Master of Science Health Sciences
(Postgraduate programme)


Clinical Epidemiology

Clinical epidemiology, which is both empirical and patient oriented, is most suited for a combination of the quantitative approach in clinical research and clinical practice.

In recent years, the quantitative approach in clinical research and clinical practice has become increasingly important. In daily practice modern clinicians are expected to combine patient care with clinical research. There is a growing need for physicians who can both initiate research and participate in it. Clinical epidemiology, which is empirical and patient oriented, is most suited for such a combination. It involves diagnostic, prognostic, preventive and therapeutic studies that follow directly from quantitative study designs. Training in study design and analysis provides a sound basis for successful clinical research.

The objective of the clinical epidemiology programme is to prepare candidates for a position in the area of clinical medicine, drug research or decision analysis, either as a researcher or as an executive or advisor. Epidemiology, clinical decision analysis, and biostatistics are the disciplines traditionally involved with the quantitative aspects of medical problems. The clinical epidemiology programme seeks to train candidates in these specific fields. Throughout the programme the emphasis will be on methods of clinical research and their formal applications in clinical practice.


Epidemiology plays an integral role in the application of medical research to populations, interacting with almost every other specialism.

Epidemiology studies the incidence, causes, consequences and control of disease, as well as people, patients and populations. It is a fundamental discipline for clinical medicine and public health. It may, together with basic science and clinical research, provide tools to learn about the etiology and consequences of diseases, the possibilities for prevention and treatment and the risk profiles of individuals and populations. Using advanced methods such as statistical analyses, field research and complex laboratory techniques, epidemiologists map various elements of a disease and the ways they are related.

The objective of the epidemiology programme is to prepare candidates for a research position (e.g. a PhD project) in the area of clinical medicine or public health, or for example a more health policy oriented career. The programme comprises compulsory courses directed at study design, biostatistics, and data analysis. In addition, further specialization in specific areas of epidemiological research is needed. Extensive training in widely used statistical packages is also an important part of the curriculum. A large part of the programme is devoted to research.

Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology

The major thrust of research in genetic & molecular epidemiology in the next ten years will be the identification of predisposing genes in complex diseases and the environmental factors. This may ultimately lead to a more targeted surveillance and improved clinical care.

Genetic & molecular epidemiology focuses on the uses of genetic, molecular and epidemiological research in identifying the possible familial and hereditary factors underlying the origins and manifestations of human disease. The cause of most chronic diseases -including cancer, coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, and psychiatric disorders- may lie in the interactions between environmental factors and genetic susceptibility. Genetic & molecular epidemiology helps optimize etiological studies through an integrated approach that draws on the methodologies of epidemiology, biostatistics, genetics and molecular biology.

The objective of the genetic & molecular epidemiology programme is to prepare candidates for epidemiological research in the areas of genetic determinants of diseases and of genetic risk assessment and seeks to train candidates in these specific fields or to prepare them for an executive/advisory positions in the area of public health, or health-policy. The genetic & molecular epidemiology programme is a mix of general subjects, such as study design and statistical data-analysis, and subjects tailored with specific genetic & molecular epidemiology research and analytical methods.


Pharmaco-epidemiology pertains to the study of the use and of the effects of drugs. It links clinical pharmacology and epidemiology. This specialisation provides the theoretical basis for studying the intended effects as well as the adverse effects of drugs used in humans. The focus is mainly on drug research after marketing, including post marketing surveillance and drug risk assessment.

Public Health 

Public health is the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society.

Public health epidemiology is the discipline that investigates determinants of population health and the effects on preventive interventions on these determinants to improve population health. The focus on populations rather than individuals requires specific methods, such as ecological studies and multilevel approaches as well as interrupted time series and difference-in-difference methods. The main objective of the specialization is to develop evidence-based strategies to improve population health at local, regional and international level. Students will learn how to define, evaluate, and resolve public health problems. Participants will be prepared for research careers as well as positions at policy and executive levels in public health services, ministries of health, and national and international knowledge institutes.


In recent years data that are collected in clinical research and public health have increased in volume and complexity. This enhanced even further by the scientific revolution in molecular biology and genetics, and its impact on health and the environment. In this context it is of paramount importance that data are analyzed with sound statistical techniques that respect their nature and adequately answer the scientific questions of interest. This has lead in an increased need for well-trained biostatisticians capable of handling the data analysis challenges of the modern era.

The aim of the NIHES Specialization in Biostatistics is to keep abreast of such evolutions and equip the future generation of researchers with modern and essential data science tools. This specialization will combine a solid study of modern statistical methodology with up-to-date information on topics such as study design, clinical trials, public health, longitudinal data analysis, survival analysis, causal inference, and tools for reproducible research. The courses are taught by an international faculty of world renowned statisticians and epidemiologists from the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States. These include among others, past and current Editors of flagship biostatistics journals, and past presidents of major international biostatistics societies.

Medical Psychology

Medical psychology is an academic field which is enjoying a new found appreciation in health sciences, one that takes a closer look into the interaction between psychological factors and health. For instance, how do physical complaints affect our psychological functioning? And also: why does our psychological make-up sometimes make us vulnerable to diseases, or prevent us from getting better? Students will constantly be confronted with thought-provoking research. Apart from studying these kinds of questions, medical psychologists also study doctor-patient communication and decision-making, and develop and evaluate psychological interventions for somatic complaints such as pain and fatigue. This allows for a more enriched understanding of these topics.