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Causal Inference: Emulating a Target Trial to Assess Comparative Effectiveness

East Baltimore
Summer Inst. term
2 credits
Academic Year:
2019 - 2020
Mon 06/10/2019 - Tue 06/11/2019
Class Times:
  • M Tu,  9:00am - 4:50pm
Auditors Allowed:
Grading Restriction:
Ayesha Khan

For health researchers or other data scientists who will use observational studies to estimate causal effects as part of their current or future professional career. Learn how to determine “what works” using data from observational and randomized studies.

Introduces students to a general framework for the assessment of comparative effectiveness and safety research. The framework, which can be applied to both observational data and randomized trials with imperfect adherence to the protocol, relies on the specification of a (hypothetical) target trial. Explores key challenges for comparative effectiveness research and critically reviews methods proposed to overcome those challenges. The methods are presented in the context of several case studies for cancer, cardiovascular, renal, and infectious diseases.

Learning Objectives:

Upon successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  1. Formulate sufficiently well-defined causal questions for comparative effectiveness research
  2. Specify the protocol of the target trial
  3. Design analyses of observational data that emulate the protocol of the target trial
  4. Critique observational studies and randomized for comparative effectiveness research
Methods of Assessment:

Critique of a clinical trial protocol 100%

Instructor Consent:

No consent required

Special Comments:

Chapters 1-3 of the book Hernán MA, Robins JM (2017). Causal Inference. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC, forthcoming. The book can be downloaded (for free) from