Epidemiology Training Program
is a growing need for scientists who are trained to apply epidemiologic
methods to the understanding of psychiatric disorders and to translate these
research findings into improvements in mental health. The Psychiatric
Epidemiology Training (PET) Program, which has been funded by NIMH since
1977, fills this need by focusing on the acquisition of epidemiological,
biostatistical, and psychiatric concepts and methods and on their
application to research in the field of psychiatric disorders. The
philosophy of the PET Program is that students must be thoroughly grounded
in the techniques of epidemiology and biostatistics before they can apply
this knowledge to the exploration of the distribution and etiology of
psychiatric disorders. This training is accomplished through course work in
epidemiology and statistics, and through courses on psychiatric epidemiology
that were designed specifically for the PET Program. An equally important
part of the training experience is the opportunity to work on research
projects with faculty mentors who are active researchers in psychiatry and
The WPIC has a mandate to look at all aspects of psychiatry, approaching psychiatric disease comprehensively and with an interdisciplinary perspective. Within this framework, it is possible to study a question from an epidemiological perspective, a clinical perspective, or within the laboratory. This allows the trainees to understand the complementary nature of different methods of investigation. Further, it is not possible to understand the epidemiology of any one disorder without considering the relationships among disorders. The faculty of the PET Program have research expertise across a range of diagnostic categories and a strong commitment to address interconnections and comorbidity. This reflects the belief of the Program that epidemiologists must be capable of utilizing data from different modes of investigation and should be able to explore linkages, similarities, and differences among psychiatric disorders.
The resources of the WPIC are extensive, including approximately 200 faculty, most of whom are engaged in active research. The full resources of the WPIC are available to fellows in the Program. A broad range of research opportunities is available so that students have access to consultation in their own research area, and exposure to other kinds of research, different methodologies, and new ideas. Students in the PET Program have access to the faculties of the GSPH, the School of Medicine, and departments in the School of Arts and Sciences, such as Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Anthropology.
The faculty of the GSPH represents the traditional disciplines within public health. Faculty in the Department of Epidemiology are involved in a wide range of research and actively collaborate with Psychiatry faculty. In addition, the Department of Biostatistics in the GSPH is a strong department with an excellent record for teaching and research, and has been available to our students for courses and research consultation.
Research experience in the PET Program is offered to the fellows at different levels. Beginning predoctoral students participate in ongoing research with a research mentor. They attend research meetings, participate in data collection, data management and analyses, and gain experience in the practical and management sides of research studies, in addition to the theoretical orientation presented in their classes. At the dissertation level and at the postdoctoral level, students review the research literature in an area of interest, formulate hypotheses, and design their own projects, collect data within a program of research, or conduct independent analyses of data that have been collected as part of an ongoing study. PET Program faculty, as research mentors, oversee this process for each advisee, providing guidance, direction, and space throughout the project.
The duration of training is generally two years for postdoctoral fellows and four years for predoctoral students. At the end of the training period, predoctoral students are competent in their basic discipline and have specific expertise in psychiatric epidemiology. They are ready for a postdoctoral fellowship or a junior faculty position and can design and conduct research. The postdoctoral fellows have increased their research skills and knowledge of research through participation in an ongoing research project and selected coursework and are prepared to function as faculty members and independent principal investigators. Indeed, our students have proven themselves to be well prepared. Almost all graduates of the Program are in academic or research positions, and most have received independent research funding.
The PET Program is funded by NIMH (T32 MH015169).