Epidemiology has undergone exciting transformations, as reflected by the new popular terminology “Integrative Epidemiology,” a definition that describes the cohesive, interdisciplinary, collaborative, and multilevel nature of the discipline.
The mission of the Institute for Translational Epidemiology at the Icahn School of Medicine is to develop and facilitate highly collaborative translational and interdisciplinary research integrating population studies, genomic and proteomic research, with the ultimate purpose of spearheading changes in clinical practice and improving the treatment of disease and patient quality of life.
Epidemiologic research has increasingly become an interdisciplinary, comprehensive entity, incorporating the tools and approaches from molecular biology, genetics and pathology, into interactions with clinical departments, basic science programs, community stakeholders, and disparity experts. Epidemiologists are now poised to integrate genetic and genomic data with social and environmental factors and large clinical databases to predict individual disease risk, response to treatment, and prognosis.
We are committed to expanding the role of epidemiology in clinical research, and the presence of several world-class clinical and research programs makes ISMMS an ideal setting to establish a strong epidemiology research program to complement existing clinical and preventive activities. Our new concentration areas will build on existing clinical and research strengths in Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Mental Health, Occupational Epidemiology, Epidemiologic Methods, Life Course Epidemiology, and Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology. Training, education, and health inequalities will be part of the research portfolio.
Epidemiologic research has successfully identified the main lifestyle and environmental risk factors associated with chronic diseases. One important finding of epidemiologic research on chronic diseases is that many features are shared between different types of diseases. Risk factors such as tobacco use, obesity, and environmental pollutants contribute to the etiology of different groups of chronic diseases. But the main tools of epidemiologic research, such as prospective cohort studies, are also ideally suited to study several chronic outcomes in parallel. A major challenge of epidemiologic research rests in the elucidation of the separate and combined effects of genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle risk factors of chronic diseases and outcome determinants.
In recent years, the emphasis in epidemiologic research has shifted from etiologic to outcome research. With the introduction of novel, ground-breaking therapeutic approaches, based on recent discoveries in immunology and genetics, researchers are now well positioned to study the effect of these therapies on long-term survival and quality of life. It is also important to assess if appropriate treatment is equally administered to all the patients in need for such treatment, or if the same racial/ethnic disparities observed in disease prevention and early detection persist in disease treatment. In this way, epidemiologic research is addressing the growing interest in racial/ethnic/gender disparities in health and healthcare delivery.
Another key area of epidemiologic research is the comparative effectiveness of alternative treatments in real-life settings, where patients suitable for treatment belong to a variety of ages and races, have a spectrum of comorbidities, and differ in insurance coverage. Evaluating therapeutic approaches in such diverse segments of the population offers insights on the translation of new discovery science into clinical practice.