GIS Workshop: Visualizing and Analyzing Health Data


GIS Workshop Visualizing and Analyzing Health Data - Columbia University SHARP TrainingThe most recent live-stream GIS Workshop was July 27-28, 2020. Join the email list below to hear about the next training!


The GIS Workshop is a two-day intensive workshop that will introduce participants to the fundamental concepts and hands-on techniques of health data visualization and analysis using publicly available open source GIS programs.

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2020 Dates: Live-stream, online training July 27-28, 2020; 10:00am - 4:30pm EDT

This two-day intensive course aims to introduce participants to the fundamentals of data visualization using the open-source QGIS program and building towards the introduction of foundational spatially-centered approaches to identifying relationships and associations among population and environmental variables.  Led by Dr. Jeremy R. Porter, one of the highest-rated teachers at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and the author of many celebrated geospatial analysis publications and books, this workshop will integrate lectures with hands-on application.  The workshop emphasizes the use of open-source software packages and publicly available environmental and demographic data as an example of potential applications of these data with spatially centered visualization and analytic techniques.  The workshop is comprised of 4 components 1) visualization, 2) geo-processing, 3) cluster analysis, and 4) relationship identification.  Within each component, a lecture is followed by an opportunity to put the methods learned into practice.

By the end of the workshop, participants will be familiar with the following topics:

  • Principles of data visualization and analysis
  • Sources and techniques for the acquisition and management of spatial data
  • Methods and techniques for the visualization of spatial data
  • Techniques for the identification of statistical spatial (and spatio-temporal) clusters
  • Techniques for the incorporation of spatial information in more traditional regression methods of association and relationship identification among variables.

Investigators at all career stages are welcome to attend, and we particularly encourage trainees, students, and early-stage investigators to participate.

PREREQUISITES & Requirements

There are three prerequisites/requirements to attend this workshop:

  1. Each participant must have an introductory background in statistics.
  2. Each participant must be familiar and have a basic understanding of R. 
  3. Each participant must be bring a laptop with QGIS, saTScan, GeoDa, R, and R-Studio downloaded and installed prior to the first day of the workshop. All of the packages listed are available for free download and installation on Mac, PC, and Linux devices. Personal laptops will be used for multiple workshop sessions.

If you have any specific questions about prerequisites/requirements, please email us.


Jeremy Porter, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Dr. Porter is a Lecturer in the Environmental Health Sciences Department with his primary duties being associated with teaching and advising in the area of Public Health GIS and Spatial Statistics. Additionally, he is a Professor at the City University of New York and holds appointments in multiple departments and institutes throughout the university, where he is currently the Chair and Director of the Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences Department at the CUNY-Graduate Center. He regularly serves in consulting capacities with a number of government, non-profit, and for-profit entities on research exclusively focused on the development and implementation of spatial methods. 

Joel Capellan, PhD, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Dr. Capellan is an Adjunct Professor in the Environmental Health Sciences Department, and is also an Assistant Professor of Law and Justice Studies at Rowan University. Substantively, Dr. Capellan specializes in mass casualty events and lone-actor violence. Methodologically, he specializes in spatial data analysis and multi-level modeling. 


Scholarships are available for the GIS Workshop. 


COVID-19 Update: The GIS Workshop will no longer take place in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Training will instead be a live-stream, remote training that takes place over live, online video on July 27-28, 2020 from 10am EDT - 4:30pm EDT. Please note this training is not a self-paced, pre-recorded online training.  


The GIS Workshop was such a great experience. Instructors were very helpful and friendly, and everything was explained in a clear manner. It wasn't too rushed and the hands-on lab section was really helpful. The small size of the class was key as well. - Staff Member at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 2018

This was an excellent introduction to GIS, R, and GeoDa. The workshop was well organized and the instructor is dynamic, charismatic, and presents the material in ways that are easy to understand. - Faculty member at California State University, Northridge, 2018

The use of time was optimal and the topics covered were more comprehensive than I had imagined possible in two days. I feel confident walking out of this program that I will be able to troubleshoot and build on the foundations learned here. - Andrea H., Non-profit NYC research organization, 2018

This workshop was so helpful in learning about the publicly available GIS resources and much of the spacial theory behind the statistics. - Jennifer R., Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland, 2019

Great (and fast) overview of QGIS - make sure you come ready to dive in and stay focused.Philip Cheng, Assistant Scientist at Henry Ford Health System, 2019

This workshop helped me learn how to put my spatial data to work and how to access publicly available data to improve my research, all while producing aesthetically pleasing visualizations. - PhD Student at Case Western Reserve University, 2019

Outstanding, intense, hand-holding approach that provides a strong foundation for a GIS novice on the language and how/where to start mapping.  Excellent materials are provided for further review on your own. - Anonymous Faculty member, 2019

This workshop was an excellent introduction to GIS methods, conceptually and practically. I was truly impressed by what the instructors were able to accomplish in such a short amount of time and with a large group of students with varying levels of prior experience with GIS. I got a lot out of the workshop and will certainly be using the resources that were provided for my own projects (e.g., step by step instructions from the labs). - Kate H., PhD Student at the University of Pittsburgh, 2019

One of the best GIS workshops I have attended! It did an excellent job of covering the most important aspects of spatial analytics -- all the way from visualizing the data (mapping) to analyzing it statistically and making sense of the output. - Runa B., Environmental Health Scientist at the Louisiana Department of Health, 2019


COVID-19 Update: With the training being offered virtually, we are passing along any and all costs saved to attendees.

  Early-Bird Rate (through 5/15/20 5/22/20) Regular Rate (5/16/20 5/23/20 - 7/6/20) Columbia Discount*
Student/Postdoc/Trainee $1,150  $825 $1,350 $975  10% off
Faculty/Academic Staff/Non-Profit Organizations $1,350 $975     $1,550 $1,125 10% off
Corporate/For-Profit Organizations $1,550 $1,125 $1,750 $1,275 NA


*Columbia Discount: This discount is valid for any active student, postdoc, staff, or faculty at Columbia University. To access the Columbia discount, email for instructions and specify if you are paying by credit card, or internal transfer within Columbia.

Invoice Payment and Group Registrations: If you would prefer to pay by invoice/check, or would like to pay for a group of registrants, please email with details.

Registration Fee: Fee includes course material. Course material will be available to all students after the workshop. 

Cancellations: For summer 2020, no administrative fees will be assessed due to the evolving COVID-19 situation. Cancellation notices must be received via email at least 14 days prior to the workshop start date in order to receive a full refund. Please email your cancellation notice to Due to workshop capacity and preparation, we regret that we are unable to refund registration fees for cancellations after these dates, unless a new COVID-19 restriction is implemented that impedes virtual attendance, in which case any registration cancellation <14 days prior to a training related to COVID-19 restriction beyond your control (institutional policy, shift in work responsibilities, etc.) will be fully refunded and no administrative fee will be assessed. Because of the significant resources required to develop these trainings, you will be asked to submit supporting documentation (e.g. employer email notice, local regulations, etc.) for any COVID-19 related cancellation <14 days before a given training.

If you are unable to attend the training, we encourage you to send a substitute within the same registration category. Please inform us of the substitute via email at least one week prior to the training to include them on attendee communications, updated registration forms, and materials. Should the substitute fall within a different registration category your credit card will be credited/charged respectively. Please email substitute inquiries to In the event Columbia must cancel the event, your registration fee will be fully refunded. 




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Questions? Email the GIS Workshop team here.

The GIS Workshop is hosted by Columbia University's Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the Mailman School of Public Health.