Cardiovascular Disease

someone getting their blood pressure

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. Continued efforts are needed to understand CVD risk factors and new avenues for prevention.

The School of Public Health Division of Epidemiology & Community Health focuses on CVD epidemiologic research, including observational studies and individual- and group-randomized trials. We are known around the globe for our work in CVD epidemiology, providing a strong evidence-base regarding how to reduce the burden of CVD in our society.  Our research projects evaluate behaviors that lead to CVD, novel genetic and non-genetic risk factors for CVD, and outcomes among patients with CVD.

Faculty in our division are also increasingly involved in the emerging field of the human microbiome. The microbiome is broadly defined as the microbes that live on and in our bodies and their collective genomes and gene products. Due to recent technological advances, it is now possible to measure microbial exposures at a new level of resolution than was possible in the past. As a result, we are learning that the microbiome might be involved in the development and prevention of a wide array of diseases infectious and chronic diseases such as diabetes and CVD.

Atherosclerosis risk in communities neurocognitive study (ARIC-NCS)
Pamela Lutsey

This ARIC ancillary study evaluates midlife risk factors for late-life cognitive decline, dementia, brain imaging markers, and physical impairments.


Atherosclerosis risk in communities (ARIC) study
Aaron Folsom

ARIC is a large-scale, long-term cohort study that measures associations of established and suspected CVD risk factors with both atherosclerosis and new CVD events — such as myocardial infarction and stroke — in men and women from four diverse communities. Read more about ARIC


Epidemiology of venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism (LITE)
Aaron Folsom

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is an understudied cause of morbidity and mortality. This project investigates risk factors for VTE in two carefully conducted prospective epidemiologic studies of African American and white adults: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study and the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS).


Cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention training grant
Aaron Folsom

This program prepares fellows for research careers in CVD epidemiology and prevention. Fellows are involved in ongoing studies that have existing databases. They also initiate research on their own, including data collection and analysis. Trainees complete one or more projects for which they bear primary responsibility.


Multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis (MESA)
Jim Pankow

This multicenter prospective cohort studies subclinical CVD in multiple racial/ethnic groups and its progression to clinical disease.


Testing a community intervention to increase aspirin use
Russell Luepker

This project evaluates the use of a health systems intervention, against a background of a mass media campaign, designed to improve the appropriate use of aspirin for the prevention of heart attack and stroke in a high-risk adult population. Using the population of the state of Minnesota as a base, it is developing methods to improve appropriate aspirin use at the community level.


Contemporary venous thromboembolism treatment
Pamela Lutsey

This research is using administrative claims data (e.g. MarketScan, Optum) to compare the effectiveness of new versus traditional strategies for the treatment of VTE. Example treatment strategies are inpatient versus outpatient management for acute VTE, and direct oral anticoagulants versus warfarin for primary treatment and secondary prevention.


Epigenetics of successful aging
James Pankow

This study, focused on locus-specific DNA methylation in blood, tests the following hypotheses:

  • Methylation signatures established in middle age are associated with the overall construct of successful aging (i.e., physical, cognitive and functional well-being) assessed more than 20 years later; and that
  • Midlife successful aging patterns of methylation persists in those that successfully age.


Diabetes and prediabetes in older adults
James Pankow

Diabetes is common in older adults but there is major uncertainty regarding how to best identify, treat, and manage diabetes in this population. This study addresses significant controversies in the field regarding the health effects of elevated glucose in older adults. The goal is to provide evidence to inform best practices for screening and clinical management of older adults with prediabetes or diabetes.


Coronary artery risk development in young adults (CARDIA)
Pamela Schreiner

The CARDIA study is a multicenter prospective study of cardiovascular risk factor and disease evolution from young adulthood in the mid-1980s to the present.


The subgingival microbiome and impaired glucose regulation
Ryan Demmer

This is a longitudinal cohort study of 1,100 participants exploring the association between oral microbiota and longitudinal change in glucose and insulin resistance, as well as incident prediabetes. The study also assesses the role of chronic inflammation as a mechanism linking oral microbiota to poor metabolic outcomes.

Research Fellowship in Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention

Aaron Folsom

This program is intended to prepare fellows for research careers in cardiovascular disease epidemiology and prevention. Fellows will be involved in ongoing studies having existing databases and will also initiate research, including data collection and analysis, on their own. Trainees complete one or more projects for which they bear primary responsibility.
Application Form (PDF)
Application Form (Docx)


  • Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
  • Postdoctoral fellowship applicants must have earned doctoral degrees (MD, PhD, DVM, ScD, etc.) in biologic or behavioral disciplines.
  • Demonstrated potential or experience in research are the primary criteria for appointments.
  • Predoctoral fellows will typically have a master’s degree or equivalent degree in a biologic or behavioral discipline and must apply and be accepted into the Epidemiology PhD program.


There are four predoctoral and three postdoctoral fellowship positions. Positions become available at irregular intervals.

Please contact the program director, Aaron R. Folsom, by phone or via email to find out current availability before applying.

P.I. and Director:
Aaron R. Folsom, M.D.

Grant Secretary:
Laura Kemmis

The Fellowship Experience

The training philosophy at Minnesota is that research is best learned by hands-on experience with appropriate faculty guidance.

Specific research areas include the description and explanation of cardiovascular disease (CVD) trends in populations, individual and population correlations between risk characteristics and disease rates in defined cohorts, studies of the genetic epidemiology of cardiovascular disease, controlled laboratory studies in the modification of risk characteristics, public health trials of interventions in schools and whole communities, and the development of new methods to study etiology, treatment and prevention.

For postdoctoral fellows, the coursework component of the program is based on areas outside their prior experience. An MPH degree is available. For predoctoral fellows, specific coursework is usually required depending on the individual background. The areas of importance are epidemiology and biostatistics, behavioral science and nutritional epidemiology.

Fellowship Length

For predoctoral fellows, the fellowship supports the Ph.D. degree. A minimum of three years fellowship is anticipated.

For postdoctoral fellows the training period is usually three years but depends on interest, prior skills and experience; only rarely is a one-year fellowship considered.

Application Process

Mail to:
Aaron R. Folsom
Division of Epidemiology and Community Health
School of Public Health
University of Minnesota
1300 South 2nd Street, Suite 300
Minneapolis, MN 55454-101

Stipend & Benefits

Stipend: Each fellow receives $1,400 professional travel allowance per year of fellowship and full tuition, books and fees. Each receives individual health insurance. Certain other research related expenses are covered.

Stipends are based on current NIH-approved levels. Please contact us for the most up-to-date stipend levels.

Annual appointments, with a three-year minimum commitment expected of predoctoral trainees, a two-year minimum commitment of postdoctoral trainees. Five-year maximum predoctoral support, three-year maximum postdoctoral support.


  • Postdocs: This is a mutual choice between the fellow and a faculty member.
  • Predocs: Advisor assignments for pre-doctoral fellows are typically made by the Director of Graduate Studies with consultation of the faculty and student.

Allowed expenses: Tuition, health insurance, books, travel, certain research-related expenses.

Clerical support: No routine secretarial support is provided. Fellows usually work with the secretary of the research study advisor to whom they are assigned.

The grant assistant will coordinate administrative details related to the training grant (such as travel or other reimbursements on training grant funds, appointment documentation, etc.).

Employee status

  • Postdoc: Nonservice employee/trainee
  • Predoc: Student

Evaluations: Yearly evaluations plus annual updates for Human Subjects documentation and grant continuations/renewals are required.

Health insurance: Postdoctoral fellows find their own health insurance provider and the Division will reimburse them at the single coverage rate. Fellows must send a copy of the check to accounting. Predocs are eligible for the Graduate Assistant Health Plan.

Vacation/sick leave: Pre- and postdoctoral fellows are allowed up to 15 days of paid leave per year for vacation and/or sick leave.

Maternity: Fellows may take up to 30 days of maternity leave, plus whatever is left of the 15 days of regular leave. Insurance is covered during this time.

Housing contacts: University of Minnesota Housing Service: (612) 624-2994

Office space: Fellows are usually housed individually with the research study advisor to whom they are assigned.


  • Postdoctoral Fellow (postdoc)
  • Graduate School Trainee (predoc)

Research ethics: NIH has adopted a policy that all fellows take formal instruction in research ethics.

Travel: Currently supported at $1400 annually.

Tuition: Support is provided for predoctoral fellows, and, upon approval by NIH, may become available for postdoctoral coursework.

Fellowship Faculty

Program Director

Aaron R. Folsom, MD, MPH
Program Director: Cardiovascular and Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Biology and Prevention


Ellen W. Demerath, PhD Obesity, Childhood Risk, Genetic Epidemiology
Ryan T. Demmer, PhD Diabetes, Microbiome, Biomarkers
David R. Jacobs, Jr., PhD Design and Analysis, Nutrition Methodology
Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, MD, PhD Stroke
Pamela L. Lutsey, PhD Epidemiology
Pamela J. Schreiner, PhD Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology, Biology

Preventive Cardiology

Russell V. Luepker, MD
Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology & Prevention

Biology / Physiology

Myron D. Gross, PhD
Lab Methods, Marker Studies


Richard F. MacLehose, PhD
Statistical Methods, Data Analysis

Genetic Epidemiology

James S. Pankow, PhD Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Diabetes
Weihong Tang, PhD, MS, MD Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology


Lisa Harnack, DrPH, RD Nutritional Epidemiology
Mark A. Pereira, PhD Nutrition, Metabolism, Diabetes, Exercise
Lyn M. Steffen, PhD Nutritional Epidemiology

Social Epidemiology

J. Michael Oakes, PhD Social Epidemiology, Methodology
Rachel Widome, PhD Tobacco and Policy

© 2015 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy Statement