During its 44-year history of continuous funding, the Columbia University Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program (PET) has trained generations of highly productive psychiatric epidemiologists. Across this history, psychiatric epidemiology has undergone several periods of marked change, including the present time. PET faculty and former trainees have played significant roles in bringing past and present changes about. We developed a strategy of ?balanced growth? for incorporating such changes, and adhere to it in the current renewal. Balanced growth entails, first, a broad effort to sustain the high quality and vitality of the work being done in PET, and second, growth or improvement in carefully chosen areas, especially those where pivotal changes are taking place. Smooth transitions in the leadership of PET have made it easier to maintain this balance of continuity and growth. The program was initially led by Bruce Dohrenwend (who remains co-Director); then by Bruce Link (previously co-Director); and now by Ezra Susser (previously co-Director to Bruce Link). Ezra Susser was active in developing our conceptual framework and is well-suited to an era in which we will be integrating multiple components, biological as well as social. Sharon Schwartz also helped formulate the conceptual framework, and will remain as Training Director, but will also be co-Director in this renewal. New co-Director Katherine Keyes brings the next generation into the leadership along with her outstanding achievements in research and training. Over the years we have developed an approach to training that prepares fellows to identify important research problems and to tackle these problems using theory, strategic study designs, and appropriate measurement and analytic approaches in a multi-disciplinary context. Through course work, research experience and a Faculty-Fellows seminar we aim to provide an atmosphere where creativity flourishes and skills are developed to integrate theory and methods. While our general approach to training is retained in this renewal, the content of training has been updated, in accord with the changing scenario described in the proposal. For example, we have recruited new faculty who have experience integrating neuroscience with epidemiologic research, and we have reshaped our courses to better prepare trainees for this kind of integrative research. The underlying strength of our program lies in the commitment of faculty to our students, including data access and mentoring activities such as scientific feedback on presentation and writing skills, and career development. The track record of the Columbia PET program indicates that we have the capacity, history, and faculty to train leaders of the next generation of epidemiologists. To sustain this track record, we continue to improve our program and refine our training to accommodate the latest changes to the field.
Mental disorders are leading causes of disability throughout the world, are associated with reduced life expectancy, and are inextricably linked to overall health and disease. Psychiatric epidemiology, the core science of public mental health, is crucial for making progress toward reducing the incidence and ameliorating the course of psychiatric disorders in populations. The highly successful Psychiatric Epidemiology Training program at Columbia University, one of only a few such programs in the U.S., is needed to train the next generation of scholars and change-makers to address these critical problems.
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