Program Objectives

Upon completing the Doctoral Program in Epidemiology, graduates will be prepared to develop an independent research portfolio in academia, research or industry. Our goal is to train critical thinkers prepared to make fundamental advances using rigorous methods and cutting-edge approaches to data analysis. Graduates will be able to contribute across a wide spectrum of content areas and research foci. Skills developed through doctoral training will include: 

Critical review. Students will be able to critically read and synthesize published literature, assess appropriateness of study design and analytic approaches, and recommend and describe additional, feasible approaches. They will compile supporting information, provide historical context and biological plausibility, and work from analogy across related fields. They will describe and defend the rationale for novel research questions or methodologic applications.

Study design. Students will be skilled at conceptualizing and specifying a structured research problem, including developing viable alternatives that advance understanding of the problem and address gaps in knowledge. Students will describe traditional and emerging research designs, compare and contrast strengths and weaknesses, and describe key aspects of “real world” implementation. They will understand the advantages and limitations of each design, including practical aspects of their use.

Study execution. Students will be able to write a study protocol, know how to recruit subjects, develop study instruments, and collect and manage or supervise the collection and management of data. They will be proficient in data security, management, and quality control and documentation methods. They will be able to design and implement sampling strategies and create randomization schedules.

Measurement. Students will apply standard epidemiologic calculations to the measurement of behaviors, conditions and exposures. They should be able to produce the descriptive epidemiology of a given condition, including case definition, calculation of primary measures of disease morbidity and mortality, and appropriate comparisons by person, place and time.

Analysis. Students will use actual research data to conduct analyses that use: dichotomous and multi-level outcomes, time-to-event data, repeated measures data, diagnostic or screening test data, highly correlated data, and case-only data. They will explain the proper interpretation of results and the limitations of the methods employed. They will know when and how to examine effects for presence of confounding and effect measure modification, identify their presence, and manage them appropriately. They will conduct analysis of diagnostic and screening test characteristics, sensitivity analyses and limitations, and assumptions of alternative methods for assessing model fit.

Substantive knowledge. Students will complete course work or obtain adequate experience to develop a working substantive knowledge of clinical issues relevant to their dissertation and anticipated content focus. A clinical certificate program is being finalized for Ph.D. candidates to obtain focused training in physiology and pathology, and to gain exposure in clinical care pathways that relate to the content of their research.

Proposal development. Students will understand and have experience developing federal grants. This will include development of concise and compelling background sections, specification of the research hypothesis, identification of the appropriate study population, description of measurement tools, analysis strategies, human subjects concerns, and budgeting.

Reporting and communications. Students will be able to report their research clearly and concisely in multiple formats, including abstracts, posters, and manuscripts suitable for publication in epidemiologic and medical journals. This includes submitting the results of the doctoral dissertation for publication.

Professional Preparation. Students will understand core topics in multidisciplinary scientific team leadership, research management, and practical aspects of career development.

 

Feel free to contact epi.phd@vanderbilt.edu with any questions.