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Clinical Epidemiology

What is Clinical Epidemiology?

When John R. Paul coined the term "clinical epidemiology" in 1938, he defined it as "a marriage between quantitative concepts used by epidemiologists to study disease in populations and decision-making in the individual case which is the daily fare of clinical medicine."1

Whereas classic or "field" epidemiology is focused on evaluating the distribution and determinants of disease at the population level, clinical epidemiology brings epidemiologic principles into the clinical setting to explore patterns, causes, and effects of health and disease a the patient level. The goals of clinical epidemiology are to inform clinical decision-making and improve patient outcomes. Clinical epidemiology is the cornerstone of evidence-based medicine.

Clinical epidemiology encompasses a broad area of investigation including;

  • disease screening and prevention;
  • identification of risk and protective factors for disease;
  • development of risk and prediction tools, and patient decision aids;
  • comparative effectiveness research of treatments;
  • implementation of research findings and guidelines into the clinical setting.

Geriatric clinical epidemiology provides specific tools for understanding differences and overcoming challenges inherent to the conduct of research evaluating health and disease in older adults. Training in geriatric clinical epidemiology, such as in our Training Program, equips clinician and non-clinician investigators with specialized tools to engage in clinical research on topics such as the multifactorial etiology of geriatric conditions, multiple chronic conditions, polypharmacy, and a focus on function and quality of life in addition to traditionally recognized clinical outcomes.

Why do we include "and Aging-related Research" in the title of our Training Program?

While the focus of our Training Program is on geriatric clinical epidemiology, we welcome investigators from across the translational spectrum whose research focuses on aging. Several graduates of our Training Program have focused on basic research into the mechanisms of aging-related conditions. The richness of our Training Program comes in part from the diversity of experiences, interests, and expertise brought by our trainees. These different perspectives help to develop a better understanding of aging research across the translational spectrum for all.

1) Last JM. "What is "Clinical Epidemiology"? J Public Health Policy. 1988;9(2):159-163. doi:10.2307/3343001.