Chronic Disease Epidemiology


Chronic diseases, such as musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, and neurologic disorders have devastating consequences for morbidity and mortality. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death in the United States and globally. Despite major successes in many areas of chronic disease prevention and treatment in recent decades, worldwide demographic shifts towards older age profiles will increase the number of individuals affected and the importance of chronic diseases.  The overarching mission of the Division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology is to identify strategies to prevent and treat chronic diseases.  

The Division focuses on research and on running large national and international prospective observational studies and randomized trials addressing the common chronic diseases associated with aging.  The Division is home to the San Francisco Coordinating Center, which is a joint program of UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) Research Institute.  There are 5 primary appointment faculty in the Division and a large number of affiliate faculty with whom we work.

Faculty in the Division has strong research and clinical interests in:

  • Musculoskeletal diseases including osteoporosis and osteoarthritis,
  • Diabetes in older and middle aged people and its relationship to other chronic diseases,
  • Changes in functioning and disability, especially related to aging and chronic disease ,
  • Cognitive decline and dementia, including disparities and clinical and social risk factors,
  • Stroke, including social inequalities in stroke and functional consequences of stroke.

Other interests include definition of and predictors of successful aging, breast cancer and sarcopenia.  

Methodologic emphases of Division faculty include:

  • New and efficient methods for the implementation of clinical trials,
  • Innovations in observational research methods to support causal inference,
  • Longitudinal research methods for neuroepidemiology, especially dementia and cognitive decline,
  • Design and implementation of multi-center observational studies and clinical trials.

Research data and studies

Through the SF Coordinating Center, the Division manages and maintains a large number of large prospective observational studies as well as clinical trials.  Some specific examples include the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF: Cummings, Nevitt, Black), The Fracture Intervention Trial (FIT: Black, Schwartz, Cummings, Bauer), Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI: Nevitt, Lane), Multicenter Osteoarthritis Study (MOST: Nevitt), Health Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC: Nevitt, Cummings).  Other studies are listed on the SF Coordinating Center website.  Analyses initiated from outside UCSF are often possible; contact the project director for each specific study.

Research data bases on dementia, diabetes and stroke in Mexican Americans are available through Dr. Haan’s research including public use databases collected through U. Michigan and sight exam data from WHI.


The Division provides an exciting point of interface for trainees to become involved in on the ground research activities related to chronic diseases, including data collection, data management, and analytic research efforts.   Division faculty is closely involved in training within the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics and more broadly throughout UCSF and in Continuing Medical Education.

Dr. Haan is Vice Chair for education and training for the department and works with leaders of educational programs within and outside of the department.

Maria Glymour is the program director for the Department PhD program in Epidemiology & Translational Sciences. Division faculty is involved in several of the PhD program Areas of Concentration, including:  Aging, Cancer epidemiology, Clinical epidemiology, and Social epidemiology.

In addition, the Division provides an annual CME course in Osteoporosis and is responsible for the TICR Clinical Trials course.  Faculty also participate in many TICR courses.

The division hosts a monthly "Friday Science" meeting for faculty, research staff, and trainees focusing on new and current research within the group and in the field at large. This is a great venue for discussing timely and provocative research related to chronic disease epidemiology. There is also a monthly "brain aging" journal club for faculty and trainees focused on dementia and cognitive decline.  For information, contact Maria Glymour.

Primary Faculty

Dennis Black, PhD Professor and Division Head
Maria Glymour, ScD, MS Professor
Kala Mehta, MPD, DSc Associate Professor
Ann V. Schwartz, PhD, MPH Professor
Jacqueline Torres, MPH, MA, PhD Assistant Professor
Justin White, PhD Assistant Professor


Secondary Faculty

Douglas C. Bauer, MD Professor
Steve Cummings, MD Professor
Robyn R. Gershon, PhD Professor
Anne Schafer, MD Assistant Professor


Affiliate Faculty

Peggy Cawthon, PhD Associate Professor
Dan Evans, PhD, MPH Assistant Professor
Katie Stone, PhD Professor
Greg Tranah, PhD Professor


Retired Faculty

Mary N. Haan, DrPH, MPH Professor (Recalled)
Michael C. Nevitt, PhD Professor (Recalled)