Inside APE: Christopher Elmlinger & Tennessee Department of Health

Inside APE: Christopher Elmlinger & Tennessee Department of Health

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

This week for #InsideAPE, we sat down with Christopher Elmlinger, rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student to talk about his work this summer with the Office of Health Policy at the Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville, TN.

Tell us about your APE project.

The new Governor of Tennessee’s first executive order requested a “Statement of Rural Impact and Recommendations for Better Serving Rural Tennesseans.” (Not so fun fact-Tennessee currently has the highest rate of hospital closures per capita in the country). The County Health Assessments aim to identify the needs and assets of rural communities in coordination with county health councils and local stakeholders.

My role has primarily been researching and updating the state’s 12 Vital Signs and the associated intervention strategies and policy recommendations that local health councils can pursue. Tennessee’s Vital Signs are a set of 12 metrics selected to measure the pulse of health in Tennessee (examples include preventable hospitalizations, infant mortality, youth obesity, and access to parks and greenways). I finished a memo on Telehealth for the Governor’s office this week and am currently learning REDCap in order to build out an evaluation for the CHA process.

How did you find your APE project?

My APE is part of the Region IV Public Health Training Center: Pathways to Practice Scholar Field Placement Program, which I found at the Emory career fair in February. I love career fairs and always make a point of talking to every table and collecting every interesting flyer. I enjoyed my conversation with the Region IV representatives and I applied for this opening that evening. The career fair definitely gave me a head start since the position did not go out to the Rollins list serve until a week or two later. My advice to incoming students would be to start looking for APE’s early and to be sure to take maximum advantage of the career fair as there are many paid APE’s advertised there in addition to full-time jobs for graduating second-year students.

What has the experience been like so far?

As an EPI student I have been very focused on math, so I was surprised by the amount of research and writing I have had to do in this position.

One thing that I love about this position: I frequently get pulled into different projects, presentations, conferences, or events. Last Friday, I got called into my supervisor’s office and he sent me to a nearby studio to shoot a commercial on the state’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic. I don’t know how much I will actually be featured in the commercial after all of the edits and cuts, but it was really exciting just to participate.

One thing that’s difficult: getting used to a desk job again. At Rollins we are so used to multi-tasking and running around to classes, events, presentations, and our REAL jobs that we forget how hard it can be to sit at a desk and focus on just one task or project for most of the day (even those of us who have already been in the workforce).


Christopher Elmlinger is a rising 2nd year GLEPI MPH student and a member of the Certificate in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (CHE). His research interests at Rollins include infectious disease (particularly HIV, TB, and NTDs) and Emergency Preparedness & Response.


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