Our History

The Beginning

Dr. Nigel Paneth became enamored with epidemiology while a medical student at Harvard, where he studied under Frank Speizer, M.D., the originator of the well-known “Nurses Health Study” that follows the health of more than 150,000 nurses. After completing his residency in pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, he enrolled in the Columbia University of Public Health. Dr. Paneth wanted “the chance to influence health on a much larger scale than one patient at a time,” he said of his interest in epidemiology.

The determinants of disease are much broader than what brought the patient in to see you, You can make a difference not just one patient at a time, but one population at a time.

Dr. Nigel Paneth

Nigel Paneth

From Program to Department

Consequently, Dr. Nigel Paneth came to MSU in 1989 to initiate the Program in Epidemiology and on February 5, 1997 the Michigan State University Board of Trustees voted to establish a Department of Epidemiology within the College of Human Medicine, changing the College’s Program in Epidemiology, established in 1989, to a Department of Epidemiology, effective July 1, 1997.

“Creating an epidemiology department housed in a medical school is helping to create a new model for epidemiologic education,” he stated in July of 1997.

Over the years The Department of Epidemiology added an Undergraduate Minor in Global Public Health and Epidemiology, as well as Masters, and Ph.D degrees in Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

Upon stepping down as chair Dr. Paneth has continued his research in the department by giving leadership to studies such as the Michigan Alliance for the National Children's study. The department continued its growth under the department chair leadership of Drs. Joseph Gardiner, Jim Anthony, Mat Reeves, Claudia Holzman and Dawn Misra assuming the role of Department Chair in 2020.

  • Dr. Nigel Paneth,  "The improbable History of our Department"


New Name, New Leadership

January 1, 2012, the department officially changed its name to the “Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics”. This change coincided with a change in the department’s leadership, with Dr. Claudia Holzman assuming the role of department Chair and Dr. Joseph Gardiner taking on the role of Associate Chair.

"We welcome the name change, which is indicative of the two areas where we hope to grow the department," said Dr. Holzman, Chair and Professor of Epidemiology. A long-term member of the department’s faculty, Dr. Holzman brought a diverse background to her new role, with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from MSU, a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Minnesota, and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Michigan. Since joining Epidemiology in 1990 and then as a faculty member in 1994, Dr. Holzman developed and maintained an active and internationally respected research program in reproductive and perinatal health while simultaneously contributing to the department’s teaching mission.

Dr. Gardiner stated, “With this name change, the University recognizes the interdisciplinary nature of both the Epidemiology and Biostatistics fields among our faculty," adding that the faculty collaborate in several joint research ventures with investigators across campus (CHM, COM, CON, CVM) that involve a substantive methodological component. Dr. Gardiner has collaborated extensively with epidemiologists and medical researchers at MSU, and with health services researchers outside the university.

The department currently has a diverse and talented faculty roster in both epidemiology and biostatistics, and offers a stimulating working environment for both students and researchers. Building on this expertise by adding new faculty in both disciplines, the department plans to foster an environment that further encourages growth both within and across disciplines.

In August of 2018, Dr. Claudia Holzman stepped aside as Department Chair after six and a half years of succesful service where her leadership saw the department continuing to grow through faculty, grants and degree programs. On August 16, 2018 Dr. Mat Reeves became the Interim Department Chair.

A New Era

February 1, 2020 marked the beginning of a new era for the department as Dr. Dawn Misra, MSH, PhD became the new Department Chair.

Together, Dr. Misra along with the faculty look forward to leading the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics as it continues to expand its teaching and research missions.