Department of Epidemiology

Pharmacoepidemiology Research


UNC is advancing pharmacoepidemiology (PE) through innovation in methods, application of those methods to critical issues in the field, and training future leaders.  The Epidemiology Department provides specialized training in PE through expansive course offerings and access to databases. Students receive robust training in the methods needed to study burden of illness and patterns, effectiveness and safety of medications used in the population.

Students in the Pharmacoepidemiology Program receive training in how to conduct high-quality epidemiologic research that directly addresses both substantive and methodologic questions. Students gain experience through interdisciplinary opportunities in courses and collaborative work with researchers from the Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and Pharmacy, as well as through graduate research assistant opportunities with researchers and faculty in the Department of Epidemiology and epidemiology researchers working with GSK, UCB, Merck and other industry partners. Through fellowships and internships, students learn how to engage with industry and government stakeholders and become exposed to applied epidemiological research by and for industry partners, federal stakeholders, and international health organizations.

Program Courses

There are two 3-credit courses specifically for those interested in the pharmacoepidemiology program taught every other year and a growing number of smaller modules addressing specific PE issues to choose from. The two 3-credit courses should be taken together either in the first or second year depending on the year students enter the program. They cover the basics of pharmacoepidemiologic research including one of its main aspects, the use of large automated databases.

  • EPID 765: Introduction to Pharmacoepidemiology ( led by Til Stürmer) is the foundation course for pharmacoepidemiology students. It is taught every other year (odd years, i.e., again in 2017) in the spring semester.
  • EPID 766: Epidemiologic Research Using Health Care Databases ( led by Jennifer Lund), is taught in parallel to EPID 765 in the spring semester every other year (odd years, i.e., again in 2017).

Special Topics Modules

  • EPID 799B: Special Topics in Pharmacoepidemiology, in which Pharmacoepidemiology faculty teach a growing number of 1-2 credit modules.

Core Faculty

Dr. Jonsson-Funk: Focuses her work on evaluating doubly-robust estimators, and applications to questions of comparative effectiveness and safety in large healthcare databases.

Dr. Layton: Focuses his work primarily on utilizing diverse secondary healthcare data sources to evaluate the renal and cardiovascular safety of medications and vaccines.

Dr. Lund: Focuses her research on improving claims-based measures of multimorbidity and frailty for confounding control in studies evaluating the comparative effectiveness and safety of treatments in older adults using large cohort and registry-linked healthcare databases.

Dr. Poole: Is an expert in epidemiologic methods of study design, data analysis and interpretation, with a focus on risk assessment, systematic review and meta-analysis.

Dr. Stürmer:  Is an expert in methods and clinical epidemiology. His methods research includes the development of more efficient matching strategies, propensity scores in pharmacoepidemiologic studies, and confounding control using validation studies.

Dr. Alice White: Is former VP of Epidemiology at GSK and an expert in epidemiologic strategy, use of observational data for disease understanding and decision-making, and post-marketing safety studies.

Collaborating faculty (UNC)

Christy Avery (Department of Epidemiology)
Tim Carey (Sheps Center for Health Services Research)
Bill Carpenter (Health Policy and Management)
Steve Cole (Department of Epidemiology)
Alan Ellis (Sheps Center for Health Services Research)
Gang Fang (Eshelman School of Pharmacy)
Joel Farley (Eshelman School of Pharmacy)
Steve Marshall (Department of Epidemiology)
Steve Meshnick (Department of Epidemiology)
William C. Miller (Department of Epidemiology)
Kari E. North (Department of Epidemiology)
Betsy Sleath (Eshelman School of Pharmacy)
Jennifer Smith (Department of Epidemiology)
Annelies Van Rie (Department of Epidemiology)
Eric Whitsel (Department of Epidemiology)

Partnership with the Center for Pharmaco-epidemiology

The unique academic-industry partnership between the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, funded since 2002 by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) as Center of Excellence in Pharmacoepidemiology and Public Health has been expanded recently and renamed The Center for Pharmacoepidemiology (CPE). The CPE has currently three member companies, GSK, UCB BioSciences, and Merck. The CPE maximizes the public health perspective of an academic leader in epidemiology and provides a forum for generating innovative approaches to key issues in PE.

The mission of the CPE is to advance the field of PE through innovation in methods, application of those methods to critical concerns in the field, and training of future leaders.

The CPE funds two PE students as named fellows and a variety of activities within the PE program. The CPE also holds annual workshops to address methodological issues in current projects with contributions from UNC and industry.