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Holger J. Schünemann

Chair, Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact
Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Medicine
Michael Gent Chair in Healthcare Research
Director, Cochrane Canada and McMaster GRADE Centre
McMaster University Health Sciences Centre, Room Area 2C
1280 Main Street West, 2C area, Hamilton, ON L8N 4K1, Canada


Prof. Schünemann is Chair of the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (formerly “Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics”).  He began his research career in respiratory and exercise physiology as a medical student in the Department of Physiology at the Medical School of Hannover and with an award from the German government at the University at Buffalo (UB), State of New York. His research on CO2 gas exchange in isolated perfused lungs helped showing that CO2 behaves like an inert gas and that CO2 exchange is not limited by diffusion of the gas. He also explored hemoglobin carbamate formation during simulated exercise. He then received an MD degree (1993) and a “doctor medicinae” degree (1994) from the Medical School of Hannover where he also completed an internship in internal and respiratory medicine. With a postdoctoral fellowship award from the German Research Association he went on to work in cellular and molecular lung biology at UB researching expression of cell adhesion molecules (integrins) in early postnatal lung development. Realizing the importance of high quality skills in data analysis, general health research methods and developing a stronger sense for patient and population focused research he studied epidemiology and biostatistics during his postdoctoral fellowship (M.Sc. in Epidemiology, 1997). He then conducted population-based studies on the association between oxidative stress, micronutrients and respiratory health leading to a Ph.D. degree (Epidemiology & Community Medicine, 2000) and completed training in internal medicine and preventive medicine at UB, where he joined the faculty in 2000.

From 2005 to 2009 he was at the Italian National Cancer Center in Rome, Italy, before moving to McMaster University as full-time Professor and to become Chair of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. In his second term as chair of this prestigious department, he has led its strategic plan to refocus the department into the “Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (HEI)”, a first of its kind. 

His scientific work now focuses on evidence synthesis, quality of life research and the presentation and development of health care recommendations spanning clinical medicine to public health. As a key contributor to the revised methods for WHO guideline development in 2006 and the Institute of Medicine statement on trustworthy guidelines in 2011 he led reshaping of practice guideline development methodology. 

He has authored or co-authored over 500 peer-reviewed publications, has been named by Thomson Reuters as one of the most influential 3,000 scientific minds of current times across scientific disciplines (from Agriculture to Zoology) in 2015 & 2016 and has an h-index of 107/76 (google scholar/web of science). He has been advisor to ministries of health, other governmental organizations and professional societies for their guideline programs. He is co-chair of the GRADE working group (www.gradeworkinggroup.org), for which he coined the name and has had major responsibility for disseminating its spirit of collaboration, openness and advancement of evidence assessment and the creation of better health care recommendations. His work also focuses on practical application of science by researchers and clinicians through co-inventing tools like the GRADEpro guideline development tool (www.gradepro.org) and pioneering the use of GRADE evidence to decision tables, now reworked as GRADE evidence to decision frameworks (www.decide-collaboration.eu). With his colleagues he has recently created a “go to” crowdsourcing portal for developers of health care recommendations in collaboration with the Guideline International Network (cebgrade.mcmaster.ca/guidecheck.html). He is director of Cochrane Canada, a member of the Guidelines International Network Board of Trustees, the Advisory Committee on Health Research (ACHR) at the World Health Organization (WHO), co-director of the McMaster University WHO collaborating center for evidence informed policy-making and the McMaster GRADE center. As editor in Chief, he leads the journal Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. Maintaining an active clinical practice fulfills his passion for patient care and ensures his research is people-oriented. In his private life, he planned to ride the course of a Tour de France, trains vigorously but only partially achieved this goal (with one of his two daughters).