I had heard good things about this course. I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to get a detailed final overview over the different epidemiological methods, get rid of knowledge gaps, deepen my knowledge and improve my skills in the use of the statistical software program STATA. After taking several topic-specific intense courses it is important to do some repetition, take a step back and think about the different methodological tools as part of a bigger picture in the context of epidemiological research.
During these two weeks, we covered topics ranging from traditional to more advanced and new epidemiological methods. The daily interactive lectures on each topic were followed by practical STATA tutorials in which we worked individually through exercises using different datasets and got personal assistance by tutors if necessary. There were also some instructive group work tutorials including paper critiques and study designing with subsequent discussion. In the end of the first week we took a short anonymous multiple-choice test. The more difficult questions were discussed in the second week.
During the course we covered the following topics:
1st week: -Crude and stratified rate ratios Logic, analysis and interpretation in case-control studies
2nd week: -Strategies of analysis Stratifying on time for cohort studies
Poisson regression for cohort studies
Cox regression for cohort studies
Analysis of matched data
Introduction into analysis of correlated data
Introduction into Causal Inference and Causal Diagrams
This is an advanced level course, but not as advanced as I expected it to be. If you have basic knowledge, but neither experience in epidemiological analyses, nor STATA use, you can take this course. However, I imagine that it would be an intense experience, which requires intermittent reading and repetition. In the final course evaluation I suggested to give a more thorough list of what should be previously known by students applying for this course. I personally learned most in the second week and would have preferred that they shortened the first week’s topics in favor of more difficult topics introduced mainly in the second week. However, I definitely did benefit from the first week as well.
The course is very well organized and is continuously improved based on student evaluations. The first day we received a file with printed course material (lecture slides, lecture summaries, STATA manual, STATA exercises and solutions). There were enough breaks and lectures/tutorials were usually well timed. Lecturers and tutors were open and enthusiastic to questions. With very few exceptions, tutors were experienced and skilled at explaining/answering questions. We used the computers on site for the practical parts. The course fee included cafeteria (tasty!) vouchers of 2 pounds a day, two lunches (on the first and last day), expenses for the extracurricular activities and a professional group photo (although many found the latter unnecessary). Extracurricular activities included a dinner at a local wine bar, a ticket for a boat trip on the river Thames and one for the London Eye.
The course lasted usually from 9.30 am to 5.00 pm with generous lunchtime. So there was enough time to talk to people attending the course who come from all over the world, and explore the wonderful city of London. I lived in a small studio in Fitzrovia rented through AirBnB in walking distance from the school and it was an amazing experience. I had a small kitchen and thus the possibility to prepare some food at home. In addition, I saved time and money not depending on public transportation.