Author Archives: Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist

APEs: The Best Laid Plans… of 1st-Year Spring

Category : PROspective

This certainly is a wild time to be a public health graduate student! You are seeing epidemic curves unfold in real-time and applying the skills that you gained in the classroom to critically evaluate both the available data and the public health response. Epidemiology and public health are front and center – and we can feel confident that it will be a long time before we have to explain to friends and family exactly what epidemiology is

 

Earlier this semester, I encouraged you to make the most of your Applied Practice Experience, and think beyond checking the proverbial box on this degree requirement. Despite the current circumstances, I think that this message rings just as true now as it did then. 

 

We know that the challenges of identifying an APE are amplified due to the pandemic – some organizations are experiencing hiring freezes, while others have turned their attention to the pandemic response and previous plans have been put on hold. Although your APE might not look like what you had planned, I would encourage you to view this as a speed bump, rather than a roadblock. Our capacity for resiliency is far greater than any of us can comprehend, and these challenging times have the potential to bring out creativity that we didn’t know that we had. It is in this spirit that I wanted to share some strategies to help you find an APE over the coming months. 

 

Tap into Networks Both Old and New

Is there an organization that you volunteered with prior to coming to Rollins, or one whose mission resonates with your core values? Reach out to these groups to see what opportunities they might have. Take the initiative to sell your skills and experience to note how it will benefit the organization

 

Is there a professor whose work you really admire? Reach out to them to see if they have contacts with any outward facing organizations who might be interested in hosting an RSPH student. 

 

Have you checked out #EpiTwitter yet? If not, now is the time to take the plunge! From budding epidemiologists to giants in our field – Twitter has become a place for sharing critiques of published studies, nerdy epidemiology jokes, and JOBS! There’s even an account (@EpiJobs) that regularly posts positions for both internships and full-time employment. Some students have even had success securing APEs by tweeting that they’re searching for an internship. If you decide to do this, be sure to include the #EpiTwitter hashtag, and provide some background information about who you are and what skills you hope to gain – it’s low risk with the potential for great reward. Pro tip: If you tag @EmoryEPI, there’s a good chance that your tweet will get even more traction! 

 

Use Your Resources

Job postings will continue to become available both in Handshake and The Confounder. Remember that although The Confounder is distributed once a week as an email newsletter, you can access the scholarblog at anytime to view past and current content. 

 

The RSPH Office of Career Development (OCD) has been hard at work to put together resources to help you during this time. Many of these are included below – but you may want to follow them on Instagram for more up-to-date information (and while you’re there, you should give rollinsepilife a follow, too!)

 

Notes from the Office of Career Development

Individual Coaching Sessions:

To schedule a coaching appointment, please utilize Handshake as you have previously done to request a coaching appointment.

Recruitment:

We encourage you to continue to pursue internship, APE and full-time job opportunities. OCD will continue to recruit and collaborate with organizations to create opportunities and emphasize the utilization of virtual hiring through Rollins. Public Health Organizations are still actively recruiting students, but most likely will be shifting their in-person hiring procedures to phone and virtual interviews for the time being. Continue to utilize our Handshake platform as one of your primary job search boards, as well as other resources and job boards like the Emory Public Health Connection and LinkedIn.

MentorRollins

This is a new online mentoring platform where students can virtually network, seek job opportunities, and ask questions of alumni and public health professionals. Students may also be interested in our job search resources

 

We know that financial considerations are particularly weighing heavily these days. Students who are experiencing financial hardship can apply to the EmoryTogether Fund for assistance. If you have additional questions or concerns, please email Student Services at rsphenrollmentservices [at] emory [dot] edu

 

Be Persistent & Don’t Lose Hope 

Even in non-pandemic times, students can find it challenging to find an APE – the networking that is required to secure these opportunities is new for some and can be awkward at first. You may need to pursue many (N > 30) avenues before you find something that will work. To help you keep track of these contacts, I recommend creating a spreadsheet to systematically track the progress of each of your outreach efforts. The lessons that you learn along the way will be valuable as you continue to work towards becoming the influential public health professional that you hope to be.

 

Take heart that much time remains to identify and complete your APE, and that we are here to support you in this process. If you’ve followed all of these steps and still come up short, please reach out to your ADAP and/or Dr. Ann Do, our faculty APE advisor, and they will work with you to identify additional strategies for finding something that will be a good fit. 


Featured Image from: https://survivalreport.org/survival-contingency-planning/


Internships: Not just about fulfilling the APE requirement

Category : PROspective

The second semester is already off to a strong start – 2nd year students are diligently working on their Thesis and Capstone projects (and maybe wrapping up those core course requirements!), and 1st year students are immersed in causal inference, more advanced statistics, and designing & implementing epidemiologic studies. Now that we’ve finally settled into the routine of the new semester, we wanted to shed more light on one of the next milestones that our 1st year students are approaching: identifying an Applied Practice Experience. To our seasoned 2nd year students: we’d love to hear what you’d add to this conversation! Keep an eye out for this topic to surface on Twitter, and feel free to add the ways you made the most of your Applied Practice Experiences! 


There are so many things that I love about Rollins (please don’t make me pick!) – but one thing that nears the top of my list is our Applied Practice Experience (APE) and the vast network of organizations that welcome our students each year. You may have heard this from me before, but my motivation for pursuing a career in public health was driven by wanting to make a difference. The reason why I love the APE so much is that it affords our students the opportunity to make their mark on public health even before graduation.

While some 1st year students are well on their way to identifying an APE, most are in the early phases of thinking about how their APE might take shape. As you begin researching opportunities, I urge you to think big so that you can use this opportunity as more than a way to proverbially “check the box” on this degree requirement.

 

Q: Did your personal statement outline your passion for studying inequities in birth outcomes, but now you can’t learn enough about the novel coronavirus?

First – you must know that this is very typical in the life of a Rollins student! One of my favorite moments from a recruitment event was hearing a GLEPI student say that his “research interests were aligned with whatever [he] learned about during the last seminar [he] attended.” There is so much great work happening in and around Rollins, and there is no shortage of important public health topics to tackle! Take advantage of your APE as a low-stakes way to test the waters in a new topic area.

 

Q: Did you come to Rollins because you wanted to soak in all that our neighbors at the CDC have to offer, with the hope of landing a job there after graduation?

Many students are drawn to the Rollins School of Public Health due to our proximity to the CDC, and lots of students complete their APE with a wide range of teams across the agency. The APE affords students an inside look at the work environment of their chosen organization. You might find out that your dream job really is at the CDC, or you might find that the work environment isn’t the fit that you thought it would be. Learning what doesn’t suit your strengths and interests can be just as informative as learning what does.   

 

Q: It’s all about the Epi, right?

Well, not quite! While you will hopefully get a chance to apply your classroom knowledge and skillset during this experience – don’t forget that your APE is also going to test your soft skills and ability to navigate new workplace politics and dynamics. Maybe this means you will have your first opportunity to ask your manager for feedback, test new time-management techniques, navigate generational differences in the workplace, or find ways to translate the stress into focus. These techniques are just as valuable to an early career epidemiologist as experience with methods and their practical application and I encourage you to keep these ideas close at hand during your APE. 

 

Q: Are you nervous about navigating the job market after graduation?

Thinking about next steps after graduate studies can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! You can use the entire Applied Practice Experience process – from start to finish – as a way to prepare for your next steps. The interview process will afford you greater confidence when you are ready to apply for fulltime positions after graduation [NOTE: you may wish to revisit Dr. Lash’s PROspective piece on making a good first impression]. Some students are able to continue working with their APE organization upon completion of the degree requirement, and are even hired full-time upon graduation. If you’d like to pivot to a different area (see above!), your APE supervisor may be willing to serve as a reference for you during your job search.

 

No matter what APE you choose, I urge you to seize every opportunity that you can to learn from these practicing public health professionals. Keep an eye out for ways in which you are gaining and applying those professional skills and foster good relationships with those you encounter along the way. This will set you apart in the applicant pool as you demonstrate that you have what it takes to be an influential public health professional. We cannot wait to hear how you choose to use the Applied Practice Experience to make your mark on public health!


Interested in more ways that the Applied Practice Experience can expand your horizons? Check out this short article for some additional thoughts!


“No, those are dermatologists…”

Category : PROspective

As the semester is winding down, we will all head out in different directions over the coming weeks. Many of us will find ourselves sitting across the table from family and friends – some of whom have never even heard about epidemiology, much less know what it is. We’re a passionate (and nerdy!) bunch – and often feel most comfortable rattling off the nitty gritty details of the exciting work that we’re doing. Unfortunately, not all grandparents or college friends care to learn about the awesome macro we wrote, or how we’re working through several methods to quantify potential bias in our results. The holidays present a great opportunity for us to practice our soft skills of communicating our work and its value in a way that is accessible to a broad audience. 
 

“We use math and critical thinking to figure out who gets sick and why”

 
When talking to people outside of our field, my go-to way to describe what epidemiologists do is that we use math and critical thinking to figure out who gets sick and why (and no, we don’t study skin – those are dermatologists). I’ll often follow-up with a few classic examples of things that we’ve learned through the hard work of the epidemiologists who have come before us (the link between smoking and lung cancer is always a good one!).
 

“No matter what we study, there are always individuals who are sick, suffering, or dying – and we’re all trying to do our part to reduce the frequency of those negative outcomes”

 
When I first started studying stillbirth, I always struggled with the question “so, what’s your research about?” because it was always sure to put a quick damper on the conversation. As I thought about it, I realized that nearly all of the work that we do in public health is difficult – no matter what we study, there are always individuals who are sick, suffering, or dying – and we’re all trying to do our part to reduce the frequency of those negative outcomes. Over time, I found a good lead-in to help describe what I do, and put it in context: “My research focuses on maternal and child health, and specifically stillbirth. Stillbirth is far more common in the US than most people think – in fact, it is 17 times more common than Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.” This helps to start a conversation, and eases the tension when talking about a difficult and sensitive topic. 
 
No matter where your passion lies – whether it’s vaccination, genetics, cancer, or diarrhea – I encourage you to think about why that topic matters to you, and how you can talk about it with those who might be less familiar and convince them of its importance, too. One additional piece of advice that I’ll leave here is to think carefully about which of these topics are best left to discuss until after your holiday dinner!
 

“The work that we do can take its toll on us, and it’s important that we don’t forget to take care of ourselves when we’re off trying to save the world”

 
Whatever you do this holiday season, I hope that you will find some time to relax and recharge. The work that we do can take its toll on us, and it’s important that we don’t forget to take care of ourselves when we’re off trying to save the world. We look forward to seeing you back in January – ready to tackle all that the new semester and decade (!!) have to offer. 

Setbacks (not Failures)

Category : PROspective

Students often ask me how I found my way to public health – and while there’s a long and winding story that involves a knee injury and cigarette butts – it all comes down to a desire to use my quantitative skills to make a difference in the world.

Although I could not envision a more perfect job for myself than the one that I have, the reality is that this work isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, all the time. Among the successes of training the newest members of the public health workforce, shedding light on the importance of studying stillbirth, and breaking ground on a new stillbirth surveillance system, there are plenty of setbacks that have happened (and will continue to happen!) along the way.

It’s rare to hear about these setbacks (some might call them failures – I don’t love that term, and I’ll come back to why shortly!). I don’t know whether it’s a matter of pride, or simply wanting to avoid scaring those early in their careers or coming across as negative. But here’s the deal – no matter what field or sector you’re in, or how many years you have under your belt, we all stumble from time to time. Nothing goes perfectly for anyone 100% of the time

In the last few months, I experienced two setbacks related to funding for my stillbirth research. I knew that the application pools were competitive, and although I prepared myself for either outcome, I took the news much harder than I thought I would. As I reflected on why I was so upset, I came to realize that although I was disappointed that we wouldn’t get to do the research that we had proposed, I couldn’t help but think about all of the families that we wouldn’t be able to help this time around. I felt as though I had let them down. It all came back to why I got into public health in the first place – I wanted to make a difference – and these setbacks had gotten in the way.

I don’t like to think of setbacks as failures – first, it’s just not good for my mental health; but more importantly, the word “failure” sounds so final and evokes imagery of a dead end, where there’s little hope to move forward. It helps me to think of these setbacks as speed bumps, rather than closed roads. Sure, they’ve slowed me down, but they have not, and will not, halt my progress.

After a family trip to my favorite ice cream shop, and sitting in my disappointment for a few days, the first question I asked myself was: what can we do better next time so that we could achieve a different outcome? As I read the reviewers’ comments, I realized that there were no concerns about the science. In fact, the reviewers were convinced that the proposed work was really important. The sticking point, though, was concern about whether the results could be used to secure future funding. Truth be told, funding for stillbirth research is hard to come by, and in light of these concerns, I spent the last few weeks strategizing about how to fund the work in innovative ways. During this time, I identified a few new leads, but I have also channeled some of my frustration into an op-ed with the goal of garnering some more attention for this important topic.   

As you work through your own setbacks, or speed bumps, I would encourage you to consider the strategies outlined in this article (replacing the word failure with setback!), along with the following additions:

  • Remove the word failure from your vocabulary, and reframe those bumps in the road as setbacks – words carry weight, and how you think about these things matters

 

  • Share those setbacks! If we normalize sharing the things that don’t go as planned, we can support one another, offer suggestions for the next steps, and realize that we are not alone in this experience.

 

  • 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.

 

  • Celebrate the little things. If we only celebrate when a manuscript gets accepted, or a grant is funded, those moments of celebration may be few and far between. That op-ed I mentioned before? As of this writing, it hasn’t even been submitted – but having a complete draft is something to celebrate in and of itself. I sure hope it will be published, but this is an important milestone along the way.       

 

While our work may not be constantly filled with sunshine and rainbows – remember that the rainbows only come with the rain. I hope that the rain motivates you to keep pushing forward to find those rainbows – and that you keep at it. I am certain that you, too, got into this field because you wanted to make a difference – let’s not let those setbacks, however large or small, get in our way.


Time Management

Category : PROspective

Have you ever joked about needing more hours in the day? Although I’d love to find a way to sneak in an extra hour or two, the hard truth is that we only have 24 hours to allocate across all of the demands on our time – both personal and professional. The article below has some good tips to consider for professional time management, although I’d add that it’s also important to think about how you allocate time to both your professional and personal selves. After all, none of us only exist in our work spaces!

 

After you read these tips, and review my thoughts below – I’d like you to consider taking on a 30 day planning challenge: adopt one or more of these strategies and stick to them (!!) for the next 30 days. At the end of that time, evaluate the effect that it had on your productivity and determine how you will approach the next 30 days. Let us know in the comments – which tips are you planning to adopt and how do you plan to institute them?

 

Each Sunday, I try to sit down and plan out the “must dos” to accomplish at work the following week. I plan around the meetings that are on my calendar, and block off time to complete these tasks. This is different than simply creating a to-do list. When I don’t dedicate time for specific tasks, I notice that my weeks aren’t as productive, and I have tasks that remain unfinished.

 

As part of my Sunday planning, I also keep track of the ~10,374 activities that our family might have in a given week. With 3 growing boys, you can safely assume that grocery shopping tops the list of family priorities! To avoid the weekend rush, we plan around my teaching schedule (I’m looking at you, EPI 740!), and shop on a weeknight when I can get home a little early. This semester, Mondays are for grocery shopping – this means that I know not to count on having extra time on Monday evenings to catch up on work. I am protective of my time both at work and at home – I try not to let one bleed into the other, but certainly there are times when I have to make exceptions.

 

Last – but certainly not least – I plan time to take care of myself. After much trial and error, I realized that there is much truth in the expression “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” Whether it is exercise, reading, cooking, being in nature, or spending time with friends – find things that are truly rejuvenating for you and engage in those routinely. Personally, I love to sew – you can see a sampling of some recent projects here!

 

We are in the business of prevention, and yet we often work ourselves into the ground without realizing that we could have intervened and had a different outcome (hello, counterfactual!). The time that you spend caring for yourself is a worthwhile investment, and will likely amount to less time than you would need to recover after overworking yourself.

 


 

8 crucial time management tips adapted from “Jump Start Productivity,” Healthcare Executive, September/October 2010

  1. Learn how to say no. If you say yes to every meeting, e-mail request or project, you’ll quickly find yourself overcommitted – and overwhelmed. Take on what is essential, but try to avoid doing things outside your core job responsibilities. Say no diplomatically by offering reasonable alternatives to your participation. 
  2. Schedule your time effectively. Your calendar can be used for more than just meetings. If you find it difficult to get uninterrupted work time, then block off time on your schedule for the most important projects. Treat that time as you would a meeting; don’t allow interruptions, and focus solely on that project. 
  3. Knock out time wasters. Your phone, e-mail and social media can be fantastic tools – or vicious time wasters. When you really need to focus, it can help to turn those tools off for a little while. In addition, take advantage of “Do Not Disturb” and silence your notifications.
  4. End Procrastination. Try to determine why you are procrastinating on a particular project. If the project seems too big, then break it into smaller tasks and work on each of those individually. If it’s a project you don’t want to do, then try working on it for just 15 minutes at a time. It’s easier to get started than to let it hang over your head.
  5. Set realistic deadlines. When you are setting deadlines for a project completion, give yourself some flexibility by building in additional time. A good rule is to say that your project will be done in 1.5-2 times as long as you think it will actually take to complete. Then if you finish it when you originally though, you’ll actually be early. And if you run into delays, you’ll still be on time. 
  6. Bring back the to-do list. The to-do list still has a place in the office. It can help you prioritize your tasks quickly. And checking each task off gives you a sense of accomplishment. Try using a task management app on your phone or calendar, or printing your tasks our on a brightly colored piece of paper. 
  7. Remember to take breaks. Breaks are a great stress reliever, and they can actually make you more productive. Rather than spending the entire day overloaded with work, take the time for a quick stroll or snack between projects. And remember to schedule a vacation day from time to time as well. You’ll come back to the office refreshed and recharged. 
  8. Delegate when you can. Good delegating is more than just dumping a project on someone else’s desk. Try to delegate tasks to staff who might enjoy or learn from the project. Make sure you are clear baou the project’s goals and requirements. And plan a way to thank staff members for their assistance when the project is complete. 

 


Welcome & Welcome Back

Category : News/Events

We wish a warm welcome to our new students, and are delighted to welcome back our returning students! The beginning of the academic year is such an exciting time for all of us.

 

I’m always energized by the enthusiasm and passion of our new students, who are beginning to explore all that the Rollins School of Public Health has to offer. You have joined a vibrant community of scholars who share your passion for promoting health and eliminating inequities. During the next two years, you will be able to explore your interests further – you may deepen your resolve to pursue the passions that led you here, and you may also discover new areas that you hadn’t considered before. I encourage you to seek out many new opportunities while you are here – there is no better time to soak in all that you can, and these two years will come to a close before you know it.    

 

The return of our second year students is always exciting, as well. Many of you have spent the summer working on your Applied Practice Experiences and bring fresh ideas and perspectives with you as you return to the classroom. You’ve also turned your eyes towards your theses, and will begin to make measurable progress towards completing this milestone soon. As the semester begins, I encourage all of you to be thoughtful about how you carve out time so that you can balance your coursework, thesis, and your personal wellbeing.

 

We look forward to having the opportunity to get to know you both inside and outside of the classroom. This year, we will continue our monthly Chair’s Chats – a time for you to spend with myself, as your Director of Graduate Studies, and our Department Chair, Tim Lash. This is an event that we look forward to each month – we enjoy the opportunity to hear from you! It’s important to us to hear what is going well, and whether there are ways in which we can improve. We also use this as an opportunity to bring in guest speakers, and share some tips for how to help you become influential public health leaders.

 

We are also excited to announce a new seminar series for this academic year: Behind the Manuscript. While it would be nice if research were always packaged nicely and tied up with a beautiful bow, the reality is that things don’t always happen as the text books might lead you to believe. These sessions will be led by faculty in the Department of Epidemiology, and will pull back the curtain to allow you to see what it takes to get to the polished manuscripts that you see in the literature. Our first session will be on September 24th from 12-12:50, and will be led by Dr. Mike Goodman. Stay tuned for more details!

 

For information on these, and other, Departmental events – please keep an eye out on Canvas, the Confounder, and the weekly RSPH events emails. The best way to ensure that you make it to these events is to get them on your calendar! Please see this link for instructions on how to add these to your calendar.

 

Again – welcome, and welcome back! We are thrilled that you are here and look forward to the year ahead.

 

Lauren Christiansen-Lindquist

Director of Graduate Studies, MPH & MSPH Programs