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Populations & Methods

The application of epidemiology and biostatistics to public health.

Course Director

Course Description


Populations & Methods introduces students to issues, evidence, and techniques of importance to the health of populations. It is a course specifically for physicians in training: each topic is selected based on its importance to both public health and medicine. The course explores the social consequences of biological disorders (cancers, disabilities, substance use, obesity, infectious disease transmission, mental health) and the health consequences of social challenges (environmental hazards, firearms, incarceration, migration, maternal and child health, human rights violations, and climate change). The important role of physicians in addressing social disparities in health and of assuring health equity for patients is emphasized throughout the course.

In Populations & Methods there is a focus on developing analytic skills and critical thinking. Epidemiology and biostatistics topics examine screening and diagnostic testing, evaluate observational and experimental research study designs, assess absolute and relative risks for disease, quantify temporal risk using survival analysis, explore causation, model the spread of infectious diseases, and quantify the financial costs and benefits of health-related interventions. Our concentration on methodology makes the public health topics more rigorous, and our attention to public health makes the methodological tools more relevant. All case studies used in the workshops integrate the public health subject matter with these quantitative methods.


The course begins in the middle of YR1 and covers forty-two 50-minute sessions, including lectures, workshops, and labs for developing biostatistics software skills. All students lead a discussion of a peer-reviewed journal article.



  • Students receive formative written feedback from their faculty leader.


  • Combined score from mid-course and end-of-course qualifiers.

Learning Objectives

  • Apply the principles of public health, epidemiology, and biostatistics in the evaluation of interventions designed to prevent disease and improve health.
  • Explore epidemiologic approaches to study design, risk assessment, disease screening, and causation.
  • Understand, explain, and use basic biostatistical approaches to the analysis of clinical and public health data.
  • Assess the methodological strengths and weaknesses of research articles published in the professional biomedical literature.
  • Discuss the public health implications of research articles within the range of topics explored in the course.
  • Describe critical issues involved in the leading public health challenges facing American medicine.