Clinical Epidemiology Research Center (CERC)

The Clinical Epidemiology Research Center (CERC), as part of the Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center (CSPCC) in West Haven, CT, has three main objectives:

  • To serve as a center-of-excellence for epidemiological research within the Veterans Health Administration, by a) conducting high quality studies that are relevant to the health and health care of veterans, and b) maintaining a rapid response capability to investigate future issues and problems as they arise.
  • To conduct methodological research that improves the standards of research design and data analysis in epidemiological studies.
  • To create an educational environment in support of collaborative epidemiological research, including training in methods of research design, biostatistics, and data processing; as well as to provide experience working with administrative databases and electronic medical records as sources of data for research.

The first objective of producing pertinent epidemiological research is addressed by coordinating a talented staff of epidemiologists, statisticians, and other personnel to develop and conduct corresponding projects. The CERC is intended to be "far reaching" in terms of its benefits to investigators at West Haven and beyond, including various (VA and non-VA) institutions and cutting across categories of specialty training. The main focus of the corresponding projects, and the "theme" of the Center, will involve issues of diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy for common, chronic conditions affecting veterans, including both physical and mental health. In addition, the center will provide expertise in other (and currently unanticipated) fields of inquiry, including a rapid response capability that can respond to medical and mental health issues arising in the Veterans Health Administration, and a basis for comparing health care delivered in VA and non-VA settings.

The objective of conducting methodological research has both internal and external activities. The internal activities involve a continuation of local efforts to examine the strengths and limitations of observational research design and statistical analyses. The corresponding external activities in this context involve information dissemination via publications, reports, and VA web-site updates for researchers, as well as technical assistance and consultation capacity for VA-based investigators—within a feasible scope in terms of availability, and on a first-come, first-served basis.

The third objective of promoting a strong educational environment involves further development of recent activities that already provide a comprehensive range of training opportunities at West Haven. These options include: a) for faculty " mentoring for Career Development Awards (from all branches of VA research); b) for fellows — a research-intensive Ambulatory Care Fellowship program (via the Office of Academic Affiliations); and c) for trainees at any level — smaller–scale training options (such as a summer course in epidemiology and statistics offered by the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University). Other educational options are linked with ongoing CSPCC activities, such as providing "hands on" experience with administrative databases and electronic medical records.

The overarching goal of the West Haven CERC is to develop an intellectually vibrant academically productive unit—conducting cutting-edge multidisciplinary research, providing opportunities for comprehensive training, and obtaining leveraged funding to support Center activities. The Clinical Epidemiology Research Center joins the existing infrastructure focusing on cooperative clinical trials to create a comprehensive Cooperative Studies Program Coordinating Center with the capacity to conduct a broad range of patient-oriented clinical research.