Author Archives: Alex Whicker

The Road to Academia

Category : PROspective

By: Lauren McCullough, PhD

While there are many paths to a career in academia, it is almost universally true that an advanced doctoral degree (research, professional, or clinical) is necessary. After obtaining your undergraduate degree, graduate education (first your master’s degree and then your doctorate) is the next step. In my opinion, two factors should be strongly considered. First, consider an institution with strong didactic training and at least one faculty you are interested in working with. They should be genuinely interested and available to train you! Doctoral education is a long road, and a great mentor-mentee relationship will keep you happy and satisfied through the graduate school experience. 

Similarly, going to a program that has opportunities to support your training (assistance-ships, traineeships, etc.) will reduce the economic burden later in your career. Following graduate studies, many trainees consider a postdoc which consists of a 2–4 year period where you would work closely with a faculty member and further develop your research skills. The decision to pursue a postdoc depends on your preparation and the type of academic job you want which could range from 100% teaching to 100% research.

The pros and cons of being an academic?

Like all careers, there are advantages and disadvantages to being an academic. Ask five academics to list their top pros and cons, and you’d likely get five different answers! Below, I attempt to summarize a few advantages and disadvantages:


  • Flexibility with your schedule – we tend to work at times that align with our productive hours (I’m a morning person) or that are convenient given familial and personal obligations.
  • Ability to focus on activities that you find interesting – this is a biggie for me. I can largely spend time doing the things I like (e.g., mentoring and grant writing) and less time on the things I don’t!
  • Independence – academics develop their own program of research and scholarly work. There is no ‘boss’ micromanaging your activities.


In my opinion, many of the cons can be managed–particularly if you’ve done some soul searching and know what type of academic job you want.

  • Teaching, research, or service expectations – despite the flexibility and independence that comes with being an academic, your institutions may have expectations that don’t always align with your preferences.
  • Propensity to bring work home – there is always another paper to edit, grant to write, service to complete, or email to send. Moreover, as ‘thinkers,’ the academic brain rarely turns off. I have to be deliberate in creating space for myself and my family.
  • Compensation – Generally, salaries for faculty are low, particularly when you consider the years of training. However, considering compensation alongside the intellectual freedom and flexibility that comes with a career in the academy, it may be adequate. If you get into academics thinking you will be wealthy, you will likely be disappointed!

Is being an academic right for you?

While there are no single definitive criteria to consider when deciding on a career in the academy, there may be characteristics that one should consider—first, a love of learning. Second, being comfortable not knowing—the longer I’m in the academy, the more I realize how much I don’t know! Third, a passion and excitement for the work you do; many aspects of being an academic are tedious and time-consuming, you need your passion to carry you through. Finally, tough skin. Rejection is inevitable. Our proposals and papers are frequently rejected. We face similar rejection from trainees or colleagues that we are trying to recruit or from our students through course evaluations.

The only way to truly know if an academic career is right for you is to do your homework. Talk with trainees, faculty, and leadership (consider chatting with folks at all levels: doctoral trainees to department chairs). Understand their path, unique skills, and interest, and most importantly: KNOW YOURSELF!


Dr. Lauren E. McCullough is Rollins Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health. Her overarching research interests are in the life-course epidemiology of cancer (breast cancer and lymphoma), specifically the contributions of obesity and physical inactivity to the tumor epigenome and microenvironment, as well as disparities in cancer outcomes. 

Featured Image by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash

GRA: Clinical Affairs Team at the Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing

JOB DESCRIPTION: The primary goal of this position is to aid and support the staff of the Clinical Affairs Graduate Team at Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. The student will provide support 8-12 hours per week for staff working with graduate nursing clinical placements starting Spring semester 2022. The candidate should have experience working with diverse groups within university setting, ability to maintain confidentiality of information, professional working demeanor, and proficient phone and email etiquette.


Duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to, the following:

Primary Duties:

  1. Engagement interface with outside stakeholders in healthcare
  2. Database management
  3. Staff assistance
  4. Record keeping
  5. Other duties as assigned

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Dependable
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Ability to maintain confidentiality
  • Ability to prioritize tasks

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Student at one of Emory University’s graduate schools
  • Strong Microsoft Excel skills

Working Conditions:

  • Primarily remote, with occasional on site presence for team meetings required
  • Flexible hours – 8-12 hours per week

If interested in applying, please send resume and short personal statement to:

Kathleen Karpicki, MPH

Senior Program Coordinator for Post-Licensure Placement

Emory University Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing Kathleen [dot] marie [dot] Karpicki [at] emory [dot] edu

Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program

Category : Alumni

The Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program (PHIFP) provides on-the-job training for professionals to apply expertise in information science, computer science, and information technology to address current and future informatics needs. While working in CDC programs to enhance our agency’s informatics workforce, fellows help state and local health departments and international public health agencies solve complex public health informatics challenges.

Applications for the PHIPF class of 2022 close December 1, 2021.

Click here to learn more and apply.

Research Analyst, HCA Healthcare

Category : Alumni

The Research Analyst will assist in translating clinical needs into analytic questions, design and conduct rigorous analyses of health related data, and translate analytic findings into actionable intelligence for HCA faculty and residents. This position serves as an expert resource in supporting data analytics for the HCA GME portfolio by performing a variety of activities related to data management, analysis, reporting, and visualization.

Job Summary and Qualifications
  • Constructing and manipulating large electronic claims datasets, knowledge in domain modeling, relational database design, programming language(s),SAS, data transfer methods, and electronic health record and health care claims standards and/or analytical techniques used in research programs.
  • Developing study designs and analytic solutions based on available data sources, business partner’s needs, and timelines;
  • Managing multiple projects related to a wide variety of business settings and clinical needs;
  • Collaborating with key internal and external stakeholders to gather and analyze needs and requirements;
  • Presenting data or analytic findings in a variety of formats (reports, PPT, graphs, figures and tables)
  • Develop and maintain a working knowledge of statistical principles and analysis considerations taken into account during planning of research.
  • Consult on and provide direct technical support for research projects of high complexity and often requiring solutions not previously used by the project team or work group.
  • Develop and maintain knowledge of terminologies and coding procedures used in research and the health care environment.
  • Contribute to the development of training, tools, and process documentation for both the department and for assigned projects.
  • Perform data analyst functions that generate knowledge via data mining, visualization, or other analytics. Serve as a resource to others performing this work. Lead the creation of best practices, resources, and tools that enable new analytical capabilities.
  • Ensure compliance to HCA data access policy and procedures.


  • Master’s Degree preferred from an accredited master’s degree program providing training in a research related field, statistics, informatics, or related field of study and a minimum of 5 years related experience.
  • Experience in health services research environment.
  • Experience with large health care data sets including, electronic health records, Medicare claims, or other health care claims data sets preferred.
  • SAS experience is strongly preferred. RDBMS SQL valued.

To learn more click here.

CDC Evaluation Fellowship Info Webinar, December 1, 2021

Category : News/Events

The CDC Evaluation Fellowship Program aims to expand the capacity of CDC programs to conduct evaluation and increase its usefulness and impact. The Fellowship signifies CDC’s dual commitment to making program evaluation a standard part of practice and to developing a cadre of professionals with the skills to make that happen.

The Program Performance and Evaluation Office (PPEO) manages the Fellowship under the leadership of CDC’s Chief Evaluation Officer (Dan Kidder). Fellows are placed in host programs to work on program evaluation and related activities across the agency.  With the CDC Evaluation Fellowship, programs continuously improve their work with the appropriate resources, tools, and leadership.

The Fellowship is intended to be a two-year program, with the second year being contingent on satisfactory performance and availability of funds. The Fellowship started in 2011 with an initial class of five Fellows and has grown to about 20 Fellows per cohort.

Fellows are doctoral or master’s degree professionals with backgrounds in evaluation, behavioral and social sciences, public health, and other disciplines relevant to evaluation and CDC’s work. Successful applicants bring diverse experiences, having worked on several applied program evaluation projects in non-profit, governmental, and/or academic settings. Once at CDC, they take on a variety of projects in areas of program evaluation, evaluation capacity building, performance monitoring, and program design.

Applicants for the Fellowship go through an extensive selection process, including interviews with potential host programs. The process culminates in a match with a CDC host program based on mutual interest.

To learn more about the program click here.

An informational webinar about the fellowship will be held on December 1, 2021 from 12-1 PM EST. To register for the webinar click here.

2022 EGHI Field Scholars Awards Program

EGHI annually funds multidisciplinary teams of Emory University students to conduct global health projects in collaboration with an Emory faculty member and in-country partner organization. Projects will take place summer 2022. Emory undergraduate and graduate students from all nine schools at Emory University are eligible to apply. To learn more about 2022 project ideas, how to connect with a faculty PI/mentor, and application requirements, please visit Applications proposals are due Feb. 21, 2022. 

Intramural Emory Global Health Case Competition

EGHI invites you to apply for the 2022 Intramural Emory Global Health Case Competition

This competition provides multidisciplinary teams of Emory students with an opportunity to address a real-world global health challenge in a competitive and collaborative environment. Student teams work together for a week to analyze a case challenge and develop a comprehensive programmatic solution by incorporating perspectives from multiple disciplines. Emory undergraduate and graduate students from all nine schools at Emory University are encouraged to apply. The case challenge will be released on January 28, and competition day is February 5. The top five teams win cash prizes and the winning team goes on to compete in the March 2022 Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition. Students can apply in pre-formed teams or as individuals. To learn more and to apply, please visit

Areas of Epi: Faculty Talk Series, November 30 & December 2

Category : News/Events

If you missed out on the Areas of Epi sessions earlier this month don’t forget you have another chance to hear Epi faculty introduce their research areas, ongoing work, and opportunities for students this week.

When: November 30, December 2 from 12-1PM

Zoom link in outlook

See flyer below for information on the sessions being offered this week.

Data Analysis in the Real World

Category : PROspective

By: Nicole Luisi, MPH, MS

In movies and television, when a data analyst is assigned a task they spring to action, typing hundreds of words per minute without ever looking down from their wall of monitors — cut to them presenting the results, glossing over the details on how they scraped all the data from some website, performed a complex analysis, and solved a crime, all in about 60 seconds. Admittedly, it would make for some pretty boring television if they showed the 7 hours that person had to spend reformatting and cleaning a dataset, the 4 hours it took to resolve an error they encountered, or the 2 hours they spent staring at the screen trying to find the missing parenthesis that broke everything and caused them to question all of their life choices. Although we all envision ourselves solving the world’s problems with our fancy analyses, the reality is that real-world data can be messy, and we will probably spend 25% of our time on those fancy analyses and the other 75% on data cleaning and preparation.

In the classroom, we often use examples that demonstrate techniques (working with missing values, cleaning character data, etc.), but there is really no substitute for time and experience with real data. Real-world data is predictably unpredictable! Even the best systems can’t anticipate every issue that will occur during data collection, but it is safe to assume that you will encounter something you did not expect. Some things are just out of our control – your online survey platform could glitch and cause the skip patterns to fail, the intern you are training could accidentally enter data in the wrong table, a teenager might create a bunch of fake identities to repeatedly join your online study and scam you out of incentives, someone may even show up to enroll in person for your study and turn out to be 2 kids in a trench coat.    

So, what can aspiring data analysts do to prepare to work with messy, unpredictable data and stand out to potential employers?

  • Get a solid foundation in the platform(s) you plan to use most. At Rollins we focus on SAS and R which are both widely used in epidemiology, but if you have a dream job in mind, find out what that organization prefers. It’s great to have some working knowledge of a variety of tools, but you want to get really good with one or two. If you like the structure of a class, you can consider formal classes and workshops offered by companies like SAS or R Studio, and there are a number of great online platforms that offer training as well (LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, DataCamp). There are also a lot of useful books out there with companion websites that provide datasets and practice exercises.
  • Get some experience with real data. Again, you can only simulate so much in the classroom – working with real data (and its issues) will expose you to all kind of things. This experience might come through formal opportunities with employment, internships or volunteer work, through a thesis or practicum, or even on your own through the use of publicly available data. There is a ton of public health data available online (Census, NIH, CDC), and if you just want to play around and improve your skills, people have created all kinds of interesting datasets and made them available online (Github, Kaggle, FiveThirtyEight) – go ahead and download a dataset full of Netflix movie reviews, sportsball stats, Twitter posts with the latest controversial hashtag, anything that is interesting to you!
  • Practice, practice, practice. Programming is otherwise known as…learning a programming language. Classroom training is only part of this – it can get you the foundation but to really excel you must put in the time. If you were trying to learn a new language, even after taking a traditional class, you might spend an hour a day on Duolingo, listen to songs in that language, or read books and articles in that language, looking up any words you don’t know along the way…it’s the same thing here. The more practice you get, especially with real data, the more you will have to draw from when you encounter something new. You don’t have to know everything (I certainly don’t), but you will get better at doing things from memory that you have done dozens of times, and you will also remember unique examples that forced you to learn something new. Much like reading will expand your vocabulary, practice will add techniques to your toolbox that you can adapt when faced with similar tasks later on.
  • Focus on other related skills such as problem solving, communication, and critical thinking – it’s not ALL about programming. Even if you are starting out in a position where you don’t have a lot of input, you can still exercise these skills as an analyst. The best data analysts I have worked with are detail oriented people that take the time to ask questions (even of themselves) and carefully evaluate their own work. In some ways as an analyst it’s helpful to be a bit of a pessimist (at least that’s my excuse) – I spend a lot of my time anticipating things that could go wrong to prevent and identify data quality issues. As a hiring manager, I think programming and analysis skills are necessary, but I also think it is important to give equal weight to other skills like subject matter expertise, creativity, communication skills, attention to detail, etc. I would be more likely to hire a well-rounded person that has experience working on a real study, over someone with numerous technical skills and certifications on their resume that has only ever done this type of work in a classroom.

If you want to be a great analyst, in some ways you will always need to consider yourself a student – I learn something new every day doing this type of work. Spend some time early in your program figuring out what appeals to you most in terms of software and data and then get to it!  


Nicole Luisi (MPH, MS) is a Director of Data Analytics and Informatics Projects in the Rollins School of Public Health, and an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology. She also teaches several courses for the Executive MPH program and serves as the EMPH Applied Epidemiology thesis advisor. Featured here is her dog, Doug, doing some casual data analysis.


Featured Image by Sai Kiran Anagani on Unsplash

Health Communication Fellowship in Diabetes, Division of Diabetes Translation

Category : Alumni

The Division of Diabetes Translation (DDT) is now accepting applications for an ORISE Health Communication Fellowship. Please help us spread the word and share with your networks! 

The selected participant will have the opportunity to interact closely with public health program professionals in the Division of Diabetes Translation, and will be involved in the following activities:  

  • Participate in developing, implementing, and learning how to manage national communication and marketing programs, projects, and initiatives for various audiences 
  • Plan, apply, and evaluate various communication science and marketing techniques to achieve optimal program results and promote positive health outcomes 
  • Contribute to the preparation of written documents that reflect a thorough knowledge of complex public health issues and appropriate health communication, health promotion, and marketing intervention strategies 
  • Participate in researching and developing messages and materials that are valid and consistent with program objectives and are based on communication and marketing theory and principles as well as audience research (including concept, message, and Web-usability testing) 
  • Collect data and contribute to the development of products such as fact sheets, program briefings, questions and answers, program summaries, Web pages, and program-in-briefs 
  • Collaborate with Center/Division communication offices and others within the Office of the Director to provide support on communication efforts, e.g., campaigns, observance days 
  • Collaborate with web team members to ensure information is successfully disseminated across the web sites providing clear oral and/or written instructions on this topic, as appropriate 
  • Collaborate with the web team in providing technical support for digital and social media evaluation 

Ready to join this dynamic communications team? Please complete the application by the deadline, Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Questions can be directed to Tanya Hamburger (dln7 [at] cdc [dot] gov) and Lourdes Martinez (gmf5 [at] cdc [dot] gov).   

About the Division of Diabetes Translation (DDT) 

CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation is at the leading edge of the nation’s efforts to end the devastation of diabetes. The division works with other federal agencies, state health departments, healthcare providers, and community organizations to identify people with prediabetes, prevent type 2 diabetes, prevent diabetes complications, and improve the health of all people with diabetes. These efforts have helped millions of Americans reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes and prevent or delay serious diabetes complications. 

Upcoming Events

  • Charles R. Hatcher, Jr., MD. Award for Excellence in Public Health September 8, 2022 at 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm Lawrence P & Ann Estes Klamon Room Event Type: Guest LecturePresentation of award to Dr. James W. Curran, MD, MPH - Emeritus Dean, Rollins School of Public HealthFollowed by Reception
  • Striving to End Liver Cancer Symposium September 29, 2022 Chapel Hill, NC Event Type: Conference / SymposiumSeries: NoSpeaker: MultipleContact Name: Joellen SchildkrautContact Email: jmschil@emory.eduLink: Workshop goals are to introduce a new liver study, STRIVE. We also seek to guide research directions into liver cancer risk and progression.

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