Author Archives: Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist

Messaging matters: comments, criticisms, and suggestions in a professional setting

Category : PROspective

A new academic year brings a host of new interactions – with classmates, instructors, mentors, and employers. Most often, these interactions go smoothly, but there are certainly times when there’s room for improvement. Learning to provide valuable feedback in a professional setting is an important skill to develop. Whether your feedback is anonymous or not, it’s important to remember that there is another human being on the receiving end. Begin by giving that person the benefit of the doubt, and assuming that they are acting with the best intentions. When you have the opportunity to provide feedback in writing (e.g., via email, through course evaluations, or a survey), consider waiting to hit send until you’ve had some time to reflect on what you’ve written – particularly if you drafted your message in a heated moment!

This week’s featured article provides some additional advice about how to provide valuable feedback in the workplace. Here are the highlights (click through for the specifics!)

  1. Focus on the issue
  2. Be sincere
  3. Avoid the sandwich method
  4. Be specific
  5. Allow a response
  6. Recommend a solution
  7. Provide a summary

I encourage you to reference these guidelines as you’re sharing your ideas for improvement. Taking these steps will help these interactions to go much more smoothly, and you’re also more likely to achieve the result you were hoping for.


Don’t Go It Alone

Category : PROspective

Looking both outside (budding flowers and rain showers) and at my inbox (thesis analysis challenges and graduation reminders), it’s clear that spring is here! It’s the time of semester when classes, capstones, and theses are all starting to wrap-up. While the dates on the calendar are clear, the path to the finish line might remain a little blurry.

As you approach the final stretch of Spring 2022, I encourage you to take some time to check-in with your classmates and lean on each other. Everyone has their own struggles, and it can often be helpful to share them with someone going through a similar journey. Here’s a quote from the PROspective archives that I hope will help you in this final stretch:

Don’t compare your “behind the scenes” to everyone else’s “highlight reel”. I don’t remember where I first heard this phrase, but it really resonates with me. Until we all get comfortable sharing our setbacks, we have to realize that we mostly only see the very best of what happens to those around us. Remember that you only have a sneak peek into someone else’s life, and you are likely unaware of many of the setbacks that they face.

You are studying alongside outstanding students who have and will continue to change public health for years to come – and you belong here. It can be easy to compare your progress to someone else’s and feel like you’re falling short of where you “should” be. By checking in with each other, you can help break the habit of making biased comparisons to your colleagues.

While your challenges may be different, you may be able to provide insight that can only come from someone who is not so intimately wrapped up in the details of a particular project. Maybe what you need is someone to help you find that one spot in the EPI 550 notes that holds the key to your coding troubles. Meanwhile, your classmate could use a fresh perspective on how to best structure this one section of their final report that isn’t coming out quite right. These exchanges can help you refocus and set you back on the right path.

You may feel like you just need to put your head down and keep plugging away until the semester ends. Perhaps there are some of you for whom this really is the best strategy. For those who feel like that would be counterproductive, please take this as your sign to pause – connect with your classmates – and know that it will all come to a close in due time.

Of course, if you need additional support, please reach out to me and/or your ADAP and we will get you connected with the right resources.

 

Featured Image by Hannah Busing on Unsplash


Self Care

Category : PROspective

I was approached to write this PROspective piece for The Confounder a few weeks back. The idea was to do a follow-up on the Time Management piece I shared in 2019, and to highlight the importance of mental health and wellbeing as we enter yet another new normal. I knew that this post wouldn’t write itself, so I blocked some time in my calendar dedicated to getting it done.

 

 

Fast forward a few weeks…

The reminder for my writing block comes through, and it’s clear that it’s not going to happen (at least not at the time that I had planned!) Our youngest son’s school was closed, and I had a new co-worker for the day. Collin (mostly) kept it together while I held drop-in hours that morning, but by the time 11:00 rolled around, he had had enough. That time slot was no longer mine to use for writing.

Instead of writing this piece, Collin and I played with water beads for a solid 30 minutes, and then had lunch together. Letting the beads run through my hands was oddly therapeutic, and I realized that it was awfully fitting that the time I had dedicated to writing about self-care had turned into a sensory play experience with my 3-year-old.

One of the greatest lessons that I’ve learned over the last 18 months is that I have to be prepared that things will not always go as I planned them. This doesn’t mean that I’ve thrown planning out the window (and if you’re looking for tips on how to plan your weeks – check out this blog post). Rather, when there’s a change of plans, I just roll with it. Instead of wasting time being upset about the disruption, I go into solution mode, figuring out how I will adapt and change to meet whatever challenge has come my way. It’s not always easy, but I recognize that I really don’t have any other choice. In this case, I embraced the break, and realized that my writing would have to get squeezed in somewhere else.

The other strategy that has helped when things don’t go according to plan is that I let go of the guilt that I might have otherwise felt about not having done a task exactly when or how I planned. I remember to extend the same grace to myself as I do to others, and remind myself that it’s OK if I don’t quite hit the mark as I would have expected.

As you meet the new challenges ahead, I hope that you can take some time to plan structure into your weeks, but also remember to bring along a healthy dose of flexibility and grace. We are far more creative and resilient than we let ourselves believe – don’t let yourself forget this!

If you’re in need of some resources to help you de-stress, check out this Virtual Calming Room – designed for both kids and adults to allow you to take a pause and clear your mind.

 

Featured Image by Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist


When does a pandemic begin and end?

Category : PROspective

In the public discourse, the coming and going of a pandemic has often been compared to a light switch – it comes on quickly and, certainly this time with COVID19, abruptly. As an epidemiologist, an even more apt metaphor comes to mind – a dichotomous process – that the pandemic is either present and posing a certain risk, or not and posing little risk, with no room in between for variability. While this may be a useful comparison for the rapid increase in cases and social challenges characterized by the onset of a pandemic, certainly its exit is a much less discrete – instead more similar to a light on a dimmer – its a continuous, society-wide tapering of perceived risks over the course of several months (at best), represented by a near infinite variety of individual experiences.    

So, as the pandemic in the United States begins to dim, I often think about the changes that are afoot – and wonder what it will be like as we all begin to transition back to a routine that looks more like 2019 than 2020. We know that change is inevitable – but it is rare for there to be a transition that impacts so many of us all at the same time. Undoubtedly, there will be a wide range of reactions to this change – some will be eager to jump back in with both feet, while others will wish to stay on the side of the pool for a while longer. Our reactions may be driven by health-related considerations, or perhaps by a change in perspective brought on by the events of the last 15 months.  

In the midst of this transition, vaccinated epidemiologists are now faced with an interesting dilemma: to mask or not to mask? You must know that the answer to this question is, of course…it depends!

To Mask or Not to Mask

On the one hand, we know that the COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective – and the CDC notes that those who are fully vaccinated can resume pre-pandemic activities without a mask (where allowable).

But this hasn’t always been about just protecting ourselves – we know that we’ve been wearing masks to protect ourselves and others. For me, part of protecting others isn’t just about the physical protection, but about psychological protection as well. Unless we adopt Dr. McCullough’s suggestion and start wearing conference-style badges to note our vaccination status, there’s no way for those we interact with to know whether we’re vaccinated. We’ve all had enough second guessing over the course of this pandemic, and I’d prefer not to cause anyone undue anxiety wondering about whether I’m two-weeks past my last dose if we accidentally get too close. So as a Moderna vaccinee, I find myself continuing to wear a mask when out in public – even in spaces where it’s not required. I mask in solidarity with my three sons – who are still too young to be vaccinated – and as a small gesture to those whose paths I might cross in the grocery store.

There’s no right answer here – let’s all just remember to be gentle with ourselves and others. If this territory is challenging for us to navigate, imagine what it must be like for those outside of our field.

Communication

The challenges don’t just end with masking – but questions abound about vaccination, too. A dear friend of mine has been working the COVID-19 response in Detroit, Michigan – with waning cases, her team is transitioning from contact tracing to making calls to increase vaccination coverage. A few members of her team were nervous about making these calls – they were confident about their work with those who had tested positive, or who had been in contact with a positive case, but they didn’t feel like their expertise translated to vaccine promotion. One of her first calls was to a woman who had only received one dose of the Pfizer vaccine – and shortly thereafter had been diagnosed with COVID. She wasn’t sure what to do about getting her second dose, and was thrilled to have been contacted by the health department, saying, “you are exactly the person I need to talk to!” My friend relayed this conversation to her colleagues and reminded them that although they may not know everything that there is to know about the COVID-19 vaccines, that they have a wealth of knowledge to be shared with the community.

Looking forward

Throughout the summer, I encourage you to have these conversations with your family and friends. Whether it be about when or whether to wear a mask, or about vaccination – believe it or not, you do have something to offer that could make a meaningful difference in the slow process to definitively end the pandemic. We may be epidemiologists – and not behavioral scientists or health educators – but we do have a wealth of knowledge to share. We’re comfortable with the fact that there isn’t always one correct answer, and we can use our love of it depends to explain different scenarios that our loved ones might want to consider. And as I always tell my teaching assistants: no one knows everything – it’s always ok to say “I don’t know” – and you can follow-up with more information at a later time.

 


Featured image by Vera Davidova on Unsplash


Look How Far We’ve Come

Category : PROspective

By Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist, PhD, MPH

 

Over the last 14 months, a recurring theme for me has been a complete disorientation regarding time; some days have felt endless while others have gone by in a flash. I’ve done more than one double take as I’ve looked at my calendar and realized that it really is May 2021 and that the spring semester is coming to a close. 

 

Many of you have wrapped up your spring semester obligations, and others will be putting on the finishing touches in the coming days. Whether you’re graduating, preparing for a summer of thesis wrap-up, looking ahead to your APE, or awaiting some other adventure – I encourage you to take a moment to pause and reflect on all that you have accomplished over the course of this academic year. 

 

The circumstances under which you have studied, worked, and grown have been truly extraordinary. It can be easy to get caught up in our day-to-day challenges and lose sight of just how far we’ve come. One of the greatest lessons that I have learned over the course of the pandemic is that I am far more resilient than I led myself to believe – and I hope the same is true for you. 

 

ICYMI – Emory’s President, Greg Fenves, penned an open letter of recommendation for Emory’s Classes of 2020 and 2021, which ran in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Atlanta Journal Constitution on Tuesday, May 4th. I read his letter with such pride and admiration for all that you have done (this goes for you, too, Class of 2022!). There is no exaggeration in President Fenves’s message – you are a remarkable group of students, who have made, and will continue to make the world a better place. 

 

Bookmark his letter – and when you find yourself feeling tired or worn down, pull it up and know that, yes, President Fenves was indeed talking about you when he wrote it. 

 

Graduation always stirs up so many emotions for me – but this one will be particularly special as the Class of 2021 is the first class that I had the privilege of welcoming as the Director of Graduate Studies for our MPH & MSPH programs. While I certainly wish we could have seen each other in person a whole lot more, I am so grateful for the ways that you have fostered growth not just in our program and department, but within myself as well. 

 

Wherever the next leg of your journey takes you – I wish you all the very best! We cannot wait for updates on all the incredible things you’ll go on to do! And above all, take good care of yourselves.

 

Congratulations on a job well done!

LCL 

 


 

Dr. Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist, (PhD, MPH) is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, and serves as the Director of Graduate Studies for MPH and MSPH programs in Epidemiology. 


King Week @EmoryEPI

Category : PROspective

To our @EmoryEPI community – welcome to Spring 2021! Although celebrations surely looked different this holiday season, we hope that you were able to find moments of rest and relaxation over the last several weeks. Even though our winter break was longer than usual, some may still feel like it wasn’t quite long enough – whatever your situation, know that you are likely not alone in how you’re feeling. A new semester presents us with new beginnings and opportunities. We know that the road to get to the other side of the pandemic is long; however, vaccines and a national COVID-19 response strategy allow us to begin to see the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

 

This past week, we celebrated and honored the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As we work towards a more just and equitable society, there are important lessons that we can take from Dr. King and apply them to our own leadership. Below, I’ll highlight the key points from the linked article, with a spin on what these lessons mean for us as public health professionals.

 

Embrace the “We” Mindset


If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go together

– African Proverb

The “we” mindset really is at the core of public health – we’re keenly aware of how interconnected we all are, and that we simply cannot go at this alone. It’s not about what any one of us can accomplish on our own, but what we can do together that will have the most impact on health and wellness in our communities.

 

Embrace Tension


We often need to put in a lot of work to get to this place, but we must get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We know much needs to be done to realize public health’s goals of preventing disease and promoting health. We cannot expect to undo the damage of slavery and institutionalized racism by insisting on living the myth of a color blind society. Growth and progress are the rewards of the tension that comes from stepping out of our comfort zones, and speaking up for what is right. Good intentions are meaningless if they are accompanied by silence.

 

Embrace Learning and Unlearning


Simply put: our learning is never finished. Sometimes, the things that we learn are in conflict with what we already knew – we must remain open to allowing our knowledge to evolve as we gather more information and recognize when we must change our point of view. Although classroom learning will come to a close for our students in the coming semester(s), please remember that it will always be important to continue listening, learning, and acting in pursuit of justice.

 

Embrace Being an Extremist


Bernice King, an American minister and the youngest child of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, reminds us that as we honor her father, we must remember that he was not beloved by America. He was bold in his approach, and forged a unique path that wasn’t always well-received. There will be times when we must be extreme in our approach – where we take the lessons learned from embracing the “we” mindset, tension, and learning and unlearning – and apply them in ways that will have a real, measurable impact on the health of our communities.

I know this may be a lot to soak in at the beginning of a new semester – and some of you may wonder whether you’re really up for the task given all that you have on your plate. If this resonates with you, know that advocacy and the pursuit of justice are part of a journey. We can commit ourselves to this journey while also allowing ourselves to pause and tend to our own emotional, spiritual, and physical health. As we embrace the “we” mindset – we know that this is a journey that we are on together. When one of us needs a moment of pause, the rest of us can continue to carry the torch forward. I, for one, am grateful to be on this journey with each and every one of you.

 


Gratitude

Category : PROspective

Congratulations to the entire @EmoryEPI community for making it to the end of classes for Fall 2020! In August, we all knew that we were staring down a semester that would be unlike any other. As we stand on the other side of the instructional part of this semester, we can be proud of the ways in which we have leaned on each other, though both the ups and downs, to help us make it through.

At the start of the semester, Tim Lash asked us all to “recognize and practice flexibility, empathy, and patience.” We saw these principles play out throughout the semester as members of our community recognized that everyone was experiencing the pandemic differently, and that there were times where we needed to adjust our expectations to suit the moment. We also stretched ourselves in both creativity and resiliency – finding new ways to address the challenges that we faced, and recognizing that we are capable of so much more than we often give ourselves credit.

I have always been immensely grateful for our department’s community, and that gratitude has taken on a whole new life this semester. It is such a gift to be able to wake up each and every day and know that my time at work is well spent. As we settle into this week of Thanksgiving, I know that this time is likely to look quite different than in years past. To reiterate Tim’s recent message to the department, although “2020 has been difficult… many have had a much harder year than most of us. Look for the good in what has past, hope for the future, and recommit to perseverance for the present.”

Of course, I am keenly aware that we are not yet on the other side of this semester: faculty may still need to prepare finals, and of course, students still need to take them. Always remember that we are all on the same team – working together to prepare you to become influential public health professionals, ready to tackle the challenges that we face.

My hope for each and every one of you is that you are able to recharge this week, even if that means flexing your creativity to ensure a safe celebration for yourself, your loved ones, and the greater community. For some, recharging will mean completely unplugging – for others, it means getting caught up while colleagues are on a break – whatever you need, please take it, and remember to practice empathy for those whose coping mechanisms differ from your own.

In closing, I’ll share this quote from Voltaire, which perfectly encapsulates the #WeAreEmoryEPI spirit:

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”



We appreciate, and are so grateful for, every member of our @EmoryEPI community – stay safe, be well and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 


 


Problem Solving

Category : PROspective

2020 has thrown us one curveball after another. As I reflect on the skills that I have had to rely on most heavily during these last 10 months, the skill that has served me best is problem-solving. From figuring out how to transition my in-person class to be fully online within a week, to supporting virtual learning for 4th and 1st graders while keeping a toddler happy and out of the way, to how to safely celebrate the life of my dear grandmother — there has been no shortage of opportunities to flex this critically important skill.  

Problem-solving isn’t an innate ability – it’s a skill that anyone can cultivate to apply to any situation, both in your personal and professional lives, and lies at the intersection of critical thinking, compartmentalization, creativity, and composure. Though many problems do require extensive technical knowledge (some of which you already have as an epidemiologist), most of the work of problem solving takes place outside of that context – engaging skillsets and mindsets that can be applied to almost any problem. 

At our core, I think all epidemiologists are good problem solvers, whether we see ourselves that way or not. Epidemiologists build a toolkit of skills that can be applied to a wide range of problems. While you might start out as a cancer epidemiologist, maybe you pivot in a couple of years to begin work on the impact of environmental exposures on fertility. Take solace in the fact that you are growing your skillset in an area that is both incredibly versatile and one that the world needs now more than ever before.

As you work to hone your problem-solving skills, it is important to be mindful that the approach that works to solve one problem might not work for another. Do you remember that saying if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?” Creativity is an essential component in problem solving, and we ought to resist the urge to apply the same solution to every problem that we face. 

Not only does our ability to problem-solve help us get through some sticky situations, but we can also take these opportunities to help launch us forward towards achieving our goals. When you’ve overcome a particularly challenging situation, consider jotting down some notes for yourself about what the problem was and how you solved it. The next time you find yourself in an interview, you can draw from these experiences to provide concrete examples about situations where you faced a challenge and how you addressed it. 

For me, problem-solving always begins by trying to break the problem down into as many parts as I can. This provides some clarity to help understand exactly what I’m facing, and then I can identify which elements need to be prioritized and which might have some flexibility. 

For more ideas and strategies, check out the article linked above – and as a bonus, you can learn more about how to talk about your problem-solving skills on your resume and in interviews!

 


 


Personal Branding

Category : PROspective

Let’s talk about personal branding. To be honest, the phrase makes me cringe a bit – it sounds awfully pretentious and self-absorbed. And while you won’t ever hear me talking about “my personal brand,” I have come to find value in this idea of being intentional about how you present yourself – particularly online.     
 

Who am I?

Humans are complex – we have lots of different identities, all of which come together to make each of us unique. It is important to me that those who I encounter, whether in-person or online, have some insight into what makes me tick. I am keenly aware of my unique position as an early-career academic in a leadership role, who also happens to be a mom of three. My successes have not always come easily; and although I often feel like I’m juggling with fire, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Knowing that some of my students may look to me as they think about their own lives ahead, I know I would do a great disservice to them if I wasn’t transparent about both the highs and the lows of this journey. It feels most natural to shed some light onto these experiences during one-on-one conversations or even in the classroom, but there’s also room for us to share our humanity in online spaces as well.
 

Blending Personal and Professional

If you don’t know about #EpiTwitter yet, I highly recommend exploring this great piece from our PROspective archives, followed by time spent touring many of its incredible rabbit holes. My own Twitter account was created only after learning about #EpiTwitter, and even with the promise of great epidemiology content, I was reluctant to join. I began with just two followers (both of whom were my mom!) and I spent the first several months as a lurker. Over time, I became more comfortable sharing my own thoughts and made the decision to include content that was both professional and personal in nature. My posts are most often related to epidemiology, @EmoryEPI highlights, civic engagement, teachingparenting, and my creative outlet. Perhaps my favorite are the crossover posts – where parenting meets epidemiology. Certainly, these topics don’t capture everything about me, but they provide a window into who I am as a person – not just as a professional. 
 

Risk vs. Reward

Social media has taken over both personal and professional spheres – and although there are many downsides to its pervasiveness, interacting with professionals on places like Twitter and LinkedIn can afford us a range of opportunities that we’d miss in non-virtual spaces. Among these are the opportunities to engage with professional organizations, connect with potential collaborators at other institutions, keep up with current debates in the field, and even unique ways to advocate for ourselves
 
There is no recipe for a fail-safe way to create your personal brand, however this article does include a few concrete steps you can take as you think about how you present yourself online. While there is certainly some risk in blurring the lines between your personal and professional selves, there can also be great reward. 
 
Above all: just be yourself – you are enough and have a lot to offer.  
 

 


 


Zoom Fatigue

Category : PROspective

Zoom Fatigue. When I first heard someone use this phrase back in the spring, I felt so seen. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I realized that it wasn’t just me! I had been spending hours a day on Zoom calls, and while this was far more sedentary than my usual routine, I was utterly exhausted at the end of the day. It turns out that the concentration and processing that are required for video conferencing take a toll on us in ways that in-person interactions do not. 

I’m still Zooming quite a lot these days, and although I haven’t found a fool-proof way to overcome the realities of zoom fatigue, there are a few strategies that have proven helpful:  

Take a Break!

When possible, schedule some time in-between Zoom meetings. If you’re doing the scheduling, you can arrange for 25- or 50-minute meetings (in lieu of the usual 30- or 60-minutes) to allow yourself a chance to stretch your legs, get some water, and even run to the restroom! 

Sneak in a Walk

If I’m tuning into a webinar, or a more informal meeting, I often plug in my headphones and listen in while I take my dog for a walk. It’s a win for both of us – we get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and I have the satisfaction of having gotten some work done, too!  

Create Zoom-Free-Zones

I’m letting the cat out of the bag by sharing this…but I’ve blocked off Wednesdays on my calendar this summer as Zoom-free zones. Certainly, there are times when I can’t avoid it, but I try really hard not to schedule any Zoom meetings on Wednesdays. This gives me a nice breather during the week when I can completely devote my attention to my to-do list and avoid the distraction of hopping on and off Zoom calls. If you can’t block off an entire day, see whether there are regular mornings or afternoons that you can designate as Zoom-free zones.

Go Old School

Not all meetings require video! I’ve had some wonderful work-related phone calls this summer. Not only were they effective in achieving our goals, but they have been a really refreshing break from sitting in front of the computer. An added bonus to taking some meetings by phone is that I can safely multitask on these calls. Whether it’s sorting laundry or prepping for dinner – I’m able to engage in the conversation while also dealing with the realities of working and living all in the same space.  

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We’d love to hear from you about ways in which you are fighting Zoom fatigue – please feel free to share with us on Twitter or Instagram! If you’d like to learn more about the reality of Zoom fatigue and ways to combat it, check out this recent article from Harvard Business Review

 


 


Upcoming Events

  • EPI x HPM Mixer: Jeopardy Night February 8, 2023 at 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm RRR_RL20 Event Type: Student EventEvent exclusive for students in the EPI and HPM department. Pizza and soda will be provided. Students from the two departments will go head to head to win at the game of Jeopardy.
  • ABPHS Undergraduate Public Health Pipeline Panel/Mixer February 13, 2023 at 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm 8th Floor R Randall Rollins Event Type: Networking,Student Event,Career EventSpeaker: Varied Panelist; Students and Faculty at RollinsEvent to expose Black/African American undergraduate students to various paths within public health. Black/African American students and faculty at Rollins are encouraged to attend for networking and fellowship.
  • EPI Chair's Chat February 16, 2023 at 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm CNR Klamon Event Type: MeetingPlease join us for our monthly Chair’s Chat! GLEPI, GLEPI, EH-EPI MPH & MSPH students are invited to join EPI ADAPs, DGs, and Department Chair to check in, ask questions, and share feedback.RSVP to Noni Bourne via Outlook Calendar Invite.

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