Clinical Epidemiology

Course Information

The curriculum in Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Medicine for second year medical students at UNC-Chapel Hill is divided into two components.  In the first component, taught as part of the Tools for Diagnosis and Therapy course, students learn to select and interpret diagnostic tests based on rational principles, including Bayesian reasoning. This part of the course has 7.5 student contact-hours, over 3 sessions.

In the second component, taught as a free-standing course, students learn the principles of Evidence-Based Medicine.  Students learn how to: 1) ask a focused clinical question; 2) find evidence from the research literature to answer the question; 3) evaluate the validity, and applicability of original clinically-oriented research articles to answer focused clinical questions; 4) discuss relevant medical data with patients in the context of shared medical decision-making.  The overarching goal of the course is to teach students to be intelligent and critical users of research, not researchers. The course has 25 student contact-hours, over 18 sessions, in the fall of the second year.  Most sessions are taught in small groups of 12 to 14 students per group.  The first six sessions of the course are devoted to fundamentals: incidence and prevalence; random error (p values and confidence intervals); comparing risks, and bias.  The last 12 sessions focus on study designs, from cohort studies and randomized trials to meta-analyses and clinical prediction rules.  For each session, students read a research article designed to answer a case-based clinical question and then evaluate its validity and generalizability.  Because the course emphasizes thinking, not memorization, all examinations are open-book.