Author Archives: Duncan Mahood

Professional Feedback

Category : PROspective

From Elizabeth Hannapel, MPH (Alum, 2012): 

Workplace feedback looks, sounds, and feels different from school feedback. Classroom feedback tends to come by way of test scores, comments on papers, and final grades. These methods of feedback revolve almost entirely around the accuracy and content of your work product. Workplace feedback can (and should!) include the content and quality of your work products, as well as your attributes as an employee. The latter is something that many young professionals struggle with. It can be uncomfortable and is often only reluctantly engaged with by employees and employers.  Providing candid feedback on soft skills is difficult; employers may not feel confident in their own soft skills and it is a challenge to provide soft skill feedback that is actionable.

“It was impossible not to feel hurt (“Why don’t they like me?”) and defensive (“I’m getting my work done; if they don’t like it that’s their problem.”)”

I still remember the first time I received feedback about my approach to work. I was used to tackling my job duties and offering to help others. While that approach was beneficial for group projects in school, a colleague pointed out that it was creating friction with a group of colleagues with very different work styles. It was impossible not to feel hurt (“Why don’t they like me?”) and defensive (“I’m getting my work done; if they don’t like it that’s their problem.”) Neither of those helped me navigate my workplace or become a better team member.

“Only one of my ultimate objectives depended on the skills that were graded in school.”

What did help me was to step back and think about the feedback as an opportunity for improvement (rather than a critique of my identity.) I thought about my ultimate objectives: complete my job duties, foster collaboration, maintain open communication with colleagues, and have that communication be pleasant whenever possible. Notably, only one of those depended on the skills that were graded in school. I was able to realign my actions with those goals in mind, develop friendly workplace relationships, and was better able to recruit those same folks for support in other endeavors.

I graduated from Rollins with a MPH in Epidemiology in 2012. I now work for the Georgia Department of Public Health, and I interact with current Rollins students and recent alumni. Rollins students are well equipped for local and state public health job duties through their coursework. What Rollins students, and young professionals in general, could benefit from is openness to and active engagement with feedback.

“Often it is a gift we may not want, but a gift nonetheless.”

It is fundamentally harder to hear feedback on soft skills than on hard skills. It is particularly hard to remember that feedback is a gift.  Often it is a gift we may not want, but a gift nonetheless. Soft skills are often heavily weighted in decisions on advancement.  An employee may be technically brilliant, but without the soft skills to help drive the organization forward, their career goals may be stymied. Being open to improving both hard and soft skills helps to build a solid path for continued advancement.

As a potential employer, I can work to establish and improve mechanisms for feedback. Often in academic and government settings there isn’t much emphasis on feedback for soft skills.

“If you find yourself in a workplace without a formal feedback process, ask for one!”

This is a disservice to both the employee and the company. On-the-job training, and the corresponding evaluation processes, should reflect not only job-specific tasks but also the interpersonal skills that enable staff to navigate complex professional environments. Our team does not have a formal process for providing feedback to current students, and I’m working with others to establish one.

If you find yourself in a workplace without a formal feedback process, as either a student volunteer or a full-time-employee, ask for one! Reach out to your supervisor and establish regularly scheduled meetings where you can review not only your quantifiable job performance but also your soft skills. Your employer may have performance reviews, but they may not include feedback for professional skills.

“Request feedback and be open to it.”

Ask your supervisor “How do you think I’m performing with respect to interpersonal relationships and office dynamics? What can I do to improve my listening and communication skills? What areas should I further develop, and do you know of any resources or trainings that might be helpful?”

Request feedback and be open to it. Although difficult, this is a crucial component of continued development and a competitive advantage. Rollins offers many opportunities to prepare for public health work; Use this time to increase your technical knowledge AND your interpersonal skills that will help you succeed as a professional.


Additional Resources:

Ladders: How to Handle Negative Feedback Without Taking it Personally

Purdue CCO Blog: Receiving Feedback

MBO Partners: How to Identify and Improve Soft Skills

WikiJob UK: Soft Skills

Training Industry: Expert Perspectives on Soft Skills

Elizabeth Hannapel graduated from Rollins in 2012 with a MPH in Epidemiology. While at Rollins, her interests included Infectious Diseases and Public Health Emergency Preparedness. Now, Liz serves as the state coordinator for legionellosis and shigellosis, and leads infectious disease outbreak investigations for the Georgia Department of Public Health. Follow Liz on Twitter @LizBitler.

Alum Caleb Ebert on The Carter Center and Relationships in Public Health

Category : GLEPI , PROspective

Written by Caleb Ebert, GLEPI MPH 2018:

Atlanta is dubbed the public health capital of the world. Most people think of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when referring to this title, which makes sense when most of Atlanta traffic can be attributed to the CDC commute. 😉 However, when I think of Atlanta – and I thought this even before attending Rollins – one person always comes to mind: President Jimmy Carter. I admire a lot about this man. His authenticity. His desire and the energy he devotes to creating a better world (I mean just look at this most recent article.). His belief in the value and dignity of every human. And especially how he has taken his international platform that the US Presidency gave him and founded The Carter Center along with his wife, First Lady Rosalyn Carter. But I digress. 


The Carter Center is “waging peace,” “fighting disease,” and “building hope” in areas that are currently neglected. President Carter’s mission, and I have heard him say this several times upon meeting him, is that he does not want to duplicate anyone’s effort. He recognizes that there are already leaders and experts making advances in fields such as cancer research, climate change advocacy, and primary school access, so why not tackle issues that are not being addressed or are currently under-addressed. This is what The Carter Center is doing. They have now become a leader in monitoring elections and championing human rights, and are on the path to eliminate guinea worm and trachoma.


I was fortunate enough to land a REAL position with The Carter Center’s Trachoma Control Program during my first year at Rollins. However, I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I first saw their open position. After all, I had just finished a long day of teaching GIS workshops and I was trying to cool off in my sweltering apartment in the Philippines when I read that The Carter Center, a place I had dreamt of working at, was looking for a student with GIS experience. Before I could think too much, I applied for the job—crossed every joint in my body—and then I waited. Whether it is a REAL job, or those real jobs, I encourage you to add your personality to your cover letter. To me, nothing makes an applicant stand out more than someone who is willing to put themselves in their application and not just their qualifications (That’s what your resume is for!). I began my cover letter with a joke about how chlamydia is such a hard word to spell and this may be the reason I got an interview (Trachoma is caused by a bacterium call Chlamydia trachomatis).


A unique aspect of working at a nonprofit (and there are so many in Atlanta) like The Carter Center is that you can really shape the course of a program with some curiosity and determination. I encourage you to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Ask why things are done a certain way and suggest alternatives or ask for a trial period to start something new. I remember in my interview I had already started to ask those “Why” questions, such as why the program was working in some countries with trachoma but not others. This curiosity may have been the reason I was hired. I maintained a level of curiosity throughout my time at The Carter Center whether it was wondering how we could apply The Carter Center’s election monitoring survey technology to the health surveys or how we could best train the in-country staff on how to create their own trachoma prevalence maps.  


I had the opportunity to stay with The Carter Center for my entire two years (including completing my practicum with them in Ethiopia) while attending Rollins. Having a continuous two-year period was critical to the relationships that I could form with The Carter Center and the connections that they provided me with post-graduation. But regardless of the length of time you are at an organization, I encourage you to actively work to form relationships. And yes, this may mean that you need to have the small talk with your coworkers. (Remember their answers!) Begin there and soon more meaningful conversations will form. Relationships are so important in public health—it can be a very small field. I currently work as a trial manager at the F.I. Proctor Foundation at the University of California, San Francisco and this job would not have been possible without my experience and connections from The Carter Center. And just to further demonstrate how important relationships can be, despite living across the country from The Carter Center, I still remain very connected with the Trachoma Control Program working as a contractor on a couple of projects.


Caleb Ebert graduated from Rollins in 2018 with a MPH in Global Epidemiology. While at Rollins, his research interests included GIS and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies. Now, Caleb manages NIH-funded trials at the F.I. Proctor Foundation at UCSF in San Francisco, California. 

Generational Differences

Category : PROspective

This week on PROspective, we’re talking about generational differences and how they play out in the workplace. If you recently started a REAL job, maybe this will help you understand your manager and their expectations. If you are an alum, this might help you coach your REAL student or recent hire. 

BUT – what you might not realize, is that this discussion isn’t just about their generation – it’s also about your own generation


“Nosce te ipsum” – Know Thyself


This maxim was popularized by the ancient Greek philosophers, who carved it into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. An important, but often overlooked empathic exercise – pointed toward yourself instead of at others. 

This infographic from King University online breaks down the major differences between Millennials and GenX’s in the workplace – what they value, how they work, and what they expect. As you read through the graphic, take a beat to think about how this applies to you just as much as how it applies to others. Understanding your own motivations, expectations, and values – and how they may be perceived by others – might help you navigate a workplace with a collection of different worldviews

Also worth noting – generalizations about people of different age groups are just that – general, and almost certainly don’t represent every individual in a group. Keep in mind that these categories are loosely defined and individual characteristics will always vary.

Student Opportunities > GLEPI

Category : GLEPI , News/Events

Are you a GLEPI student looking for news, events, and opportunities specifically related to global health? Now, these posts will be collected under the GLEPI menu item for extra quick access! Simply hover over the Student Opportunities menu, and click GLEPI in the dropdown. 

Let us know what you think!

RSGA Epi Reps: Michelle McKinlay & Nathan Quan

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

For this week’s #IamEmoryEPI, we caught up with your Rollins Student Government (RSGA) department representatives: Michelle McKinlay and Nathan Quan! 

Tell us about your research interests:

Michelle: My primary research interest is in social epidemiology, specifically focusing on the social determinants of health in vulnerable populations.

Nathan: I am interested in social epidemiology and the social determinants of health, specifically racial and ethnic discrimination and segregation.

What were you up to this summer?

Michelle: I spent my summer in Southern California working for Project Horseshoe Farm, a community health nonprofit organization, establishing the nonprofit’s pilot expansion site in Pomona, CA. My projects consisted of building community partnerships, developing the structure for a gap-year fellowship, and creating a protocol for future data collection, all in preparation for me to serve as the Site Director after graduation.

Nathan: As a Region IV Public Health Training Center Pathways to Practice Scholar based at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, I partnered with the Louisville Health Advisory Board (LHAB) to expand community-wide efforts to target efforts for suicide prevention using local suicide data. I presented my findings to LHAB, expressed a clear vision for the future research in Louisville regarding suicide prevention at a population health level, and laid groundwork to develop a suicide fatality review by the end of 2019 to elucidate intervention strategies unique to Louisville.

Tell us about your role as Epi Reps?

We really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know students and staff in the department better. Perhaps more importantly, we took pride in acting as the liaison for the Epi student body to the administration. This led to various improvements in the department and to Rollins as a whole!

What are your priorities as Epi Reps this year?

One priority this year is to increase student and staff engagement at our Epi events. Another is to help bridge the gap between the EPI and GH departments for our GLEPI students. We really want to help implement new ideas that our fellow students have – please reach out to us if you have any!

When are elections for the new Epi Reps?

RSGA elections for departmental representatives will be held in early November (keep an eye out for more information in October!). Students who want to be more involved not only in the department but at Rollins as a whole, who care about bringing students and staff together, who enjoy planning and putting on events, and students with creative new ideas should run for Epi Rep! As elections approach, we will be holding informal “Coffee Chats” with students who are interested in learning more about the role!

FRONTLINE Documentary: Flint’s Deadly Water

Category : News/Events

Frontline contacted Drs. Zach Binney, Kristin Nelson, and Allison Chamberlain to help them with an investigation into a Legionnaires’ outbreak during the Flint water crisis. They asked them to use local pneumonia deaths during the outbreak to assess whether it’s possible cases had been systematically underreported. Drs. Binney and Nelson are interviewed in the piece, which airs this Tuesday, September 10th at 10/9c on PBS & online.

Learn more here

Watch the trailer and the full episode on Tuesday here

New EPI Social Media Team: Haley Adrian & Jazib Gohar

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

The Confounder is excited to announce our new Social Media Team: 2nd year students Haley Adrian (Instagram: @rollinsepilife) and Jazib Gohar (Twitter: @EmoryEPI)!

This week, we sat down with the new team to learn about their interest in epidemiology, social media, and much more! 

What makes you interested in social media and how does epidemiology fit into that interest?

  • Haley: I am thrilled to be representing the Department of Epidemiology on Instagram. I have always had an interest in using social media as a platform for general communication, information sharing, and media creation. On top of running a few personal Instagram accounts, I also played a role in content creation for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Learn the Signs. Act Early. Program, which I was a Health Communication and Program Evaluation Assistant.
  • Jazib: I am so excited to be representing the Epidemiology Department on Twitter. I’ve always loved using Twitter for so many different reasons, spanning from news or current events, to sports scores and updates, to academic dialogue and conversation. I think Twitter has so much untapped potential with peers of our age group, particularly in scholarly engagement. I’m excited to explore academic Twitter and engage my peers with our the @EmoryEPI account!

Tell us about your research interests and career goals.

  • Haley: Primarily, my career interest lies in healthcare consulting. I had the privilege of working as a Healthcare Finance Intern with Dixon Hughes Goodman (DHG) this summer, and plan to pursue a career with the firm during the school year and after graduation. Throughout this summer, I was responsible for senior living clients’ market research, penetration rate databases for independent living and assisted living communities, and our actuarial study database. Tangibles produced during my internship included client market area analyses used for our feasibility studies, a regional graphic of the United States showing penetration rate distribution among of clients’ communities, a cleaned and revamped actuarial study database used for internal purposes, and a capstone presentation summarizing both my experience for the firm and Risk Capability (a firm industry point-of-view). My experience with DHG confirmed my interest in the industry, as well as my career plan.
  • Jazib: My career interests revolve around Cancer Epidemiology, specifically in the field of Social Epigenomics. I am interested in understanding the role that social factors, such as race, socioeconomic status, and diet, play in cancer outcomes by studying their association with DNA methylation in malignant tumor tissue. I hope to pursue my PhD in Epidemiology after my time at Rollins.

What do you like to do outside of epidemiology?

  • Haley: My personal interests include working out, spending time with my friends and family, and playing with my dog. I love to be outside, travel, and try new foods. 
  • Jazib: Outside of academic interests, I love sports and music. I’m an avid Chicago and Northwestern sports fan, and I often try to attend concerts whenever I have the time! I also enjoy craft beer, and always try to sample flights at local breweries.

Follow Jazib on Twitter @EmoryEPI and Haley on Instagram @rollinsepilife

#EpiTwitter: Professional engagement in the 21st century

Category : PROspective

from Dr. Cecile Janssens:

If your dream job comes available, you want the recruiters to consider you. For that, they need to know you. Networking is key for career opportunities. In the past, there only was the old boys network, these days there are alternatives. LinkedIn is a good place to post your profile and connect, but you might also want to consider Twitter.

There are many reasons why you, as a student, might benefit from Twitter, and many websites that tell how to get started. Let me share why I use Twitter.

My interest in Twitter didn’t happen overnight. I signed up as part of a public scholarship program but was a ‘listener’ for several years. I followed colleagues in epidemiology, public health, and genetics. I retweeted what I found worth sharing and only responded to tweets that were comfortably within my expertise.

It was worth it though. There are many epidemiologists and statisticians on Twitter. They share their knowledge and thoughts, post what keeps them busy, what catches their attention, what worries them, and what they find important, value, and like. Twitter is also a place where many new studies and developments are discussed. Needless to say, I learned a lot.

Over time, I connected with many people who have similar interests but who I would never have met in person because we attend different conferences. Physicians, statisticians, policy experts, patient advocates, and journalists. Slowly but steadily, I expanded my network across disciplines. Twitter is now my favorite ‘annual’ conference, every day.  

My engagement on Twitter took a turn in 2018, when I was asked to comment on a new paper in my field. I posted a thread of tweets that led to a lot of discussion and to a steady increase in followers that still goes on today. The thread caught the interest of an editor, which is how it got published as a commentary. My co-author and I know each other from Twitter, we’ve never met in person.

Writing that commentary was also the first time that I asked experts on Twitter to check whether we had correctly described a new and complex statistical method. I have since solicited peer review several times for entire manuscripts and paragraphs.

My most ‘viral’ contribution is another thread of tweets in which I explain—would you believe—the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve, a statistical metric that many people use but few really understand. That ‘tweetorial’ is now also a manuscript under revision.

If you use Twitter wisely by following people you find worth following and by posting more sense than nonsense (use other social media for the fun stuff), then you too can learn, ask, share, and entertain, all while expanding your network. Give it a try.  

New to Twitter? Here’s how to get started:


  • #Epitwitter: The epidemiology community on Twitter is centered around the hashtag #epitwitter. You can search twitter for all tweets with the #epitwitter hashtag to get an insight into what is trending now. You can (and should) also follow @epi_twit – an account that retweets popular #epitwitter tweets. Other great hashtags include: #statstwitter, #medtwitter, #phdchat, #AcademicTwitter, #rstats, #EpiJournalClub, #EpiWritingChallenge


  • Follow influencers in the field:
    • Several notable influencers are faculty right here in the Emory Epidemiology Department: @TimothyLash, @cecilejanssens, @LCLindquist, @alonso_epi, @Jlguest, @EpiPenny, @mkramer_atl, @SamuelJenness, @ATChambs, @ShakiraSuglia, @pssinatl, @B_Lopman, @DrDaynaAJohnson, @KancherlaVijaya, @jebjones_epi, @kmvnarayan14, @audreyjane4, @TravisEpi, @CareyDrews, @AcebaldAnne, @RachelPatzerPhD, @zbinney_NFLinj, @rabednarczyk
    • Make sure to check out influencers throughout the greater  Epidemiology/Statistics/PublicHealth twitter community: @sandrogalea, @_MiguelHernan, @f2harrell, @yudapearl, @CarlosdelRio7, @ProfMattFox, @EpiEllie, @malco_barrett, @MaartenvSmeden, @jaimiegradus, @ebbrickley, @kjhealy, @LaurenAnneWise, @BaileyDeBarmore, @MariaGlymour, @ken_rothman, @BillMiller_Epi


  • Follow institutions and journals:
    • @EmoryEPI is the Epidemiology Department’s twitter account – a must follow for all the Epi events, updates, and conversations going on at Rollins.
    • Some influential journals in the field include @epipubs (also see:
      @societyforepi), @EpidemiologyLWW, and @AmJEpi


How do YOU use twitter? Who are your favorite epidemiology/public health influencers? Tell us in the comments!

PROspective: New career blog in the Confounder

Category : PROspective

Starting this Fall, The Confounder is launching a brand new epidemiology career-focused section called PROspective: 

In epidemiology, prospective study designs are about understanding the path from exposure to outcome in the real world. PROspective, our new section of the Confounder, exposes epidemiologists-in-training to soft skills, career hacks, and pretty much everything else that you won’t find in the classroom. We’ll be inviting the PROs themselves – current epidemiologists in the workforce – to share their perspectives and advice on navigating the nuances and challenges inherent in epidemiology work and at public health organizations. PROspective is about sharing the tools and practices that will boost your career to the next level.

In the coming weeks, keep an eye out for our new section and let us know what you think! 

Thanks for your continued support!

The Confounder Team


Are you interested in contributing to PROspective? Fill out the form below!

Jena Black: ADAP Extraordinaire

Category : #IamEmoryEPI

To kick off the new semester, the Confounder Team wants to recognize someone at the heart of our work – someone, without whom, the Confounder (and so much more) would never have been possible.

No one encapsulates the slogan #IamEmoryEPI better than our longtime EPI ADAP – Jena Black. As Jena takes up a new position with the Admissions and Student Services Department next week, we wanted to show our appreciation for this tireless student advocate, strategic thinker, and unwavering optimist.

Behind the scenes, Jena has orchestrated countless events and brokered connections that have steadily influenced and improved the department’s academic mission, moving it towards becoming an inclusive, inspired, and engaged community – giving true meaning and purpose to the phrase #IamEmoryEPI.

Jena is living proof to the rest of us that true leadership can have an impact at any level of an organization. This impact is no secret – alumni of this program value Jena’s contributions decades after graduating: she is known for her poignant guidance and her ability to create connections to foster new and long-lasting collaborations. 


From all of us at The Confounder and the EPI Department, thank you Jena for everything you do. We will miss you in the department, and wish you well in your new school-wide role!