to provide a quantitative approach to addressing public health and clinical problems.
  • Interpret descriptive epidemiologic results in order to develop hypotheses of possible risk factors for a disease.
  • Critically evaluate public health and medical literature through knowledge gained of the basic principles and methods of epidemiology, including disease (outcome) measures, measures of association, study design options, bias, confounding, and effect measure modification.
  • Develop a foundation for designing valid and efficient protocols to address public health and clinical problems.
  • Apply quantitative skills to analyze and synthesize epidemiologic data related to public health issues.
  • Apply knowledge of the physiology and pathophysiology of human disease to epidemiologic studies.
  • Apply knowledge of classical and modern epidemiologic methods to study design.
  • Develop the skills to interpret the methods for disease screening.
  • Develop substantive knowledge of the epidemiology of infectious and chronic disease and apply this knowledge to public health issues.
  • Design and present an epidemiologic investigation (Dissertation) resulting in a publishable manuscript or grant application.

Who are the faculty in the department associated with this Field of Study?

Information on the faculty in the Department of Epidemiology.

What are the required courses in this field of study?

Required courses in the Epidemiology Field of Study

Who is the departmental contact from whom more information about doctoral training in this Field of Study may be sought?

Eric DiGiovanni – Epidemiology, Kresge 904, 677 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115

More information on the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Photo credit: Doug Belshaw