2017 Symposia

SER’s 50th Anniversary Meeting will feature 18 Symposium Sessions. Click on titles below for additional session details.

  • Before the congressional ban on CDC funding for gun violence research, epidemiologists played a critical role in improving our understanding of this public health problem. Even after the ban, and despite challenges in securing research funds, some epidemiologists continued to study gun violence. The urgency in conducting consequential research to address unanswered questions in this area cannot be overemphasized. This symposium will build on, and extend, the Hot Topics Session on “Guns in America” in the North American Congress of Epidemiology in 2016. It brings 7 epidemiologists from 5 institutions to discuss: (1) Historical perspectives on the contribution of epidemiology to identifying the determinants and consequences of gun violence; (2) State-of-the-art epidemiologic methods to study firearm-related victimization and perpetration; and (3) High-impact questions on gun violence that epidemiologists are best equipped to tackle to move the field forward and improve people’s lives.

    Session Chairs:
    Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, University of Washington
    Frederick Rivara, University of Washington

    Presenters:
    Ali Rowhani-Rahbar, University of Washington
    “Gun Violence Epidemiology in Historical Context”

    Douglas Wiebe, University of Pennsylvania
    “Mapping Activity Patterns to Identify Triggers of Firearm Violence”

    Bindu Kalesan, Boston University
    “Spatial Epidemiology of Gun Violence”

    Magdalena Cerda, University of California, Davis
    “Simulating the Impact of Firearm Disqualification Criteria on Firearm-Related Violence”

    Discussants:
    Charles Branas, Columbia University
    Sandro Galea. Boston University
    Frederick Rivara, University of Washington

  • The rise in opioid use disorders and overdose has garnered much attention and concern in recent years. While this increase has been well documented, the drivers of the geographic distribution and spread of the epidemic across communities largely remain a mystery. The rapidly changing profile of the epidemic requires the use of multiple methods (e.g., concept mapping, spatial temporal ecological models) to better understand and address this multifaceted problem. We propose to organize a symposium on the emerging opioid epidemic in the United States. Our panel of experts will highlight the spatial and temporal spread of opioid abuse/dependence and overdose, the social ecological determinants (e.g., geographically patterned sociodemographics and social structures) of this spread, and the impacts of policy changes (e.g., prescription drug monitoring programs). By integrating micro- to macro-level perspectives on the problem, potential avenues for intervention efforts can begin to emerge.

    Session Chairs:
    Christina Mair, University of Pittsburgh
    Magdalena Cerda, University of California, Davis

    Presenters:
    Jay Unick, University of Maryland
    “Heroin in Transition: Understanding shifts in the risk environment for heroin users in the US”

    Jessica Burke, University of Pittsburgh
    “Investigating the social ecological contexts of opioid use and overdose in Pennsylvania”

    Brandon Marshall, Brown University
    “Geospatial patterns of fentanyl overdose & overdose surveillance systems in Rhode Island”

    Magdalena Cerda, University of California, Davis
    “Prescription drug monitoring programs and opioid-related harm”

    Discussants:
    Christina Mair, University of Pittsburgh

  • Over the decades of SER meetings, many important topics have emerged as pressing issues of the day, a few of which have gone on to become sustained public health concerns.  More often, a hot topic at one point in time fades from the research horizon.  We will revisit selected issues that have featured prominently in past meetings and examine the life course of the topic.  Both the evolution of the research and the public response to the evolving evidence will be explored.  In addition to being of historical interest, we will consider lessons that are likely to apply to many of the pressing issues of today, most of which will also fade over time.  

    Session Chair:
    David Savitz, Brown University

    Presenters:
    Louise Brinton, National Cancer Institute
    “Adverse Repercussions of Silicone Breast Implants” 

    Noel Weiss, University of Washington
    “Use of Unopposed Estrogens and the Incidence of Endometrial Cancer”

    David Savitz, Brown University
    “Power Lines and Childhood Cancer”

    Lisa Croen, Kaiser Permanente Northern California
    “Vaccines and Autism:  How Will It Be Viewed in Hindsight?”

  • This symposium will reflect on developments in the 50 years of research conducted since the founding of the Society for Epidemiologic Research and how those developments will shape the next 50 years of epidemiologic research.  We will focus on five subareas of epidemiology: cancer, HIV treatment and control, non-HIV infectious disease, social determinants of health and health disparities, and violence.  Each speaker has emerged as a methodological and content expert in his or her field within the past 10 years. Within her or his own subarea, each speaker will describe: 1) the most important methodological development in the past 50 years; 2) the major public health or research problem(s) this development has enabled us to solve; and 3) methodological challenges we need to address to move epidemiology and public health forward in the next 50 years. We hope that understanding how we conquered the challenges of the last 50 years will sharpen our focus on the challenges of the present.

    Session Chair:
    Jessica Chubak, Group Health Research Institute
    Stephen Mooney, University of Washington

    Presenters:
    Amanda Phipps, University of Washington
    “Focusing the microscope:  how advances in our understanding of tumor biology have shaped cancer epidemiology and clinical practice” 

    Daniel Westreich, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    “Public works: HIV epidemiology from patients to population health”

    Whitney Robinson, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    “No causation without manipulation? Moving beyond description in health disparities research”

    Magdalena Cerda, University of California, Davis
    “Joining the macro and micro: new strategies to identify effective violence prevention targets”

    Michael Jackson, Group Health Research Institute
    “The Angel is in the Details: Molecular Epidemiology for Infectious Disease Control”

  • Observational studies play an important role in the ongoing assessment of safety and effectiveness of maternal influenza immunization, yet they also pose numerous conceptual and methodological challenges as recently highlighted in a series of articles in AJE. There is currently a debate about the potential impact influenza vaccines may have on adverse perinatal outcomes, as findings from observational studies are in disagreement.

    The main objective of this symposium is to discuss controversies and challenges for observational studies of perinatal outcomes following immunization during pregnancy, using influenza vaccine as a case study. This topic will be of broad interest to researchers interested in maternal-child health, global health, pharmacoepidemiology and epidemiologic methods.

    Session Chairs:
    Deshayne Fell, University of Ottawa
    Jennifer Hutcheon, University of British Columbia

    Presenters:
    Justin Ortiz
    “Current controversies in maternal influenza immunization research and their implications for global health policy-making”

    Michael Jackson
    “Controlling for confounding: Lessons learned from influenza vaccine studies in the elderly”

    David Savitz, Brown University
    “Accounting for the temporal nature of influenza, influenza illness, and pregnancy outcomes”

    Jennifer Hutcheon
    “Assessing the epidemiological plausibility of observed effect sizes”

    Brad Gessner
    “Linking epidemiological findings with mechanistic/biological pathways”

    Deshayne Fell
    “Lessons learned: Summary and implications for studying other vaccines in pregnancy” 

  • Inequalities in women’s health research persist in the 21st century. While the number of women and minorities included in clinical trials has increased since the 1993 NIH Revitalization Act, women are still underrepresented in health research and many studies do not report results separately by gender. 1/3 of participants included in cardiovascular clinical trials are female even though heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., and the majority of brain research in animals is conducted in male animals even though debilitating neurologic conditions like migraines are more prevalent in women than men. Several diseases that only affect women, such as endometriosis and ovarian cancer, are historically underfunded.

    This symposium will include presentations from health researchers discussing barriers and solutions to greater representation of women in clinical trials and increased funding and awareness for diseases that predominantly affect women.

    Session Chairs:
    Ellen Caniglia, Harvard University
    Eleanor Murray, Harvard University

    Presenters:
    Enrique Schisterman, NICHD 
    “Methodological Issues in Clinical Trials of Women of Reproductive Age”

    Julie Palmer, Boston University
    “Under-representation of Women in Health Research: Progress and Challenges”

    Stacey Missmer, Michigan State
    “Women’s Health Research: Legitimacy and Funding”

    Discussant:
    Martha Werler, Boston University
    Leslie Farland, Harvard University

     

  • In 2015, there were over 22 million veterans living in the United States. That same year, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) had enrolled almost 9 million veterans into care, making it the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States.  For many reasons, veteran health is critical to US population health. Yet, veterans are a distinct population, with unique experiences that result in distinctive health care and public health needs.  This symposium will include presentations on multiple issues of critical importance to veteran public health.  Topics will include gender differences machine learning prediction of suicidal ideation among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans; predictors of accidental opioid overdose in VHA patients who experienced traumatic brain injury during deployment; mortality among veterans in the Vietnam-era twin registry; and VA initiatives in precision oncology.  Discussion will include implications of this work for the future of veteran public health.

    Session Chair:
    Jaimie Gradus, VA Boston Healthcare System

    Presenters:
    Jaimie Gradus, VA Boston Healthcare System
    “Gender Differences in Machine Learning Models of Trauma and Suicidal Ideation in Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans”

    Jennifer Fonda, VA Boston Healthcare System
    “Traumatic Brain Injury and Opioid Overdose Among Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”

    Ryan Ferguson, VA Boston Healthcare System
    “Improving the delivery of veteran healthcare with an integrated learning system”

    Jack Goldberg, University of Washington
    “A Co-twin Control Study of Suicide in the Vietnam Era Twin Registry”

  • Sparked by high profile papers on the impact of publication bias (e.g., “Why most published research findings are false”), there have been calls for stringent checklists, prospective analysis plans, open access to data, and registration of observational studies. Embraced by some journals, and considered by the NIH, these requirements aim to increase the rigor and transparency of observational research, but at the cost of considerably increasing the overhead in reporting findings. This American Journal of Epidemiology sponsored session will feature talks from journal editors and thinkers championing such policies, and those who feel they go too far. Through a panel discussion we will explore whether these standards are essential for quality observational research, a straightjacket that stifles scientific discovery, or something in between. Discussants will inform how these policies influence related debates in the reporting of epidemiologic results, such as the use of p-values.

    Chairs:
    Justin Lessler, Johns Hopkin University
    Bryan James, Rush Institute

    Presenters:
    Larry Peiperl, PLoS Medicine
    “What assures transparency in observational research?”

    Steven Goodman, Stanford University
    “Checklists and prespecification: The future foretold?”

    Panelists:
    Timothy Lash, Epidemiology
    Moyses Szklo, American Journal of Epidemiology

  • Precision and predictive medicine have captured the attention of both researchers and funders, and have led to the suggestion that population mental health improvements in the coming decades will be accomplished through breakthroughs at the cellular level. This paradigm shift has taken shape as increasing interest is placed on precision approaches to understanding variation in genomic, molecular, and neurological responses to causes and treatments. Epidemiology has a rich tradition within psychiatry contributing to measurement, assessment of burden, and understanding of risk factors. As a new era becomes evident, epidemiology takes on new roles within psychiatry. In this symposium, we debate the function of psychiatric epidemiology, through a series of presentations that focus both on a historical lens regarding the causes of mental health, and within emerging science of biomarkers, subthreshold and dimensional diagnoses, and community representativeness in population genomics and neuroscience. 

    Session Chair:
    Katherine Keyes, Columbia University

    Presenters:
    Stephen Gilman, NICHD
    “The developmental origins hypothesis viewed from the lens of precision medicine”

    Jaimie Gradus, VA Boston Healthcare System
    “Longitudinal outcomes of  subsyndromal stress disorders in the population of Denmark”

    Katherine Keyes, Columbia University
    “The association between telomere length and psychiatric disorders: a mechanism for adversity to influence disorder risk, or a product of measurement error?”

    Katie McLaughlin, University of Washington
    “Population Neuroscience: Leveraging Epidemiological Methods to Improve our Understanding of Brain Development”

    Discussant:
    Sandro Galea, Boston University

  • The human microbiome plays a critical role in human health. As the microbiome field moves from descriptive studies to analytic studies evaluating associations between microbial communities and a variety of disease states, epidemiologists and other public health researchers may be faced with a number of design and analytic challenges that are unique to evaluating hypotheses related to changes in the microbiome. In this symposium, we will provide an overview of microbiome study design, molecular approaches, data pipeline, a summary of common analytic approaches implemented in microbiome studies, and a discussion of real-world challenges in human microbiome research, including population selection, measurement issues, and analytics. Examples from studies of the gut microbiome and the female genital tract will be used to illustrate these challenges. The symposium will conclude with discussion regarding opportunities for method development or adaptation of existing analytic methods.  

    Chairs:
    Lisa Manhart, University of Washington
    Jennifer Balkus, University of Washington

    Presenters:
    Lisa Manhart, University of Washington
    “Introduction to challenges associated with data from microbiome studies”

    Sujatha Srinivasan
    “Overview of microbiome data”

    James Hughes
    “Analytic issues associated with microbiome data”

    Jennifer Balkus, University of Washington
    “Practical Applications:  Studies of the genital tract microbiome”

    Johanna Lampe
    “Practical Applications:  Studies of the gut microbiome and colon cancer”

  • Can epidemiology improve public health? Methodological developments are expanding our ability to estimate intervention effects with clear interpretations for public health policy and clinical practice. Though uncertainty in real-world decision-making often drives scientific and methodologic research, the promise of innovative epidemiologic methods is sometimes unrealized in the implementation of public health interventions in the field. This symposium begins by summarizing the current relationship between implementation science and epidemiology. Case studies from a range of substantive disciplines will be presented to showcase examples in which methodologic innovations produced actionable results to directly inform real public health interventions or policy. Speakers will also explore challenges in translating findings from epidemiologic studies into real-world implementation settings. 

    Session Chairs:
    Lydia Feinstein, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and Social & Scientific Systems, Inc.
    Jessie Edwards, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 

    Presenters:
    Allison Aiello, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 
    “From uncertainty to certainty: The banning of Antibacterial Soaps “

    Michael Herce, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 
    “From Data to Delivery and Back Again: Implementation Science Lessons from Malawi and Zambia”

    Catherine Lesko, Johns Hopkins University
    “Implementation science: Overlap with existing epidemiological concepts”

    Alexander Keil, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    “Asbestos standards for the 21st century: the impact of currently uncounted asbestos fibers on lung cancer risk “

    Discussant:
    Kathleen Wirth, Harvard University

  • Links between the social environment and health are well established. The next generation of social epidemiology seeks to provide rigorous evidence on how social policies influence health and health disparities. Major questions relate to whether social policies are causally related to health; which specific dimensions of social policy and social expenditures are health promoting; and whether politically feasible policies are likely to have large enough impacts to make a difference for health, particularly among the poor. In this symposium, we report research on whether policies on income support (Rehkopf), educational quality (Glymour), and affordable housing (Osypuk) improve population health or reduce disparities. Dr. Avendano will present cross-national comparisons of specific domains of federal social expenditures in relation to life expectancy and health inequalities. Our discussant, Dr. Basu, will link the evidence in these talks to the larger progress of social epidemiology.

    Session Chair:
    Maria Glymour, University of California, San Francisco

    Presenters:
    David Rehkopf, Stanford University
    “Examining heterogenous impacts of the Earned Income Tax Credit on health”

    Maria Glymour, University of California, San Francisco
    “Historical investments in quantity and quality of schooling and contemporary population health”

    Theresa Osypuk, University of Minnesota
    “Housing policy as a lever for improving population health and reducing dispariti”

    Mauricio Avendano, King’s College London
    “The poison in the gift: can social policies affect mental health?​”

  • Epidemiologists are trained to recognize misclassification of study variables and to strive to make classification errors non-differential. What is less commonly taught are the implications of dependent classification errors (i.e. correlated errors), which can occur even with nondifferential misclassification. Such dependencies can occur, for example, if the same method is used to collect data on two critical variables such as when a survey is used to harvest study information. These correlations might occur if those who tend to overstate (or understate) their exposures also overstate (or understate) their outcome (or confounder) status. Such correlated errors, where a subject is more likely to be misclassified on two variables than expected based on the errors in each alone, can lead to very strong bias away from the null. Three speakers will discuss the implications of correlated errors between the exposure and outcomes, exposure and confounders and correlated biomarker errors.

    Session Chairs:
    Matthew Fox, Boston University
    Daniel Brooks, Boston University

    Presenters:
    Matthew Fox, Boston University
    “Introduction to dependent error – what’s the big deal?” 

    Daniel Brooks, Boston University
    “Consequences and mechanisms of exposure outcome dependent error “

    Kelly Getz, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
    “Implications of dependent exposure-confounder misclassification: A simulation study”

    Anna Pollack, George Mason University
    “Correlated biomarker measurement error”

    Matthew Fox, Boston University
    “Dependent error is a big deal – time to start taking things more seriously”

  • Translation of promising scientific discoveries into day-to-day practice has been slow and uncertain. To target the quality of care, not just efficiency and access issues in health reform, this symposium will focus on the process of translational research and the role of the epidemiologist. Effective translation requires a clear vision for change and the methods to move from fundamental biology and patient observations to clinical practice. Teams of basic biomedical scientists, clinicians and epidemiologists need to interact effectively and overcome disciplinary boundaries, the lack of protected time, and disciplinary chauvinism to be effective. This forum will present the role of epidemiologists and lessons learned across several content areas. We will discuss principles of a transdisciplinary research approach and highlight the function of knowledge synthesis and integration. Mentoring, sustained transdisciplinary collaboration, knowledge exchange, and a supportive climate for team science and innovation will be highlighted.

    Chairs:
    Qing Li, San Diego State University
    Muin Khoury, Centers for Disease Control
    Robert Hiatt, University of California, San Francisco

    Presenters:
    Qing Li, San Diego State University
    “Opening Comments: Motivation from perinatal epidemiology”


    Robert Hiatt, University of California, San Francisco
    “Team, transdisciplinary and translational science: the role of the epidemiologist”


    Noel Weiss, University of Washington
    “Generalizability of the results of randomized trials”


    Muin Khoury, Centers for Disease Control
    “Precision medicine and genomics: Lessons in translational epidemiology from bench to populations”


    Roberta Ness, University of Texas
    “Approaches to integrating innovation into translation”

  • Norman Breslow, who passed away December 9, 2015, was a leader who made transformative contributions to biostatistics and epidemiology. His work on case-control studies and survival analysis remain relevant today, and his teaching affected hundreds of students, through classes, mentoring, and his two books on statistics in cancer research. Norm’s contributions to the study of Wilms tumor had a profound impact on treatment and management of the disease. In this symposium, two of Norm’s colleagues and two of his students will reflect on Norm’s impact on epidemiology. Speakers will discuss Norm’s seminal contributions to biostatistics for epidemiology, including case-control studies, survival analysis, cohort studies, and the generalized linear model, and the current state of the art for case-control designs, to which Norm contributed until shortly before his passing. Speakers will also share personal reflections about Norm as teacher, colleague, and mentor.

    Chairs:
    Robert Platt, McGill University
    Noel Weiss, University of Washington

    Presenters:
    Ross Prentice, University of Washington
    “Regression analysis of disease rates with cohort study data, and Norm Breslow’s related contributions”

    Robert Platt, McGill University
    “Norman Breslow’s broad influence on the fields of epidemiology and biostatistics”

    Jinbo Chen, University of Pennsylvania
    “The design and analysis of case-control and two-phase case-control studies: Professor Norman Breslow’s contributions and new developments”

  • Research on social capital and health is approaching its twentieth anniversary.  Over this period, there have been rich and productive debates on the definition, measurement, and importance of social capital for social epidemiology and health promotion. These debates have advanced the field conceptually, while empirical studies over this time have deepened and expanded the evidence base on the relationship between social capital and health. This symposium will discuss key debates and tensions characterizing research on social capital and health over the past two decades, examine social capital and health research in different domains, and discuss gaps in our current knowledge. Each symposium contributor will discuss a specific debate or area of research and offer their insights as to how social capital research might evolve in the coming decade.  

    Chair:
    Spencer Moore, University of South Carolina

    Presenters:
    Spencer Moore, University of South Carolina
    “Twenty years of social capital and health research”

    Susan Elliot, University of Waterloo
    “Social capital at the environment-health nexus: Can the concept help us address fundamental development and health challenges?”

    Lijun Song, Vanderbilt University
    “Does your body know who you are in the positional hierarchy? Reflections on the pathways linking social capital and health”

    Mikaeal Rostila, Stockholm University
    “Social capital and health in welfare states: How can social policy contribute to our understanding of promoting social capital and health?”

    Spencer Moore, South Carolina
    “Social capital and health inequities”

    Discussant:
    Ichiro Kawachi

  • Having a “correct model form” is on the list of sufficient conditions in the standard model of causal inference. It is accepted knowledge that one must properly model the relationships between measured variables and either the outcome or the exposure, given that one has collected appropriate information on a set of variables that can produce exchangeability between an exposed and unexposed group. Some claim that modern methods (e.g., machine learning, penalized regression) allow epidemiologists to strike this condition from our list! If this claim is true, then it is perhaps the one of the greatest methodologic breakthroughs of our time. Having an automatically-correct model would improve our ability to make proper inferences, and thereby accelerate improved global public health. Is this too good to be true?

    Chair:
    Stephen Cole, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

    Presenters:
    Mark van der Laan, University of California, Berkeley

    Jessie Edwards, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

    James Robins, Harvard University
    “Data Adaptive Model Selection: Art or Science or Artificial Intelligence”

    Stephen Cole, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

  • Although more women are entering science-based fields, women biomedical scientists are on average still paid less, promoted less, are less likely to receive grant funding, and are more likely to leave their careers than men. Emerging data shows a greater number of female epidemiologists in early career positions and further evidence of a potential gender disparity in publication metrics in epidemiology. In particular, articles with male first and last authors tended to accrue more citations (5.72 citations, 95% CI 2.10, 9.36), a finding not fully explained by potential confounders, including seniority. If epidemiology continues to be practiced by a majority of women, it remains to be seen if these patterns will change over time. This symposium will provide perspectives from leaders in the field representing various epidemiology departments and top epidemiology journal editorial boards on the findings from this recent study. Ample time will be provided for discussion.

    Chairs:
    Enrique Schisterman, NICHD
    Sunni Mumford, NICHD

    Presenters:

    Enrique Schisterman, NICHD
    “What do the data show”

    Ya-Ling Lu, National Institute of Health Library
    “Bibliometrics: Measures and limitations”

    Michelle Williams, Harvard University
    “Reflections from a Dean”

    Germaine M. Buck Louis, NIH
    “Relections from a Dean”

    Andrew Olshan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    “Reflections from a Department chair”

    Diane Lauderdale, University of Chicago
    “Reflections from a Department chair”

    Timothy Lash, Emory University
    “Reflections from an Editor in Chief”