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The choice of which interviews to include in this book was made simpler by the fact that we carried out very few interviews over the years and each one was considered a special event. It was an easy leap from seeing the interview as a special event to a judgement that the interview was worth preserving in Epidemiology Wit & Wisdom - The Best of The Epidemiology Monitor.

Why were the interviews special events?

The interview with Brian MacMahon took place in the middle of the controversy created by his and his colleagues’ report of a possible association between coffee consumption and pancreatic cancer. This report garnered unprecedented publicity for an epidemiology report at the time and is remembered by every epidemiologist who was alive at the time.

The interview with Jonathan Mann is reprinted because of the giant role that Jon Mann came to play in the AIDS community. This interview is an opportunity to see how he conceived of the challenge during the very earliest days.

Pat Koslowe was interviewed back in 1988 because she was among the first to seek her fame and fortune by doing epidemiology as a private consultant. This was a new phenomenon in the 1980’s and there was much interest in getting a behind the scenes look at what it was like to undertake such a career.(See Robert Morgan’s piece in the Resources chapter for another insider’s view about private practice). Likewise Gary Spivey was interviewed to catch a glimpse at what the unique features of life in an industry setting might be like.

The breast implant controversy was fraught with implications for epidemiology and we got a candid portrait of life in the midst of that battle from Ralph Cook and his colleagues at Dow Corning. As a special feature following this interview, Dr. Cook has added a postscript from his vantage point today. 

Another group interview, the largest we have ever done, was carried out at the time the Supreme Court handed down its Daubert decision on what types of evidence are admissible in court. Since epidemiologic evidence had been at the heart of this controversy, and epidemiologists watched this decision closely, even submitting amicus briefs to the court.

Perhaps the most notorious interview we have conducted over the years is that of Gary Taubes, the Science reporter who wrote the 1995 article about epidemiology facing its limits. The article provoked much discussion and introspection in the field.

Finally, an interview we did with Kenneth Rothman this year is included in this volume because of its unique perspectives. Many epidemiologists active at the time remember the commentary Rothman wrote in the NEJM back in 1980 predicting the fall of epidemiology by 2000 because of all the bureaucratic redtape that was beginning to enmesh the field. Our 20th anniversary in 2000 coincided with the year Rothman had predicted for the fall of epidemiology, so we thought it would be valuable to ask Ken to revisit and comment on his failed “prediction”. His assessment about the state of the discipline over these past twenty years and view about the future is timely.

Brian MacMahon Coffee and Pancreatic Cancer

Jonathan Mann Global AIDS Epidemic

Pat KosLowe, PhD The Private Practice of Epidemiology

Gary Spivey Epidemiology in Private Industry

Ralph Cook, Myron Harrison, MD & Robert LeVier, PhD The Breast Implant Controversy

R.Morgan, R.Neutra, J.Robins, S.Rose, K.Rothman, S.Stellman, S.Swan & N.Weiss The Impact of the Supreme Court Decision in Merrell Dow vs. Daubert

Gary Taubes Science Reporting on Epidemiology

Kenneth Rothman Epidemiology “After the Fall”



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