Creative Thinking in Epidemiology (Day 3 of Learning Road Trip)

On Sept. 21, the Creative Thinking in Epidemiology workshop was run again, this time with researchers associated with Cancer Care Ontario and the Epidemiology Department at the University of Toronto.

(to be edited)

What happened?

The program, with links to pre-circulated materials and to some records from the workshop are given here.

Unlike the Amherst workshop two days earlier, all the participants were employed professionals in the public health area, but their primary identification was not necessarily as an epidemiologist.  (Some people worked in health communication, psychology, medical education,,…)

Again, given the size of the group (about 14), the autobiographical introductions were done in smaller groups (so not everyone heard everyone else’s).

The third activity, in which participants related how the precirculated discussion “paper intersects with or stimulates your own thinking” raised a diversity of themes, such as:

Looking at data in different ways, e.g., checking whether the deficit in girls in India differed from the first to the second child (it does–equal for the first, fewer girls for the 2nd); how to convey epi. results to people without epi. background; screening systems shaped by litigation (so litle attention to costs of overscreening); study characteristsics of those among underscreened groups who choose to get screened; and much more.

The fourth activity was a short survey done during a meal break after two hours of the workshop.  A sample of themes in the survey responses are:

struck by the comment that great epidemiological discoveries are based on observations more than interventions

excited by hearing each other talk about professional and scholarly creativity

frustrated by how to find time and colleagues to pursue the processes [started here]

chewing on how to explore connections made at the workshop

patterns in the topic: theme of analyzing data in novel ways

patterns in the process: everyone is encouraged to contribute


After two more activities, we had a closing circle: Closing circle comments

In the category of “One thing we’re taking away to chew on or to put into practice,” comments included: “[Develop a] course on history of great epidemiological ideas,” “How to reinforce each other to do more in-depth, less-conventional work,” “Interesting that people are grappling with this [topic]. Creativity is not so lonely; there are lots of people here.”

(Start of road trip; Day 4)

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