Essentials of the Profession I

Essentials of the Profession I

Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health (CEPH) is one of four core topic areas within the January Essentials of the Profession course, know to students as "Essentials", which also incorporates ethics, social medicine, and health policy content. Essentials, which is a required month-long course taken in the first year of medical/dental school, fosters the skills and perspectives that medical and dental students need to:

  1. Apply multiple perspectives to understand the social, economic, and political forces that affect both the burden of disease for individuals and populations and the ability of the health system to ameliorate them.
  2. Become grounded in the ethical principles that underlie clinical care, research, and professionalism generally with the facility to recognize and analyze ethical issues in practice.
  3. Critically evaluate evidence and use it appropriately in clinical decisions and population health management; and,
  4. Understand the health policy context in which they will practice.

The CEPH component of Essentials focuses on the core skills for interpreting evidence for the treatment of individual patients and an introduction to considering health and health care at the population level. An overarching goal of the longitudinal CEPH curriculum is to make clear that the problems of individual patients and those of populations form a continuum, requiring both coordinated treatment of individuals and population-wide interventions. Our aims are to teach students the specific skills of clinical epidemiology to interpret and apply medical evidence to disease prevention and care for individual patients and populations.

In Essentials, we compare the relative benefits and risks of different methods of prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Studying statistical principles helps students understand how uncertainty affects their interpretation of data and clinical decisions. In addition, we seek to help students gain specific skills that will foster critical thinking including: probabilistic thinking, assessing the evidence for causal connections on the basis of available data, and effective use of (always imperfect) diagnostic test information. These skills are essential for using medical literature to inform patient care and for creating effective population health interventions.

CEPH Objectives:

  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of medical evidence;
  • Identify factors that can distort medical evidence – chance, bias, and confounding;
  • Apply the most appropriate study design for the question to be answered;
  • Select and interpret appropriate statistical approaches to evaluate data;
  • Interpret evidence to inform care of patients, including data from screening and diagnostic tests and technologies;
  • Effectively communicate to patients the benefit and harm of interventions to prevent and treat disease.

CEPH Essentials I Topics (and associated key concepts documents):

  1. Study Design and Causality – Critically Appraising What We Think We Know
  2. Frequency and Association: Calculating Measures of Population Health Impact
  3. Interpreting Statistics in Clinical Research
  4. When There are More Than 2 Variables: Bias, Confounding, Effect Modification
  5. Randomized Controlled Trials and Power
  6. Multivariable Modeling
  7. Diagnostic Testing and Screening
For more details, see the full CEPH Essentials I Syllabus