Wetenschap - 7 november 2002

Lecture Review:HNE-11804

Lecture Review:HNE-11804

Epidemiology and Public Health

Lecturer: Professor E.G. Schouten

Girls behind me are chatting and giggling. The reader is filled with PowerPoint presentations; page after page, sheet after sheet. Boring, and the lecture hasn't even started yet. Who is the lecturer? The giggling girls don't know and couldn't care less. They're not interested in the topic of the lecture: conducting a cohort study.

Lecturer Schouten is wearing a microphone. He's been confronted with giggling girls before, I guess. The lecture begins. For the Dutch students at least. Is this a Dutch lecture? The open mouth of a foreign looking student tells me it's not. Schouten carries on, in Dutch. "In English," someone finally dares to say. Schouten apologises. All right, all right, now get on with it, tell us all about this so-called cohort. "A cohort study is an observational study in which people are followed over time," says Schouten. The PowerPoint presentation says it too: all the things you need to take into account when measuring disease occurrence are projected on the wall. The lecture adds little more and half of the time Schouten cannot be heard because of the giggling at the back of the room.

In spite of the microphone Schouten's voice is soft. His English is not really bad, but his words are not inspiring. Maybe it's the topic. Learning about general exposure cohort studies and special exposure cohort studies is not at the top of my priority list. A picture of a man is projected in front of class. It's John Snow, the founder of modern epidemiology. Why we need to look at his picture beats me, but the story Schouten tells about how Snow was the first to conduct a cohort study on cholera in London is the only interesting thing I get to hear.

Eventually Schouten turns to statistics. A long formula is explained, after which he shows us an example on the blackboard. When I finally figure out that the formula used is not the same as the one he was talking about all the time I give up. Utter boredom is leading to an unusually high giggle infection rate and lots of students are by now yawning. Coffee, please.

Leonie Mossink