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It’s all in the data

Epidemiology students get behind the scenes of precision medicine

All of Us

Students in H551 volunteered on the All of Us Journey bus February 15

College of Public Health and Human Sciences graduate students got a firsthand look at precision medicine and the importance of participant recruitment in a large-scale health data study being conducted across the country.

The students – enrolled in H551 Applied Epidemiological Analysis of Secondary Data ­– volunteered on the All of Us Journey bus when it stopped at Oregon State’s Corvallis campus February 15.

“At the Corvallis tour stop, we entered demographic information into their system and were invited inside the tour vehicle,” says Faye Andrews, a doctoral student in the Environmental and Occupational Health program. “It was interesting to learn about precision medicine and the goals of the program.”

The tour is traveling throughout the United States to gather health data from more than 1 million people as part of the All of Us Research Program, which was launched in 2016. The program seeks to accelerate health research and medical breakthroughs to enable individualized prevention, treatment and care. At the Oregon State stop, 104 interviews were conducted on the bus, 73 individuals completed the journey tour and 32 people enrolled in the program.

“As an individual from a minority group, I find that I am often underrepresented – or not represented at all – in research,” says public health doctoral student Fatima Al-Ghadban.

“As a future researcher, I appreciate the inclusive approach of the program and the goal to gather data on all of us,” Fatima says. “We need to see this diversity in research to give us a better representation of our true population and a greater understanding of health-related information that we can use to inform our future work in the field with different populations.”

CPHHS Professor Ellen Smit saw the All of Us Journey event as the perfect opportunity to share a hands-on experience with her students, who are learning about public health surveillance in the classroom. She says it demonstrated the importance of using public health data and how critical participant recruitment is to the research process.

“This program is important because it will become a resource for any qualified researcher,” Ellen says. “We can collect data for an individual small study, but this cost-effective approach facilitates access to a large sample with detailed health information. The knowledge gained from this research has the potential to improve public health.”

The All of Us Research Program is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and is a key element of the Precision Medicine Initiative. Factors such as health habits, lifestyle and common and rare disease data are being gathered from diverse populations so that research, technology and policies empower patients, researchers and providers to work together toward individualized care.

“These data will help transform medical practices and open up many research opportunities for epidemiologists,” Faye says. “My experience learning about the All of Us program has shaped my perception of health data collection, and I look forward to learning about what they find from their research.”