Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

Department History

In 1956 preventive medicine achieved full departmental status in the School of Medicine, with Salvatore P. Lucia, MD, serving as chair. Under Lucia's influence, the philosophic perspective and teaching in preventive medicine emphasized human ecology, including the diverse factors biological, sociological and geographical that influence the physical and psychological well-being of humans. In 1966 the Department of Preventive Medicine was discontinued and responsibility for instruction in epidemiology was given to J. Ralph Audy, MD, Director of the G.W. Hooper Foundation and internationally known for his work in the epidemiology of scrub typhus and other tropical diseases. Subjects taught included medical aspects of human ecology and epidemiology, genetics, biostatistics, parasitology, nutrition and sociocultural and behavioral influences on health and disease throughout the World.

During this period the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine recognized epidemiology as the basic science of preventive medicine. The core curriculum in preventive medicine in most American medical schools moved from an emphasis on infectious disease to the problems of an aging population, mortality and morbidity from chronic diseases, and social and health policy issues. In 1978 these factors led to the elevation of Epidemiology and International Health to the status of Department in the School of Medicine, with Nicholas L. Petrakis as Chair.

An awareness of the importance of biostatistics was also growing, and the Graduate Council formed a "Group in Biostatistics" in November 1980. Academic Senate recognition followed in 1982, and in 1983 the Group in Biostatistics became administratively affiliated with the Department of Epidemiology and International Health and shared in its physical facilities. In order to establish the Biostatistics program as an academic enterprise making significant contributions to research, Walter Hauck, PhD, was recruited to UCSF in 1985 to lead the campus activities in this area.

In 1989 Virginia L. Ernster, PhD, who had directed the evolution of the highly successful core curriculum course "Epidemiology and Biostatistics 101" during the 1980s, was appointed Department Chair. Under her leadership the name of the department was changed to Epidemiology and Biostatistics, a decision that recognized the emerging role of biostatistics as the quantitative basis for epidemiology and clinical research. A new Biostatistical Consulting Unit was formed to serve campus needs, with Peter Bacchetti, PhD, recruited as its Head. The department grew particularly strong in studies of preventing and treating cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular disease, and Ernster helped to found the UCSF Cancer Center.

During the 1980s the Clinical Epidemiology Program, headed by Stephen B. Hulley MD, MPH, had grown out of a training grant from the Mellon Foundation. The methods of clinical epidemiology were focused on diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutic efficacy in clinical populations, and differed from classical epidemiologic approaches to studying the distributions and determinants of disease in healthy populations. By developing clinical epidemiology the department positioned itself to teach the basic science of what would become evidence-based medicine (led by Thomas B. Newman MD, MPH), just as classical epidemiology had become involved as the basic science of preventive medicine. Clinical research also grew broadly, and clinical trial coordinating centers became major activities in the department (led by Hulley and Steven R. Cummings MD).

In 1994 Stephen B. Hulley, MD, MPH, was appointed Chair of the department. Under his leadership, programs were created in Molecular Epidemiology, International Health, Methods for Longitudinal Analysis and Clinical Epidemiology, and the administration of the department was unified and strengthened. In 1997 George Rutherford MD brought a Preventive Medicine Residency to UCSF that emphasized training in managed care administration. In 1998 new Departmental Divisions became the main administrative structures for overseeing teaching, research, and faculty affairs, and these had evolved, by 2001, to the current four divisions (Biostatistics, Cancer Epidemiology, Clinical Epidemiology, and Preventive Medicine and Public Health). In 1999 Medical Anthropology left the department to form a new department with History of Health Sciences, and Dean Haile Debas created a new Institute for Global Health in the Department, directed by Richard Feachem, PhD, DSc (Med).

The year 2000 brought Charles McCulloch, PhD, from Cornell University to become Head of our Division of Biostatistics. Rutherford was appointed as the first recipient of the new Salvatore Lucia Chair in Preventive Medicine. Two major Centers were founded in 2000-2001, one in Women's Health Research headed by Deborah Grady MD, MPH, (now in the Department of Medicine), and one in Bioinformatics and Molecular Biostatistics headed by Mark Segal, PhD. Robert Hiatt MD, PhD was recruited from his position as Deputy Director of NCI to head up the new Population Science Program of the UCSF Cancer Center.

In the early 2000's a K30 institutional grant from NIH spawned 27 postdoctoral courses in the Training In Clinical Research program (TICR), and the Department?s first master?s degree, spearheaded by Jeff Martin MD, MPH, began in 2002. Training and career development activities received a major boost in 2004 with the acquisition of a Roadmap K12 award to support multidisciplinary junior faculty, led by Hulley and Ralph Gonzales MD, MPH, and in 2005 Hulley became Director of the School of Medicine's Clinical and Translational Sciences Training (CTST) Program. With Jeanette Brown MD and Kristine Yaffe MD as Co-Directors, CTST has broad responsibility for strengthening clinical research training and mentoring for predoctoral students, residents, fellows and junior faculty throughout the campus.

In 2005 the Department?s large off campus home for its coordinating centers and desktop research moved to China Basin Landing where it was joined by faculty and staff who had been located on the Parnassus campus in excellent new teaching quarters. Recognizing the growing size and importance of our coordinating center and related activities, a new Division of Clinical Trials and Multicenter Studies was formed with Dennis Black PhD as Head.

In 2006 Steve Hulley ended his 12-year chairmanship by leading the department's key role in UCSF's successful effort to gain major NIH support for the Clinical and Translational Science Institute, a university-wide endeavor to accelerate the pace of translating scientific discovery into patient care. Reflecting the growing interdisciplinary nature of the department's mission, Robert Hiatt, MD, PhD, director of Population Science at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Neil Risch, PhD, director of the Institute of Human Genetics, were appointed joint chairs.

As we settle into the new millennium, the department has 45 salaried primary appointment faculty, 85 affiliated faculty, 135 research and administrative staff, and manages $29 million in direct costs per year.