Alumni win 2016 Kenneth Rothman Epidemiology Prize

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John Jackson, S.D. ’13, and Sonja Swanson, S.D. ’14, are the winners of the 2016 Kenneth Rothman Epidemiology Prize. The award is given annually for the best paper published in Epidemiology in the preceding year, and was announced in the journal’s July 2016 issue. It was presented June 23 at the Epidemiology Congress of the Americas.

Jackson and Swanson’s winning paper, “Toward a Clearer Portrayal of Confounding Bias in Instrumental Variable Applications,” appeared in the July 2015 issue of Epidemiology. Instrumental variable analyses are widely used in epidemiological studies to estimate causal relationships — such as exposure to air pollution and lung cancer incidence — when controlled experiments are not possible. When doing these studies, researchers must account for additional factors such as differences between the exposed and unexposed populations that could result in a distortion known as confounding bias.

“In our paper, we introduced intuitive graphical plots that more accurately represent potential bias,” said Jackson, who is a Yerby Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Epidemiology. “These sorts of tools are critical for readers of published studies, especially when they are charged with making public health decisions that affect the lives of millions.”

Swanson, who is an adjunct assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and an assistant professor at Erasmus MC in the Netherlands, called the paper “a lovely example of fruitful collaboration.” She said, “I am incredibly grateful to our mentors for fostering an environment that supported John and me as we pursued and developed our own research ideas.”