Tammy Clifford, PhD

Degree:PhD in Epidemiology & Biostatistics 
Graduating year: 2002
Accomplishments: UWO Special University Scholarship, Ontario Graduate Scholarship – Science & Technology (OGSST), Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) OGSST; Student Research Awards for Best Paper at Paediatric Resident Research Day; Travel Award (Margaret Moffatt Research Day)
Area of research:Pediatric & perinatal epidemiology (thesis was examining the influence of breastfeeding on infant colic)
Name of supervisor: Dr. M Karen Campbell
  • My Journey

  • Future Aspirations

I have always had an interest in health, and health research. It wasn’t until my MSc studies that I was formally exposed to Epidemiology and it was then that I had my “Eureka” moment. The rest, as they say, is history. 

While in the PhD program at Western University, my research interests were in the area of pediatric & perinatal epidemiology. Under the supervision of Dr Karen Campbell, my doctoral work followed a cohort of more than 850 moms & their newborns for 6 months, to examine the influence of breastfeeding on the development of infant colic. During my time at Western, I also worked with Dr Kathy Speechley at the Child Health Research Institute, on a research project that looked at health outcomes and resource utilization of high needs children.

There is no “one size fits all” or “cookie cutter” epidemiologist/biostatistician;  it is the training and experience you’ll gain in such programs that will provide you with the tools that you can then use in a variety of environments – whether academic, government, private sector or not-for-profit.  Just take a look at the news each day – how many of the top stories have (or should have) an epidemiological bent?  There is a tremendous need to improve society’s understanding of statistics and specifically, of risk.  So, in terms of being able to get a job following completion of the program, your odds are very good.

 As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  A career in epidemiology and biostatistics is likely for you if you have an inquiring mind, are inclined to be skeptical and want to get at the truth, want to be challenged by a constantly evolving knowledge base, have a desire to do work that can have immediate & tangible benefits to human health, and you can work well with others, embracing the interdisciplinary nature of our work. And, it goes without saying, you need to like numbers too! 

Future Aspirations

For the past 10 years, I’ve worked at CADTH – the Canadian Agency for Drugs & Technologies in Health – where I oversee a team of researchers who carry out health technology assessments (aka HTA).  The work that we do at CADTH directly informs health system decisions as to the appropriate use of pharmaceuticals and other health technologies.  Epidemiology is integral to HTA, and to the work that our agency does, and knowing that this work is done in direct support of improving health outcomes, and in supporting a sustainable health care system is particularly fulfilling.  I’m fortunate in that I also hold a faculty appointment with the School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Ottawa. This allows me the opportunity to teach, to supervise and to mentor the next generation of epidemiologists, and to work with colleagues from a variety of disciplines on research projects.