Patient Oriented Research

Despite the advances of the last two decades in the basic sciences, clinical and translational investigation—and the clinical and translational investigator—remain cornerstones of patient-oriented research. In response to calls from the National Institutes of Health for improved training of clinical and translational researchers in academic medicine, Columbia launched the MS in Patient-Oriented Research (MS-POR) program in 1999, a formal, joint endeavor between the schools of public health, medicine, nursing, dentistry, and the arts and sciences.

The MS-POR prepares young researchers for independent careers as clinical scientists—and to compete more effectively for research funding—through training in the fundamentals of clinical investigation. The two-year, 30-credit master’s degree program is comprised of an interdisciplinary series of courses and colloquia, some of which were developed exclusively for thev MS-POR program. The curriculum emphasizes strong quantitative training as well as critical thinking skills and practical strategies for addressing the complex challenges of clinical research.

Patient-Oriented Research Competencies

In addition to achieving the core competencies of the MS programs offered by the Department of Biostatistics, MS-POR graduates will be able to:

Data Analysis and Computing

  • Apply the basic tenets of research design and analysis for the purpose of critically reviewing research and programs in disciplines outside of biostatistics;
  • Differentiate between quantitative problems that can be addressed with standard methods and those requiring input from a professional biostatistician; and

Public Health and Collaborative Research

  • Discuss basic laboratory methods commonly used in patient-oriented research.

Columbia University Medical Center is steeped in a rich tradition of clinical investigation and a strong institutional commitment to the study of human disease. We teach the methods that lead to results and improved health for all

 Founding Director, Melissa D. Begg, ScD

Admission Criteria

The MS-POR program is open to applicants with the following doctoral degrees: MD, DDS, DMD, DO, DC, ND, or DNSc. Applicants with PhDs who want to become involved in clinical research may also be eligible. Candidates from a wide range of clinical and translational research fields and specialty areas are encouraged to apply, although all candidates must be engaged in either direct care of or research with patients.

Applications are due by April 1st* of each calendar year, to begin studies the following July. Admissions and scholarship award decisions are made in the first week of May. In addition to the School-wide application, POR candidates must also submit:

  • A statement of support from the program director confirming that if accepted to the program, the candidate will continue to receive salary support during the program's two-year duration and will be permitted to attend the CSRI (Columbia Summer Research Institute) program.

One of the applicant's 3 letters of reference must come from his/her direct supervisor. This letter must confirm that if accepted to the program:

  1. The candidate will continue to receive salary support during the two years that he/she will be enrolled in the training program; and
  2. The candidate must be permitted to attend classes for 8 weeks during the first summer of study in order to participate in the CSRI (Columbia Summer Research Institute) program and be allowed to take courses for up to 7-9 hours per week during subsequent semesters. 

Scholarships and Funding Opportunities

A limited number of partial tuition scholarships, generously provided by the CUIMC Clinical Trials Office and the Mailman School of Public Health, are available to highly qualified candidates.* During the admissions review, the MS-POR executive committee recommends applicants for scholarships who have demonstrated:

  • Promise in clinical and translational research
  • Superior academic transcripts
  • Prior involvement in clinical research projects
  • Strong letters of reference
  • A record of publication

*To be considered for an MS-POR Scholarship, applications must be received by April 1.

Learn More

View competencies, course requirements, sample schedules, and more in our Academics section. 


Paul McCullough
Director of Academic Programs
Department of Biostatistics

Todd Ogden, PhD
Director of the MS-POR Program

Master's Essay

As part of Patient-Oriented Research training, each student is required to complete a Master’s essay consisting of the construction of an NIH-style grant application, considered one of the cornerstones of the MS-POR program.  students are supervised by a Project Sponsor from biostatistics and by a Clinical Mentor from his or her own clinical field. In the fall term of year 2, each student will submit a research grant proposal, following NIH guidelines for applications. Each proposal will be reviewed by the program leaders, followed by a formal presentation to the POR Advisory Board.

Time Commitment

The program may be completed in just under two years. Courses are generally scheduled with the clinicians' limited time in mind. Many classes are scheduled in the mid-to-late afternoon, and we try to keep it down to three partial days per week in school.

Students begin the program by completing 10 of the 30 required credits by participating in the Columbia Summer Research Institute (CSRI). The CSRI is an intensive 8-week program in research design and statistical analysis and requires a full-time commitment for the duration of the program.

A survey of program graduates indicates that the program requires 12-20 hours per week on average, including lectures, readings, and homework.

While the POR program is considered part-time, some semesters, just like some courses, are heavier than others. Applicants can expect to carry as little as three and up to eleven credits per semester, depending on how they sketch out their requirements.


The Patient-Oriented Research (POR) training program produces effective, successful, and competitive clinical and translational investigators. Students are trained in the design, conduct, and evaluation of clinical and translational research studies, with close supervision and support from the program's directors. With expert guidance, each POR student will craft a research proposal that will be carefully assessed by faculty and peers in the program. In addition to gaining better skills, successful students will leave the program with a Master of Science degree in Biostatistics - Patient-Oriented Research Track (for those starting the program in 2009 or earlier) or a Master of Science degree in Patient-Oriented Research (for those starting in 2010 or later), a valued credential on curriculum vitae.

The POR curriculum consists of 30 credits in total, including required and elective coursework. Through specially focused coursework and a supervised Master’s essay, candidates for MS-POR will receive formal training in the following areas:

  • Design of clinical research studies
  • Laboratory methods for measurement of clinical indicators
  • Conduct of observational & randomized studies
  • Applied statistical methods
  • Standards for scientific conduct
  • The pursuit of research funding
  • A critical review of the literature
  • Use of software packages for data management & analysis 

While the curriculum is designed to provide an introduction to a broad array of topics, candidates are free to choose two or more elective courses during their training period, thereby affording them the opportunity to develop expertise in a particular specialty area (e.g., quantitative, translational, or epidemiologic methods).

Required Courses

The required courses are listed below.

Interdisciplinary Core Requirements

Course No. Course Name Points
P6104 Introduction to Biostatistical Methods 3
P6400 Principles of Epidemiology I 3
P8103 Colloquium on Patient-Oriented Research 2
P8120 Analysis of Categorical Data 3
P8182 Writing a Successful NIH Grant Application 1
P8568 Decision Analysis for Clinical and Public Health Practices 2
P8750 Race and Health 1
P9165 Master's Essay in Biostatistics: Patient-Oriented Research 0
G4010 Responsible Conduct of Research & Related Policy Issues 1
M9780 Funding for Research Activities: Basic Issues in Obtaining Support 1
89260 Building Interdisciplinary Research Models 2

Restricted Electives (Selectives)

In addition to the 11 courses listed above, students are required to take at least two of the following courses of which at least one course has to be from the Biostatistics and Epidemiology list. Other courses related to precision medicine, statistical genetics, molecular biology mechanisms, data and computing, dissemination/implementation, biostatistics, or epidemiology may count towards fulfilling the selective requirement as long as they are approved in advance by the MS/POR Advisory Committee. 

Course No. Course Name Points
Precision Medicine and Genetics Electives
M7208 Precision Medicine 3
P6385 Principles of Genetics and the Environment 3
P8119 Advanced Statistical & Computational Methods in Genetics 3
P8405 Genetics in Epidemiology 3
Mechanisms/Molecular Electives
G4500 Cancer Biology I 3
G6003 Mechanisms in Human Disease I 4.5
P8307 Molecular Epidemiology 3
P8308 Molecular Toxicology 3
P8312 Fundamentals of Toxicology 3
P8319 Biological Markers of Chemical Exposure 3
Data and Computing Electives
G4001 Introduction to Computer Applications in Health Care and Biomedicine 3
P6110 Statistical Computing Using SAS 3
P8101 Introduction to Health Data Science 3
P8105 Data Science I 3
P8180 Relational Database and SQL Programming for Research and Data Science 3
P8451 Introduction to Machine Learning for Epidemiology 3
Dissemination & Implementation Science and Community-based Participatory Research Electives
P8792 Dissemination and Implementation Science 3
P8771 Community Based Participatory Research 3
Biostatistics and Epidemiology Electives
P8100 Applied Regression I 3
P8110 Applied Regression II 3
P8112 Systemic Review and Meta-analysis 1.5
P8122 Statistical Methods for Casual Inference 3
P8140 Randomized Clinical Trials 3
P8142 Clinical Trials Methodology  3
P8400 Epi III: Applied Epidemiological Analysis 3
P8401 Pharmacoepidemiology 3
P8438 Epi II: Design and Conduct of Observational Epidemiology  3
P8450 Clinical Epidemiology 3
P8777 Survey Research Methods 3
P8405 Genetics in Epidemiology 3
P8771 Community-Based Participatory Research 3
P8902 Introduction to Mixed Methods 3


Elective Courses. Students will choose elective courses from one or more of the following: 

• Departments of Epidemiology or Biostatistics, or other departments at the School of Public Health 

• From the list of restricted electives (selectives) – see above 

• Elective courses from other Columbia schools – see list below 

Electives in Clinical and Translational Research outside of Mailman School of Public Health

Electives in Biostatistics
Course No. Course Name Points
B8128 Healthcare Investment and Entrepreneurship 1.5
B8342 Healthcare Investment and Deal-making 1.5
B8692 Pharmaceutical Drug Commercialization: Strategy & Practice 1.5
B8745 Forecasting for Drug Development Strategy 1.5
E6893 Topics in Information Processing: Big Data Analytics 3
G4006 Translational Bioinformatics 3
G4062 Public Health Informatics 1

Sample Timeline

Candidates for the MS-POR degree must complete all program requirements (30 credits) within 2 calendar years, taking 2-4 courses per term. Coursework commences during the summer term of the first year of study. To become a POR Scholar, you MUST be able to start the program in JULY of year one.

Students begin the POR program by participating in the Columbia Summer Research Institute, an intensive 8-week summer program. CSRI participants earn 10 credits over 8 weeks, completing two introductory-level required courses (epidemiology and biostatistics) and four mini-electives (NIH grant writing, development of clinical guidelines, health disparities research, and decision/cost-effectiveness analysis).

Note: Course schedules change from year to year, so that class days/times in future years may differ from the sample schedule below. While we work very hard to ensure clinicians are not in class for more than three partial days per week, we do not offer classes at night or on weekends. Many required classes are offered in the mid-to-late afternoon.

Year 1 Course No. Course Name Points
Summer Semester
(early July- late-Aug.)
P6104 Introduction to Biostatistical Methods 3
  P6400 Principles of Epidemiology I 3
  P8182 Writing a Successful NIH Grant 1
  P8568 Decision Analysis for Clinical and Public Health Practices 2
  P8750 Introduction to Race and Health 1
Fall Semester
(September through December)
P8103 Colloquium 0.5
Spring Semester
(January through May)
G4010 Responsible conduct of research and related policy issues 1
  P8103 Colloquium 0.5
  P8120 Analysis of Categorical Data 3
  G4010 Responsible Conduct of Research & Related Policy Issues 1


Year 2 Course No. Course Name Points
Fall Semester
(September through December)
P8103 Colloquium 0.5
P9165 Master's Essay in Biostatistics: Patient-Oriented Research 0
Spring Semester
(January through May)
P8103 Colloquium 0.5
  M9780 Funding for Research Activities: Basic Issues in Obtaining Support 1
Building Interdisciplinary Research Models

Our Students

 Of 48 POR Scholars admitted through 2005, most enter the program as Post-doctoral Fellows or Assistant Professors.  


Women and men are admitted in about equal proportions.

 Women and men are admitted in about equal proportions.

There is broad representation from a number of race/ethnic groups (self-identified).

There is broad representation from a number of race/ethnic groups (self-identified).

Most scholars are from the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, and Neurology.


And those in Medicine represent a broad range of sub-specialty areas, as well as house staff.



Thirty-five of the 48 (73%) have successfully completed all program requirements and have graduated. Another 13 are actively working towards completion of their degrees. All are employed in research positions, with approximately 94% holding academic appointments, and the rest in private research foundations and the pharmaceutical industry.

In the short time since the program launched its first graduates in 2001, 12 POR Scholars out of 48 (25%) have succeeded in obtaining independent grant awards (both career and research awards) from the NIH. In addition to success in garnering NIH funding, several have secured peer-reviewed awards from private foundations and the corporate sector. Overall, approximately 33% of POR Scholars have succeeded in obtaining independent research funding over the past five years.

…and What They Say About the Program

We measure the value and success of the MS-POR program not just in terms of course and faculty evaluations, but by the written feedback on the program received from some of the POR graduates:


When I included Biostatistics course work in my K24 grant as part of my career development plan, it was largely due to grantsmanship. At the time, I thought that Biostatistics was a hopelessly elusive body of knowledge that I could never really hope to understand. In retrospect, I could never have possibly imagined how much my lack of understanding of basic statistical concepts was holding back my career. This program was the single most important thing that I have done since completion of my fellowship training. I know that the program has already substantially improved my grant writing and my manuscript preparation and will continue to do so in the future

The POR Track provided me with the training and insight that will allow me to finally approach my goals of using knowledge gained from study of the placenta to improve understanding of the process and burden of obstetric disease, and to point in the direction of potential improvements to mother and child care that may echo throughout the life course of the mother and her family.

Completing the POR program has been an essential step in my research career and has already had a significant impact on my research work and grant writing. I anticipate that it will increase my chances to obtain federal funding and to reach my goal of becoming a successful clinical researcher.

... I appreciate my POR education on a daily basis... 

POR Graduate Survey Results

We also appreciate these additional comments obtained by an anonymous survey of our graduates from 2001-2003:

Amazing camaraderie between my classmates developed – best learning experience of my life.

The Master’s essay in NIH format is a definite strength. I have since submitted an R01 based on my Master’s essay to the NIH.

The NIH grant was a valuable experience in learning the necessary skills to obtain funding. It also was a nice application of the knowledge gained from the program in study design, epi and stats.

I found the Master’s Essay very helpful. It was directly applicable to my research interests. I also learned a tremendous amount by evaluating the research proposals of my classmates.

In addition, of those responding to the survey, 94% agreed with the following statement: "Since completing the POR track, I am better able to generate a research proposal and compete for research funding." A full 100% agreed that "I would recommend the POR track to a colleague with similar interests."

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does the program take to complete?

Just under two years, from July of the first year through May of the second year. Students begin the program by participating in the Columbia Summer Research Institute through which they complete 10 credits of the 30 required. This intensive 8-week program begins in early July and ends in late-August. 

How much homework is there?

Our students tell us that, on average, the program requires about 12-20 hours of their time per week.

Are classes offered at night or on weekends?

No. While we work very hard to ensure clinicians are not in class for more than three partial days per week, we do not offer classes at night or on weekends. Many classes required are offered in the mid-to-late afternoon.

What are the differences between the Patient-Oriented Research (POR) and the Clinical Research Methods (CRM) tracks?

POR program is 30 credits, while the CRM is a 30 credit degree. The POR program offers a limited number of partial scholarships, while there is currently no scholarship support for the CRM track. The POR program culminates in a master's essay that consists of an NIH-style grant. The master's essay for the CRM program comprises a research article with a comprehensive data analysis of publishable quality. In both programs, research projects are supervised by faculty from biostatistics and a mentor(s) from the student's own clinical field.

Advisory Board

Program Director

Todd Ogden, PhD
Vice Chair, Department of Biostatistics
Professor of Biostatistics (in Psychiatry)

TRANSFORM Advisory Board Members

Lee Goldman, MD, MPH
Professor of Medicine, Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons
Professor of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health
Dean Emeritus of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine

Muredach Reilly, MBBCH, MSCE
Florence and Herbert Irving Endowed Professor of Medicine
Director, Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research

Henry N. Ginsberg, MD
Herbert and Florence Irving Professor of Medicine
Director Emeritus, Irving Institute

Wendy Chung, MD, PhD|
Kennedy Family Associate Professor of Pediatrics

Daichi Shimbo, MD                                                              
Associate Dean for Research Career Development
Director, Columbia Summer Research Institute

Elaine Abrams, MD
Professor of Pediatrics and Epidemiology

Elizabeth Cohn, PhD, RN
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nursing

Katherine Crew, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology

Peter Dayan, MD, MS                                                       
Professor of Pediatrics                                                 

Thomas Diacova, MD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology and Cell Biology

Donald Edmondson, PhD, MPH
Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine

Mitchell Elkind, MD, MS, MPhil
Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology

Pam Factor-Litvak, PhD, MS, MPhil
Professor of Epidemiology
Associate Dean for Research

Ali Gharavi, MD
Jay Meltzer, M.D. Professor of Nephrology and Hypertension

David Goldstein, PhD
John E. Borne- Professor of Medical and Surgical Research (in Genetics and Development)

Nancy Green, MD
Professor of Pediatrics

Dawn Hershman, MD, MS                                                  
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology                               

Elaine Larson, RN, PhD, FAAN, CIC
Anna C. Maxwell Professor of Nursing and Professor of Epidemiology
Associate Dean of Scholarship and Research

David Lederer, MD, MS
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine and Epidemiology

Guohua Li, MD, DrPH, MS
Mieczyslaw Finster Professor of Anesthesiology and Professor of Epidemiology

José Alejandro Luchsinger, MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology

Karen Marder, MD, MPH
Sally Kerlin Professor of Neurology

Mathew Maurer, MD
Professor of Medicine

Harold Pincus, MD
Professor of Psychiatry

Jaime S. Rubin, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Vice Chair for Investigator Development

Elizabeth Shane, MD
Professor of Medicine

Steven Shea, MD, MS
Hamilton Southworth Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology (in Biomedical Informatics)
Senior Vice Dean, College of Physicians and Surgeons

Gregg Stone, MD
Professor of Medicine

Ron Wapner, MD
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology 

More information on Admission Requirements.