Clinical Epidemiology Research & Training Unit
Under the direction of Dr. David T. Felson, MD, MPH, the Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training Unit began operations on October 1, 2001. The Unit’s mission is to perform and promote high-quality research using clinical epidemiologic methods to answer questions about the causes of, and therapy for, disease and disability. There may be a focus on musculoskeletal diseases, but the mission also extends to other diseases. The Unit’s goals are to train students at various levels and in various disciplines who wish to enter academically-based careers in clinical epidemiology, as well as to advance the statistical, epidemiological, and clinical epidemiological methods used to address clinical research questions. In addition, Unit faculty members strive to develop the Internet as a tool to perform clinical research and foster scientific collaborations both within and outside Boston University.
The Unit has grants and contracts supporting research in the amount of $2.4 million (annual direct costs). Most of the Unit’s funding is from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including, a Multidisciplinary Clinical Research Center (MCRC). This funding allows the Unit to be constituted as a multidisciplinary team, including doctoral non-physician-level investigators who bring methodological expertise to clinical research questions.
The spectrum of research conducted in Clinical Epidemiology is broad and includes:
1. An internet based case crossover study of gout
2. Large multicenter cohort studies of osteoarthritis
3. Studies of work disability prevention
4. Pharmacoepidemiology Studies using the THIN database from the UK (the Unit is the local home for
this database which can be used by others in the BU community) and from the VA
5. Gene-wide association studies of pain and gout
6. Studies of function loss and disability in elders
7. Studies of outcome measurement in rheumatoid arthritis
8. Evaluations of methodologic approaches in progression/outcomes studies
9. Biomarker studies in vasculitis
The Unit’s primary missions are in research and training, with clinical activity constituting a secondary activity. Nonetheless, Drs. Felson, Neogi, Merkel, Choi and Vlad remain actively involved in clinical medicine.
The Unit directs the Boston University K30 Program, the Clinical Research Training Program (CREST). CREST is offered to postdoctoral fellows or entering faculty throughout the medical campus. Its components include matriculating in a master’s degree program in either the School of Public Health or the School of Medicine that focuses on training and clinical research methodology; completing a thesis that doubles as a scientific paper; completing an IRB internship, and attending a bi-weekly CREST seminar that covers topics in clinical research, with fellows participating in the program presenting their own research projects that are critiqued.
In addition to administering the CREST program, the Unit has undertaken direct, on-site training of fellows whose research interests parallel those of the Unit’s investigators. This has included fellows in geriatrics and rheumatology, as well as epidemiology doctoral students.