Monday, February 14, 2011

Biomedical research to advance human heath


Recent articles call for speeding the translation from discovery and documentation of the human genome and application to clinical medicine and public health. In addition in the New England Journal of Medicine, Moses and Martin 1 identify gaps and opportunities for biomedical research. They note the need for greater collaboration and new models of collaboration in academic medicine (see article). We are pursuing new strategies for transdisciplinary science in teaching and research at Washington University in St Louis (see the Institute for Public Health).

They also note the need for cost-effective targets and new incentives for researchers to focus on diseases that are common. Years ago I wrote on the absence of training in emergency medicine and the common ailments that physicians encounter on a daily basis. Seems to me that not much has changed in our approach to training physicians who can meet the needs of the communities they serve 2.

Finally, they emphasize the need for improved data on clinical value of interventions. They call for physicians and surgeons to commit to a new level of objectivity in judging the clinical value of interventions 1

At Washington University School of Medicine the Department of Surgery has created a Division of Public Health Sciences to integrate these quantitative disciplines into the full spectrum of research and training in the department – from bench, to bedside, to community.  The Division Provides a platform for investigators from multiple disciplines to collaborate on innovative projects, it supports an exceptional academic base through education, training and mentoring of students, fellows and faculty and aims to improve the health and wellbeing of people and communities in the St. Louis region and beyond.

The Division of Public Health Sciences is also home to the new Master of Population Health Sciences (MPHS) degree at Washington University that aims to equip clinicians and others with clinical doctorates with the advanced population health research expertise that is necessary for successful careers as independent clinician-researchers. The goal of the MPHS program is to ensure students can transfer and apply the sophisticated population health research methods skills learned in the program throughout their careers. This goal is accomplished in several ways, including:
  • Required quantitative courses – The MPHS program has a unique depth of required quantitative methods courses. The quantitative curriculum emphasizes the role of epidemiology and biostatistics in approaching clinical effectiveness and outcomes research.
  •  Applied coursework – The MPHS does not require a research thesis/capstone. Instead, the program makes innovative use of applied coursework to focus on the long-term application of skills. Using topics relevant to their careers and interests, the applied coursework allows MPHS students to practice the art of developing research study protocols, performing systematic reviews, designing epidemiologic studies and more. By developing these skills across a thematic research area of interest, students are well positioned to apply this knowledge to future studies as their careers advance.
  • Focused concentrations – Three concentration options (Clinical Epidemiology, Health Services and Quantitative Methods) allow students to further hone their population health research skills to match clinical interests.


Literature Cited



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