The Department of Population Health Sciences (DPHS) in the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Augusta University was established in 2017 to strengthen the institution’s impact on the health of all Georgians. It was shaped by expanding the role of the Department of Biostatistics & Epidemiology to strengthen MCG’s impact on the health of Georgia.
The broader mission of the department is to understand, preserve and improve the health human populations through research, training and community engagement, especially focusing on the health of Georgians. It will enable scientists and educators to pursue and share a more comprehensive perspective on who are getting sick, what they have and why, and which targeted interventions and treatments are most effective for them.
The evolution of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology dates back to 1986, with the inception of the Office of Research Computing and Statistics under the directorship of Dr. William Thompson. Its primary mission was to provide research and educational support on campus. In 1992, the computing support merged with the Division of Information Technology, and the office was renamed the Office of Biostatistics. Dr. Thompson continued as director of the Office of Biostatistics until his retirement in 2000. Dr. Mark Litaker served as the interim director till Dr. David Smith was hired as the director in 2002.
In 2004, as part of the strategic initiative and academic mission of the institution, the Office of Biostatistics was transformed to a full-fledged academic department, with the added foci on graduate training programs and methodological research in biostatistics. Dr. James Dias, as the interim chair, spearheaded the development of an MS program in Biostatistics. The Department was initially housed in the School of Graduate Studies, in recognition by the institution of the broad and vital role of biostatistics in multidisciplinary and translational research. In 2005, Dr. Varghese George was recruited as the inaugural chair of the department, at which time it had four faculty members, three of whom have since retired.
The year 2006 marked the first incoming class of the MS students. The development of the Ph.D. program in Biostatistics culminated in the first incoming class of 2008. That same year, as part of the initiative in developing translational research infrastructure on campus, the department also started a certificate and a master’s program in Clinical and Translational Science, specifically designed for junior faculty, fellows and residents within the institution. By the end of the 2016-17 academic year, 8 postdoctoral, 12 doctoral, 17 master’s, 9 MCTS and 2 CCTS trainees graduated from the department.
The year 2012 was an eventful one in the history of our institution. Georgia Health Sciences University (formerly, the Medical College of Georgia) and Augusta State University consolidated to become the Georgia Regents University, which was later renamed Augusta University. During the merger, the College of Medicine was also renamed the Medical College of Georgia. At the same time, the Department of Biostatistics moved from the Graduate School to MCG, and was renamed the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, in recognition of the need to build a strong epidemiology presence on campus.
The DPHS was a natural evolution from Biostatistics and Epidemiology, with the focus on strengthening MCG’s impact on the health of Georgia through research, education and community engagement. It was founded in 2017 by consolidating the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology with the Georgia Prevention Institute (GPI), a highly acclaimed research arm of MCG. The department initially consisted of three divisions: Biostatistics and Data Science, Epidemiology, and GPI. However, because of logistical considerations, after two years, the GPI was moved to the Department of Medicine in 2019. Though administratively separated, the GPI and DPHS continue to maintain a very strong collaborative research partnership. A new division, the Division of Health Economics and Modeling, was added in 2019.