Short Courses at Columbia University Provide a Common Research Toolkit

Health & Society Scholars

Synopsis of Work: In 2001, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) established the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars® program to build the field of population health by producing leaders who will change the questions asked, the methods used to analyze problems and the range of solutions offered to improve the health of all Americans.

"We thought that part of the process of doing this kind of training is to give scholars the opportunity to hook up with smart scientists who are doing interesting work. The short courses are a great vehicle for that," said Peter Bearman, Ph.D., program co-director of the RWJF Health & Society Scholars program at Columbia University in New York City.

Columbia University offers about four short courses each year, with scholars selecting the topics.

Story Told: Scholars especially liked the course on "Social Network Analysis," offered in 2004 and again in 2007.

Sara Shostak, Ph.D., M.P.H., is one of the Columbia scholars who began to use social network analysis in her research after attending the course. "Social network analysis was something of a conversion experience for me," she said. "Incorporating the methods I learned in that short course, even at a very simple level, has contributed significantly to my research on how people in families affected by epilepsy think—and talk—about risk, inheritance and genetics."