Norrina Allen, PhD, ’11 GME, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, is the new director of the Center for Epidemiology and Population Health. Part of Northwestern’s Institute for Public Health and Medicine (IPHAM), the center will gather and optimize a diverse pool of population health data in order to translate clinical questions into high-impact research.
“We are excited to relaunch the IPHAM Center for Epidemiology and Population and hope that with renewed effort we can create a sense of community for epidemiology and population health researchers across Northwestern,” said Allen, who is also an associate professor of Pediatrics. “By building upon the expertise of our diverse group of members, investing in resources to promote high-quality and novel methodologies in clinical research, and the creation of infrastructure to expand large-scale collaborative research, the center will be an invaluable resource for the University.”
Allen earned her doctoral degree in epidemiology from Yale University in 2009, and joined Feinberg after completing a postdoctoral fellowship in 2011. She’s been an active investigator, publishing studies in a variety of influential journals including JAMA and Circulation.
Public health necessitates a high degree of interdisciplinary teamwork, and Allen said she plans to bring lessons learned from these experiences into her new role at the center.
“The most transformative projects are often those that have collaborative teams and bring ideas from other fields to address important determinants of health,” Allen said. “I think one of the most important roles the center can have is to connect investigators across Northwestern and facilitate the creation of new research teams bringing to bear diverse expertise to improve the health of our population.”
The center will have three formal programs of science: data linkage, data pooling and social epidemiology. The linkage project, headed by Allen, aims to create new ways to link public health data across a wide variety of sources, including public records, medical data and both traditional and social media platforms.
The data pooling project, led by John Wilkins, MD, associate professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology and of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology, will devise new methodologies to combine study cohorts from multiple longitudinal studies, providing additional power to examine the complex relationships that make up an individuals’ health.
Finally, the social epidemiology program will measure and evaluate the health impacts of social environments in the Chicago area, including chronic stress, social relationships and the impact of neighborhood conditions like racial or ethnic segregation. This program will be led by Kiarri Kershaw, PhD, MPH, associate professor of Preventive Medicine in the Division of Epidemiology.
“In addition to representing a strength of Northwestern, these projects are also applicable to research across disciplines and topic areas, thus they represent innovative tools for researchers across Northwestern which we hope to help researchers take advantage of in their own research endeavors,” said Allen, who is also a member of the Northwestern University Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.