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SER 2013: A review

The Society for Epidemiologic Research, or SER, held its annual meeting in Boston, MA this past June 18-21, 2013. The meeting was well-attended by Epidemiologists from the United States, Canada, and beyond, and had a number of excellent workshops, symposia, and presentations.

The President’s address, delivered by Dr Sandro Galea of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, covered the theme of "consequentialist epidemiology". By this Dr. Galea means seeking answers not only to epidemiological questions of causation, but also to policy questions on broader issues such as gun control and population nutrition. This sparked lively debate as people expressed opinions both in support of and in opposition to the idea that SER ought to be focusing more on such policy issues.

A continuing theme this year was the use of marginal structural models with observational data in order to make strong statements about causation. The primary purveyors of these methods were James Robins and Tyler Vanderweele from the Harvard University School of Public Health, and Stephen Cole from the University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Public Health. Of particular interest was a session on methods for estimating survival and hazard functions under conditions of competing risk, a joint presentation by Cole, Robins, and others. However, these methods are seeing wider adoption by researchers, particularly student investigators.

A highlight of the conference for me was the chance to connect with students and postdocs in Epidemiology via the SER Student and Postdoc Committee (SER-SPC) social. There I was able to make some new friends from the Harvard University School of Public Health, Vanderbilt University, the National Cancer Institute, the University of Alberta, and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Nashville. It was a real pleasure to talk with each of them and find out a bit about what they do in Epidemiology – a great group of young researchers to be sure.

The 2014 SER annual meeting will be held in Seattle in June, and I personally look forward to yet another great conference!

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