Clinical Epidemiology

A course in Clinical Epidemiology for second-year medical students at UNC-Chapel Hill was first developed in the 1980s by Robert and Suzanne Fletcher, affiliated with the Department of Social Medicine and the School of Public Health. The course was intended to give students the opportunity to learn concepts from epidemiology, population health, and prevention in contexts of clinical application. Over the years, the course has been directed by various faculty members in Social Medicine, and was substantially redesigned by Jeffrey Sonis in the last decade. It is taught in small groups by a multidisciplinary faculty drawn from the School of Medicine.

The present curriculum for this course has two components. In the first component, students learn to select and interpret diagnostic tests based on rational principles, including Bayesian reasoning. In the second component, students learn 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 30 student contact-hours, over 13 sessions, in the fall of the second year.

The course is currently taught entirely in Team-Based Learning Format, an educational approach that emphasizes development and application of skills in small student-led teams. Because the course emphasizes thinking, not memorization, all examinations are open-book. Like other courses taught in the Department of Social Medicine, the Clinical Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Medicine course teaches students the inherent uncertainties in clinical medicine and clinical research and the value of critical reflection.

In Fall 2013, Course Director responsibilities for Clinical Epidemiology will be assumed by Millie Long from the Department of Medicine. Previous course directors (in addition to Drs Sonis, Fletcher, and Fletcher) include Desmond Runyan, Tim Carey, Laura Sadowski, Russ Harris, and Alan Cross.

Faculty in Clinical Epidemiology (2008-2013) »