Michael B. Bracken

Every year at the American College of Epidemiology Annual Meeting, one distinguished epidemiologist is selected to receive the Abraham Lilienfeld award.  This year, Dr. Michael B. Bracken received this illustrious award.  When he found out that he was receiving the award, he said that, “after overcoming the first reaction, that there must be some mistake, I was delighted. The list of former honorees includes many of my own heroes, people who really changed epidemiology from being a somewhat peripheral discipline to the influential force it is today.” 

Dr. Bracken is the Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Science and Neurology at Yale University and a Fellow of ACE.  “I was in the first pool of ACE Fellows certified in 1981. I think we all rushed to be grandfathered in before a qualifying admission exam was instituted which none of us thought we could pass! The accreditation process was an unfortunate distraction in the early days of the College and happily was subsequently modified. ACE has a unique role among epidemiology organizations. SER (of which I was privileged to serve as its President) has an excellent focus on research methods and training while ACE is concerned with broader issues important for the profession of epidemiology, especially those that hinder or support the development of epidemiology both as a profession and as a career choice. The epidemiology profession has grown quite dramatically during my 45 years in it, and a professional body is necessary to maintain its interests; something Abe Lilienfeld and others foresaw in 1979. The ACE meetings also have their own character; being more thematic and with a larger proportion of major lectures which I think nicely compliments other meetings with their focus on individual research projects.” Dr. Bracken also served as ACE president in 1996.  While Dr. Bracken was president, his major focus was on, “the apparent lack of collegiality among the various epidemiology societies at that time. The College invited the leadership of all the major epidemiology organizations to a meeting and luncheon at the College’s annual meeting to discuss ways we might collaborate. The response was extremely positive and from those discussions emerged the idea of a joint congress. This group morphed into the congress planning committee which I was privileged to chair and the first congress was held in Toronto in 2001. It is excellent that the next one is planned for Miami in 2016 although I would like to see them every 4 (not 5) years as many people have said they find their large attendance to be very exciting and useful.”

Dr. Bracken has been at Yale University for over 44 years where he first studied to obtain the MPH, MPhil and PhD degrees and later worked and conducted extensive research as a professor.  Dr. Bracken’s main research focus is perinatal epidemiology, but has gotten involved in other areas, including evidence-based medicine. In addition to his extensive journal publications, he has also written three books.  Most recently, Dr. Bracken published a book entitled “Risk, Chance, and Causation: Investigating the Origins and Treatment of Disease [1].”  “There were two motivating factors for this book – which is not a text book but is intended for the educated public. First is the avalanche of news in the media concerning a whole range of environmental exposures that are claimed to put us at risk in one way or another for every disease known to man. Second is the unpreparedness of the public to assess the validity of these reports. It is very rare for people who have been through our education system, including college, to have any concept of the notions of risk, the play of chance and randomness, and certainly they have little understanding of how epidemiologists view causation. This is why in my Lilienfeld address I chose to speak about the importance of introducing epidemiology into undergraduate, high school and even middle school curricula [2].”  Dr. Bracken has enjoyed much success and shows no signs of stopping. 

Dr. Bracken can be contacted at michael.bracken@yale.edu.

1. Bracken MB. Risk, Chance and Causation: Investigating the Origins and Treatment of Disease. New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2013
2. Bracken MB. Epidemiology as a liberal art: from graduate school to middle school, an unfulfilled agenda.  Annals of Epidemiology. In press 2014