Epidemiology is a discipline that examines how frequently disease or health occurs in certain population groups and the reasons for the higher and lower frequencies of disease or health. Epidemiology originally started with studying infectious or communicable diseases, but a major expansion in the field incorporated the study of non-infectious (chronic) diseases and health care delivery issues. In the past, epidemiology played a major role in improving the health status of populations through major studies on smoking, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Today, epidemiology uses gene and other clinical information to test targeted treatment strategies on the basis of molecular and clinical characteristics (personalized medicine). Epidemiologists play a vital role in identifying the causes of diseases, advancing new epidemiologic methods, identifying effective public health interventions and in providing data needed for setting priorities in the field of public health.
This Department formally recognizes the close nexus between epidemiology, quantitative methods and computing. The goals of the Department are to provide students with epidemiological and computing skills that will allow them to undertake meaningful research in the public health sector. Specifically, graduates of the Department should be able to assist in or lead studies that describe the distribution of disease in time and place, identify determinants of disease and perform quantitative evaluation of intervention programs.
In addition to encouraging curiosity, clear thinking and active learning, Department courses provide students with a thorough familiarity with the logic and use of epidemiologic methods in public health research and practice. Department faculty discourages rote learning and emphasize critical thinking, computer literacy and hands-on experience with data analysis and interpretation. This is especially true for the fieldwork experience, but also characterizes the department approach to other courses. The Department encourages students from other disciplines to take elective coursework in epidemiology. Our aim is to support the other departments by increasing students' understanding of how new public health information is developed, how to critique it, and how to interpret its reliability and significance.