A four-time Teacher of the Year, according to Emorys medical
students, and one of the most popular professors in the Rollins
School of Public Health will give the next Great Teachers Lecture
on Thursday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. in the Miller-Ward Alumni House.
John Boring, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology,
will speak on Thinking About Thinking: The Predictive Value
of Epidemiolog-ical Thinking.
As a longtime professor in public health (as well as the School
of Medicine) and one of the midwives of the 12-year-old
Rollins school, Boring has taught generations of students the value
of the analytic method of thinking adopted by epidemiologists. His
Great Teachers Lecture will focus on how that kind of thinking can
be applied to problem solving in many fieldsand why it is
especially valuable when it comes to problem solving in medicine.
He should know. His course in analytic medicine (medical decision
making) remains a required course for all medical students at Emory.
Epidemiology is the study of diseases among populations. It examines
risk factors that cause diseases and the impact of interventions
for prevention and treatment. Boring will talk mostly about a way
of looking at information called the Denominator Science
approach to thinking. This approach also can be called evidence-based
medicine: The more people in the denominator, the more reliable
Epidemiologists often can figure out what causes a diseaseor
how to stop itsimply by looking at the numbers. John Snow,
known as the father of epidemiology, studied the geographic distribution
of cholera cases in an 1859 London epidemic and concluded the cause
was a certain sewage-tainted well. The well was closed and the epidemic
ended. Boring will explain how the epidemiologic method continues
to unravel some of the trickiest medical puzzles in the history
Medical decision making often is fraught with serious difficulties,
Boring said. Medical practitioners are problem solvers who
must diagnose and treat problems suffered by patients. Very often
the evidence needed to solve these problems is uncertain, at best.
Analytic methods have an important contribution here. Probabilities
for diagnostic tests and therapies may be developed in population
studies and become the guidelines for diagnosis and therapy. Thus,
predictive value theory and clinical trials are based on ideas of
Boring has been an Emory faculty member for 36 years. After working
for the Epidemic Intelligence Service and as a senior scientist
at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he joined the
School of Medicine in 1966.
He was director of epidemiology in the medical schools Department
of Biostatistics and Epidemiology until the Rollins school was established.
Epidemiology became part of that school, and Boring continued as
director, then chair of the department. His research interests include
infectious disease epidemiology. Among his many honors, Boring has
received the Thomas Jefferson award, Emorys highest award
for lifetime contributions to the University.