Category Archives: PROspective

Preventing and Conquering Burnout this Semester

Category : PROspective

As we begin this school year, you may be excited to take on all of your different classes, jobs, internships, and life responsibilities. At the same time, you might be feeling concerned or stressed about juggling all of them, and wondering how you will ever do it. Developing good habits to take care of yourself is not only essential for your overall well-being, but also a key strategy to stay on top of your responsibilities and prevent burnout. And if burnout does rear its head, knowing how to navigate it is just as crucial. Let’s explore some effective strategies to deal with burnout if it does arise.

Creating Good Habits to Prevent Burnout:

1. Prioritize Self-Care: In all the hustle and bustle of student life, it’s easy to neglect self-care. Remember that taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health is most important. Allocate time for activities that make you feel refreshed, relaxed, or accomplished – whether it’s reading, exercising, practicing mindfulness, or enjoying hobbies. Self-care is not a luxury — it’s a necessity.

2. Set Realistic Boundaries: The demands of school, work, and life can be all-consuming. Establishing clear boundaries between work and personal life is crucial. Designate specific times for studying, research, and relaxation. Create a schedule that allows for focused work periods and regular breaks. This practice not only prevents burnout but can also increase your overall productivity.

3. Stay Connected: Being isolated can only make you feel worse. Staying connected with your peers, professors, and mentors. If you don’t know where to find people with similar interests, you can start by checking the Corq app (or The Hub) to find dozens of upcoming events that cover a wide range of topics and clubs.  Creating a support system here at Emory will do wonders for your mental health, and you will see the benefits of this in other areas of your life as well.

4. Quality Sleep and Nutrition: Sleep and nutrition directly impact your energy and well-being. Prioritize getting enough restful sleep and maintaining a balanced diet. These basic practices fuel your ability to cope with the demands of academia.

Navigating Burnout:

1. Recognize the Signs: Burnout often starts subtly – increased exhaustion, reduced motivation, and a growing sense of stress and cynicism. Recognize these signs early on to take action before burnout takes over.

2. Seek Help and Support: Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Talk to friends, family, mentors, or counseling services provided by your institution. Sharing your feelings and seeking advice can provide much-needed relief and perspective. Emory offers excellent mental healthcare, including free telehealth therapy for eligible students with the TimelyCare app. You can learn more about some of those resources here

3. Reevaluate Goals: Reflect on your goals, both academic and personal. Are they realistic and attainable? Adjusting your expectations can alleviate the pressure contributing to burnout.

4. Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Recognize that burnout is a common challenge, not a personal failure. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer a friend facing a difficult situation.

5. Take Breaks: Sometimes, stepping back is the best step forward. If burnout is looming, take a day off to recharge. Engage in activities you enjoy, spend time with loved ones, or simply relax.

6. Learn and Grow: Use burnout as a learning opportunity. Reflect on its causes and triggers. This self-awareness can help you develop strategies to prevent its recurrence in the future.

By prioritizing your well-being, nurturing good habits, and staying attentive to the signs of burnout, you can achieve success while safeguarding your mental and physical health. Remember, taking care of yourself is an investment that pays off not only in your academic journey, but in all areas of your life. So, take a deep breath, embrace healthy habits, and navigate the challenges of grad school with resilience and self-compassion.

8 Books Every Epidemiologist Should Read

Category : PROspective

As we embrace the beginning of 2024 and a new semester, it’s likely that it was in your list of new year’s resolutions to read more books this year. Luckily, a former Rollins student curated the perfect list of must-read books for every epidemiologist, which you can find here. This collection offers a diverse array of titles that seamlessly blend knowledge and storytelling. Get ready to expand your intellectual horizons with our recommended reads for the year ahead! 

Last Valentine’s day my friends and I arranged a book exchange party similar to your typical white elephant Christmas game. I was expecting (okay, hoping) to have a plethora of fantasy, romance, or mystery novels to choose from, but was surprised when the overwhelming majority of books were nonfiction. Leave it to public health students to turn a romantic holiday into an educational opportunity. Reading the synopses off the back covers of these books, however, made me realize that there were plenty of intriguing stories from the world of public health to choose from, and my education on many of these topics was severely lacking. This led me to investigate epidemiology-related book options besides the requisite The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

I’ll be honest, I rarely do the readings for any of my classes. While I’ve been known to spend an embarrassing amount of time in the YA section of bookstores, I don’t often buy our course textbooks. If you’re like me and prefer a book with a plot than an educational motive, then maybe one of these books will be a good entrance into the world of educational readings. Here’s a list of 8 books to start with as an epidemiologist:

  1. Spillover by David Quammen- If you’re interested in infectious or zoonotic diseases this is the book for you. The book’s author, David Quammen, investigates the causes and impact of spillover, the phenomenon in which a new pathogen is passed to humans from wildlife. He tracks the origins of diseases like ebola or avian flu while following scientists around the globe through remote jungle and high security labs.
  2. The Ghost Map by Steven Berlin Johnson- Read about the father of field epidemiology, John Snow, in this work which tells the story of the 1854 Broad Street cholera outbreak. If you want to learn more about the most intense cholera outbreak in Victorian London and understand the role community played in the evolution of epidemiology, pick up a copy of this book asap.
  3. The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels, and the Business of AIDS by Elizabeth Pisani- If you’re looking for a witty take on a serious topic, read this. Pisani details her life as an AIDS epidemiologist and her plight for funding of HIV prevention programs among the most vulnerable communities.
  4. Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington- This book explores the dark history of the exploitation of black Americans by medical physicians and researchers. A must-read for anyone seeking to understand the roots of America’s racial health disparities and medical mistrust, Washington tells the stories of black Americans from the era of slavery to the present day in her book, calling out the injustices of America’s medical establishment.
  5. House on Fire by Joseph Finder- If you’re still looking for a fiction novel then this thriller/crime mystery book may satisfy you. This story follows protagonist Nick Heller after he discovers his old friend has died of an opioid overdose. As he works to uncover a pharmaceutical company’s dark secrets in his attempt to hold someone accountable for his friend’s death, he becomes embroiled in a larger conspiracy than he’s bargained for.
  6. Inside the Outbreaks by Mark Pendergast- For future Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) hopefuls this book is a great read. Readers will be taken through the history of the EIS and follow EIS officers around the world in their efforts to eliminate lethal threats to public health, from smallpox to gun violence.
  7. Beating Back the Devil by Maryn Mckenna- Another book following the drama of life in the EIS, this book examines the complexities of a different officer’s work in every chapter. Following the first class of officers to enter the EIS after September 11, Mckenna also details the experience of considering bioterrorism for the first time.
  8. The Next Pandemic by Ali S. Khan- In a chillingly accurate prediction of the current pandemic, this book is a lesson on how to keep ourselves safe from inevitable future pandemics as it narrates disasters like anthrax and Ebola and the ways they may have been prevented. Dr. Khan gives us insight into the human mistakes which led to these emergencies in his firsthand account of life as public health first responder.

Hopefully one of these books piques your interest, and gives you something a little more relaxing to do this winter break than working on your thesis or scouring 12Twenty for jobs and APE opportunities. If finals has you down, what better way to find motivation for next semester than a set of books reminding you why you’re needed in epidemiology?

Featured Image by Ergita Sela on Unsplash

This post was originally published on December 12, 2021 by Alex Whicker. 


7 Movies and TV shows Epidemiologists Should Watch

Category : PROspective

Written by: Nafis Khan and Veronika Laird

This post was originally published on January 30, 2022.

If you’re like me, when winter hits you know the best place to be is inside. It gets dark earlier, everything is kind of dreary, plus all you want to do is take a nap. Some of my go to remedies for wintertime blues are tasty soup recipes, reading books (Re: 8 Books Every Epidemiologist Should Read), and watching TV. The cool thing about TV shows and movies is there are so many of them, and with the pandemic (and the emergence of omicron) there is so much time to find new ones. Now personally, I would rather catch up on the latest Netflix series than watch another zoom lecture. I may feel bad in the moment but there are tons of great shows and movies centered around public health to help me rationalize that decision. While some may be a bit more educational than others, I always like to tell myself that these programs depict the real world application of what I would be learning about anyways (Right??). Here are some cool shows and movies that I have stumbled across:

Andromeda Strain

  • After a U.S. military satellite lands in a rural town in Arizona, a deadly contagion kills everyone except two survivors. It soon begins spreading across the country as the military begins to quarantine the area while a small, secured team of highly specialized scientists are assembled. Their task is to find a cure and intervention for the pathogen named “Andromeda”. This initially was a book written by Michael Crichton, who is also the author of Jurassic Park, and became adapted into a limited TV series that was nominated for 7 Primetime Emmys.


    • A classic movie that got a lot of attention when the pandemic first began. It centers on a woman returning home from a business trip in Hong Kong only to pass away two days later back home in Minnesota. Shortly after, many others start to show the same symptoms and it quickly becomes a pandemic. While this film highlights the roles of epidemiologists, including EIS officers, virologists, and other scientists, it also considers the role of the media and misinformation. This movie is believed to be one of the more accurate infectious disease movies available to viewers.

Rise of Planet of the Apes

    • While some may not consider this a movie that highlights infectious diseases, it focuses on the animal-human interface and the importance of that relationship. A business has been testing their potential Alzheimer’s cure on various primates in their lab. After developing a gaseous version of a drug that is supposed to help with Alzheimer’s disease, a member of the company becomes sick and sneezes blood onto another colleague. It quickly spreads around the globe leading to a pandemic. (SPOILER ALERT) It isn’t until the second movie that we discover the biological origins of the drug and that it was derived from primates; making it a zoonotic disease.

World War Z

    • Following the outbreak of a mysterious and highly infectious disease, Brad Pitt’s Gerry Lane travels the world to identify the origins and a cure to this disease. What quickly becomes apparent to Lane is that this disease transforms those it infects into a zombie-like creature. While this movie may be a bit more intense than the traditional EIS officer deployment, it does show topics of disease transmission, public health policy, and the collaborative efforts on which epidemiologic work is built on. It also highlights the creativity sometimes needed when investigating an outbreak.

Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak

    • A docu-series that may be too on the nose to watch during an actual pandemic, Pandemic covers a range of topics such as a potential influenza pandemic, vaccine research, and threats of emerging viruses. Released just before the COVID-19 pandemic, the documentary follows doctors, other healthcare professionals, and anti-vaxxers for their insight into human health and the ecological effects of society.

Erin Brockovich

    • Based on a true story, the movie follows Erin Brockovich (Julia Roberts) on an investigation into the misconduct of the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) that led to the carcinogenic groundwater contamination of Hinkley, CA. The movie depicts the litigious applications of an epidemiologic study. Showing how study data can be used to enact change, this movie captures the real world impact of epidemiology. Understanding the applications and effects of epidemiologic principles is important to know why a study or investigation is necessary.

Hopefully some of these movies or TV shows caught your eye. Even if you are stressing over exams, APEs, theses/capstone, etc. it is important to take some time to yourself and unwind. While these options offer insight into public health practice, there are tons of other options that are just as great. If we missed any, comment your favorite public health movies or shows.


Veronika is a Second-Year MPH student in the Global Epidemiology Program interested in researching zoonotic diseases. She studied integrative biology with a minor in chemistry and global health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in their honors program.

Nafis is a 2nd Year Epidemiology MPH student. He is from Morrisville, PA and got his B.S in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Penn State University in 2018. When not in class you can catch Nafis hiking around Northern Georgia or finding other ways to stay active.

Featured Image by Denise Jans on Unsplash

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

Category : PROspective

This post was originally published in September 2022.

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.

The Many Roads to Federal Service at CDC

Category : PROspective

Written By: Robert Merritt

This post was originally published on March 13, 2022.

I have been fortunate to serve as an Adjunct Faculty member at RSPH since 2001 where I teach the Introduction to the US Health Care System Course (HPM 500). Adjunct faculty members are part-time faculty members who bring expertise from their professions to the classroom. In my case, my career at CDC has spanned over 34 years where my current responsibilities include tracking trends in cardiovascular risk factors and diseases and engaging in epidemiologic and health services research to support evidence-based practice, policies, and programs.

When students learn about my career at CDC, I am often asked two questions: how did you end up working at CDC and how can I get a job at CDC? The answer to the first question warrants a separate blog entry, so I will focus on the second. Based upon my experience as a hiring manager at CDC, I would like to review the most common and effective paths to landing a position at CDC:

Pre-Employment, Fellowship and Training Programs (a.k.a. “Getting Your Foot in the Door”)

There are a variety of internship, fellowship, and training opportunities at CDC (Fellowships and Training Opportunities Home Page | CDC).

CDC actively participates in two community engaged learning programs sanctioned by the RSPH, i.e., the Applied Practice Experience Program (APE) and the Rollins Earn and Learn (REAL) Program. These are important practical learning experiences and are often a prospective employee’s first experience with the agency. CDC also has an Epidemiology Elective Program (EEP) for medical students to experience applied epidemiology through a hands-on experience and mentorship by CDC subject matter expert. Only MD/MPH, MD/MSPH, MD/PHD or equivalent students are eligible (Epidemiology Elective Program | CDC). My division utilizes these three frequently. These are frequently utilized across CDC.

STEM Internships and Fellowships, typically referred to as ORISE Fellowships (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education) (STEM Internships and Fellowships – ORISE (, are frequently used by CDC and offer a good introductory experience for masters and doctoral degree job seekers. These fellowships often immerse the individual into important programmatic and priority areas at CDC. These positions often lead to opportunities to better compete for more permanent FTE positions or contractor positions. CDC recruits many fellows from this program.

The Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program is a two-year leadership development and training program for advanced degree candidates (i.e., Master’s, Doctoral, and Juris Doctorate). The goal of the program is for fellows to have the opportunity to work in different areas in the federal government before converting into a permanent/career-conditional position at the end of their two years. Detailed information on the PMF Program at CDC: Overview | Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Program | CDC. Although this program is very competitive, RSPH had many PMF candidates accepted into the program last year that matched with CDC.

The Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) is a highly competitive, 2-year post-graduate fellowship in applied epidemiology. This CDC program is a unique combination of on-the-job-learning and service. Investigating outbreaks in the field is integral to the EIS experience (Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Home Page | CDC). Emory graduates have competed well for these positions and many EIS graduates remain at CDC.

The CDC Steven M. Teutsch Prevention Effectiveness (PE) Fellowship (Prevention Effectiveness Fellowship Program | CDC) and the Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program (PHIFP) (Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program (PHIFP)|CDC) are also 2-year post-graduate fellowships. Due to the high demand for these skill sets, many graduates remain at CDC.

Finally, CDC may also consider volunteer (guest researcher) positions for students not participating in these two programs. These volunteer positions, although less common, are established by mutual agreement of the CDC office and the individual student. These are non-paid and are often a by-product of professional networking.

We intentionally utilize these as recruitment opportunities to identify future applicants for full-time employment opportunities when they graduate or complete these programs (see Full-Time Employment below).

Securing Full-Time Employment

Full-time employment in the Federal Government takes many forms with each having very specific requirements, such as citizenship, academic training, work experience, criminal history, etc. There are three main avenues for full-time equivalent (FTE) positions: Title 5, Title 42, and Commissioned Corps.

The most desired positions are permanent Title 5 and represent most of the jobs posted on the USA Jobs and CDC Websites (USAJOBS – The Federal Government’s official employment site and Careers Home | Careers at CDC | CDC). These positions often attract hundreds of applicants and may take months to fill. These websites also list temporary and term-limited positions. Make sure you note whether the positions you are applying for are permanent or term-limited (temporary). My advice is to apply to as many of these positions that you are interested in and qualified for. I cannot stress the importance of reviewing these postings carefully for the qualifications and other requirements. Follow the instructions exactly. Most, if not all, of these positions are restricted to US Citizens only.

There are also FTE positions where both US Citizens and Non-citizens are eligible. These are Service Fellowships (Title 42) based upon your level of education and professional experience.  These are categorized as Distinguished, Senior, or Associate Service Fellows. There are not technically permanent but can be renewed every five years with no limit on the number of renewals. Benefits and years of service calculations are very similar to Title 5 employees. There are many federal employees that have remained a Title 42 employee their entire career.

The USPHS Commissioned Corps is one of the nation’s uniformed services — a branch committed to the service of health. Officers advance our nation’s public health, serving in agencies across the government, as physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, scientists, engineers, and other professionals. CDC actively employees USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers (Explore Opportunities | Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (

Simply put, there are many roads to Federal service and careers at CDC. There is no one process or strategy that stands out. However, I would argue for the “PPF Approach,” i.e., patience, persistence, and flexibility. The journey is never fast and may take a different path, or combination of paths, than you first imagined.


Robert Merritt is a graduate of Washington and Lee University, Emory University and The University of the South (Sewanee) where he received academic training in sociology & anthropology, medical sociology, public health, and research methods & statistics.  His research career has spanned over 30 years with positions at the Smithsonian Institution (SI), Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  He is currently working as a health scientist in the Division for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) at CDC. 

Featured Image by Truman Adrian Lobato De Faria on Unsplash

A Survival Guide to Your First Semester at RSPH

Category : PROspective

Welcome to the new semester! To help you prepare, dive into the following survival guide.

Written by Franchesca “Fran” Amor Aguilar and Dannelle “Dede” Charles

We, your EPI student representatives (Fran & Dede), are excited to welcome both new and returning students to Rollins as you embark on your journey to obtaining an MPH/MSPH. Whether you’re just starting at RSPH or coming back for your second year, here are some tips that will help you come out of this semester triumphant, or at least like Destiny’s Child’s song, a survivor.

Stay on Track with all your Assignments. Now, we know what you’re thinking, “Of course, I’m keeping track of all of my assignments.”, With all the required core courses, you will be taking during your first semester, it is important that you have at least some methods to keep track on assignments and due dates. Here’s an example that one of your student reps created for the spring semester. You can also transfer this Excel sheet into your Outlook calendar to receive reminders when they are due. It’s not foolproof since due dates can change throughout the semester, but it is a start.

Don’t Be Afraid to ask Questions. Students come to Rollins with a range of experiences in public health. For some students, what is taught in your courses might be a refresher; for others, it is completely new. Regardless, the courses in our program are catered to every student; and your professors don’t expect you to know everything. Yes, it can be a bit nerve-racking to ask a question in a lecture hall filled with almost 200 people, but more than likely, another person is probably scared to ask the same question you have. There is no such thing as a stupid question, you’re only discouraging yourself. 

Collaborate with your Peers on Assignments. Most of your courses are designed for you to work with your peers, including your labs and homework assignments. Although working with your peers is highly advised, we condemn copying off your peer’s work because that is an honor code violation. Instead, we encourage you to take the time to complete the assignment individually and then review your answers with your peers. You can get clarity on areas you are still not understanding and/or reassure yourself about your answers.

Take Time to Practice Self-Care. Purchasing an iced matcha latte at Dancing Goats as a “little treat” does not count as self-care. We mean taking the time out of your day to do something for your mental and physical well-being. This includes exercising, meditating, journaling, etc. There are going to be times in your first semester when you find yourself overwhelmed with juggling the course load, work, and maintaining a social life, but finding that time for yourself, whether it be 10 minutes or an hour every day, will make a difference in how you navigate it all.

Extra Tips & Tricks

  • You can download your class schedule onto your Outlook and Apple calendar from OPUS! 
  • Check out all the different organizations at Rollins and at Emory University. As a graduate student, you have access to all buildings and events hosted by Emory!
  • Bring Tupperware to campus — there are so many events with FREE food, so take advantage!
  • Utilize all the resources available at Rollins. Don’t know where to find them? Start here!

Franchesca “Fran” Amor Aguilar

Fran is a second-year MPH Candidate in Epidemiology also in the Infectious Disease certificate. Fran is originally from Honolulu, Hawai’i, and her primary research interests are infectious disease epidemiology, vaccine epidemiology, outbreak response, and health inequities. Prior to attending Rollins, Fran attended Gettysburg College, where she obtained her Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in East Asian Studies on the Chinese track. She is the co-president of the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi Association (APIDA), a member of the First-Gen at Rollins advisory board, a Rollins Student Ambassador, and is one of the RSGA Department of Epidemiology student representatives.

Dannelle “Dede” Charles

Dede is a second-year MPH Candidate in Epidemiology also in the Maternal and Child Health certificate. Dede is from Orlando, Florida, and her primary research interests are Black infant and maternal morbidity/mortality, maternal substance use, and Black & Indigenous/Latine reproductive health. Prior to attending Rollins, Dede attended the University of South Florida, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Public Health. She is one of the RSGA Department of Epidemiology student representatives.

6 Barbies for the Kid in Every Epidemiologist

Category : PROspective

The world has been buzzing this weekend with news about the new Barbie movie. You may have made plans to see the movie with your friends or family, weighed in on the Barbie/Oppenheimer debate (or participated in “Barbenheimer”?), or decided that it just isn’t for you. As epidemiologists, we understand the importance of raising awareness about public health work being done in the world, and in an exciting twist, Mattel has honored several women in public health with the creation of their own Barbie dolls. These women were all selected in 2021 as role models in the ongoing fight against COVID-19, and have been honored as real-life Barbies. While the original Barbie may not be the healthiest or most inclusive role model, these women’s work and impact is definitely something to celebrate.

1. Sarah Gilbert – Vaccinologist

As the Said Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford, Sarah Gilbert has been at the forefront of vaccine development for various emerging pathogens, including influenza, Nipah, MERS, Lassa, and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. However, her most groundbreaking work came in 2020 when she initiated the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine project. Collaborating with Oxford colleagues, she led the development of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine against COVID-19, which has since been used worldwide.

2. Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz – Physician, Professor, and Healthcare Advocate

Dr. Audrey Sue Cruz is not only an Internal Medicine physician and Assistant Professor of Medicine but also a dedicated wellness advocate and health/lifestyle blogger. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she played a crucial role as a frontline worker in both hospital and clinic settings. Dr. Cruz is known for her use of telehealth to expand access to essential health services, especially among the Asian American community, for which she has been an ardent voice and advocate.

3. Amy O’Sullivan, ER Nurse

Amy O’Sullivan is a proud ER nurse with nearly three decades of experience, 19 of which were spent at the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. Her dedication to patient care and the community was particularly evident during the early months of the pandemic when New York City was severely affected. In recognition of her essential work on the frontlines, Amy was featured on the cover of Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

4. Dr. Chika Oriuwa – Psychiatry Resident and Mental Health Advocate

Dr. Chika Oriuwa, a Resident in Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, is passionate about advocating for children’s mental health and addressing racial disparities in healthcare. As the only black person in her medical school class and the first black woman chosen as sole valedictorian, she actively promotes diversity in medicine and medical education reform. Dr. Oriuwa is not only a dedicated medical professional but also a spoken word poet, writer, and public speaker, using her platforms to raise awareness about mental health and combat misinformation.

5. Dr. Jaqueline Goes – Pathologist and COVID-19 Researcher

Dr. Jaqueline Goes is a Brazilian scientist, professor, and researcher with expertise in biotechnology and pathology. She gained widespread recognition for leading the genetic sequencing of the coronavirus in Brazil during the early stages of the pandemic. Being a young black woman from humble origins, Dr. Goes has remained dedicated to promoting trust in science, combating misinformation related to COVID-19, and encouraging vaccine uptake.

6. Dr. Kirby White, General Practitioner and PPE Advocate

Dr. Kirby White is a Specialist General Practitioner based in rural Australia. She co-founded “Gowns for Doctors,” an initiative that provided protective gowns to front line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her dedication to ensuring proper PPE supplies for healthcare professionals garnered her the title of 2021 Victorian Australian of the Year – Local Hero. Dr. White’s commitment to rural healthcare and her efforts in medical research have made her a vital figure in her local community.

As epidemiologists, we can draw inspiration from these real-life Barbies who have exemplified dedication, resilience, and innovation in their fields. Their work in vaccine development, healthcare advocacy, mental health, and public health education during the pandemic has had a profound impact on communities worldwide. You can learn more about each of these important women here.

Making the Most of Your Public Service Opportunity

Category : PROspective

As a continuation of his last two articles, Robert Merritt talks about how to make the most of your career in public services.  To read his previous article “The Many Roads to Federal Service at CDC” click here and to read his article “An Accidental Career in Public Health” click hereThis article was originally published in April 2022. 

Written by: Robert Merritt

One of my responsibilities as a senior scientist and manager at CDC is to foster the development of young professionals. I take this very seriously and encourage all my peers to do the same. I’d like to offer some thoughts and advice to those of you that might be considering a career in public service. Although these are drawn from my work at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), they would also apply to work at a variety of other public federal, state, or local agencies (and even many non-profit organizations).

First and foremost, remember: “It’s not about you.”

Public service is focused on others. Currently, the public sector is, without a doubt, a very challenging place to work. Intense scrutiny, vocal criticism, unpredictable resources, and volatile politics will test your mettle, sheer will, and selfless service every day. It is work that aims to support the general welfare and needs of all citizens. This career choice is not about money or fame, but about understanding where we are as a society and how to make it better in some meaningful way. It has been said that public servants have some core qualities (or attributes) that enable them to successfully navigate and contribute to public service. These, in my opinion, are willingness to learn, desire to help others, and an ability to engage people.

Will to Learn

The fact that most of us have (or will soon have) a graduate degree does not negate the need for lifelong learning. Common sense dictates that continuous quality learning is important to every endeavor – especially professional development and success. Therefore, eagerness and craving for new information are essential. To make a positive difference, you should seek to constantly refresh your understanding and learn to adapt to change. My experience is that knowledge and the half-life of knowledge (the length of time that knowledge stays active and accurate) diminish over time.

I strongly urge each new member of my team to seek as many opportunities to learn as they can. What does this mean? Don’t just sit idle and inwardly reflect on your newly acquired book knowledge! Apply your knowledge, skills, and abilities by actively engaging and putting them to practical use! Get to know your colleagues and their expertise through informational meetings. Learn about emerging and new priorities by attending seminars and grand rounds. Join a journal club or community of practice (COP) on a topic of interest. Register for some of the hundreds of training courses sponsored by the agency.

To be successful, you need to be adept at lifelong learning and understand that what you learn now may not be the same in the future – so you need to keep ahead of the curve. Make yourself as informed, well-rounded, and observant of the world as possible.

Make a Difference

The public sector exists to bring services to people, so those working as public servants should have a strong desire to work on behalf of others. As advocates for positive change, leaders in public service know that their positions come with a profound sense of duty. Every public servant has an important role to play, whether they serve as executives, administrators, project officers, program officials, medical officers, epidemiologists, health scientists, or statisticians.

Therefore, the best route to accountability is through public sector professionals who really dedicate themselves to making a difference. We need to invest in the people of our civil service system by developing their skills and strengthening their standards, so they understand the real importance of good governance and the critical role of accountability. The key to future, continued good governance and accountability lies in the way in which we recruit, train, develop, manage, and lead our future public servants. In the end, we are accountable to the citizens we serve.

Engage Others

Public service is not a solo exercise. It’s a team sport. If you want to make a difference in the public sector, you must be ready to include and engage others as part of your work. Think beyond your own organizational perspective and look at things from the viewpoint of our citizens, including (but not limited to) taxpayers, legislators, grantees (city, county, state, tribal, territorial health departments), voluntary and non-government organizations, other Federal agencies, and global partners.

I realized early in my career that the more connections one makes, the more opportunities present themselves. Public service (especially at CDC) is an area in which employees are encouraged to continuously develop professionally. Therefore, creating a wide-reaching professional network opens many doors, simply by establishing relationships with others.

At my agency, I advise participating in meetings scheduled by your immediate group of colleagues (supervisor, team leader, and branch chief), Division, Center, or Agency; employee organizations and associations (there are over 30); workgroups (there are 12); and/or other advisory groups, boards, committees, and councils (there are over 10). Get involved and put yourself out there!

Ultimately, it is entirely what you make of it: if you do not make the effort to develop professionally, your experience will not be as beneficial as it could be. With the right experience and research, you can change your life–and help others at the same time!

Robert Merritt is a graduate of Washington and Lee University, Emory University, and The University of the South (Sewanee) where he received academic training in sociology & anthropology, medical sociology, public health, and research methods & statistics.  His research career has spanned over 30 years with positions at the Smithsonian Institution (SI), Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  He is currently working as a health scientist in the Division for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention (DHDSP) at CDC. 

Featured Image by Mukuko Studio on Unsplash

The Art of Negotiation

Category : PROspective

Whether you’re looking for a paid APE or are applying for jobs after graduation, knowing how to negotiate pay and benefits is a skill we all need. It’s important for us to know our worth and have the confidence to ask for it. But putting yourself in a position to be rejected can feel risky, especially if you have no safety net. If this is your first time dealing with negotiations it can be intimidating. Here are some tips that may help you navigate this tricky business:

  1. Research salary trends in your field. Knowing how much other people are getting paid for your experience can give you something to compare your offer to.
  2. Know who you’re negotiating with. Someone from HR might better know the constraints of what they’re able to offer you. our future boss might be more willing to go to bat for your requests because they’ll be most directly affected by hiring you.
  3. Give them a reason to offer more. If you have certain skills which you believe makes you a more competitive candidate, don’t be shy about them. Lay out exactly why you’re worth what you’re asking.
  4. Be likable. This should go without saying, but if the people hiring you like you, they’ll be more likely to fight for you. It can be difficult to remain likable while you’re negotiating, which is why it’s important to be careful about the way you communicate. Always be polite and respectful, no matter who you’re dealing with.
  5. It’s not all about money. In some cases, a job can’t offer you the amount you’re requesting. But that doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. There are other aspects of the job that might make it worth it to you. If you can’t negotiate higher pay, maybe you can ask for other benefits such as more vacation days, hours, different responsibilities, or other perks. Don’t forget to find out about opportunities for growth and promotions. Just because they can’t offer more money now, doesn’t mean there won’t be that opportunity down the line.

While it can be stressful to enter negotiations with a potential employer, remember that the worst they can say to you is no! Turning down a request for more money, more vacation days, or a hybrid work style doesn’t mean they don’t still want you. It’s up to you to decide how important your requests are. We may not all have the luxury of waiting for our “dream job,” but if you feel strongly about what you’re not getting, it’s okay to turn the offer down. More likely than not, you’re going to be the only one advocating for yourself, don’t be afraid to go after what you want! If you’re having trouble figuring out how to approach this situation, remember you can always reach out to the Office of Career Development for advice, as a current student or alumni.

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Making the Most of Your APE

Category : PROspective

Many students are likely just starting to dig into their APEs, but starting a new position can oftentimes feel confusing and directionless at first. If you’re not sure what you’re supposed to be doing at all times, rest assured you’re not alone. While 200 hours can feel like a relatively short amount of time to figure everything out in time to actually accomplish something substantial, there’s so much more to get out of this experience besides your deliverables. Here are a few tips to make the most of your APE!

  1. Get to know your colleagues. Whether it be fellow students, your PI, or staff at the organization you’re working at, these could be your future bosses and coworkers. Take some time to introduce yourself to everyone you might be working with. Regardless of if you work for this organization long term, the better your colleagues get to know you the more likely they may be to write you a letter of recommendation or pass along your resume to their peers.
  2. Keep busy. Its easy to enjoy the slow pace that may come at the beginning of a job or between projects, but you don’t want to be caught off guard when your supervisor asks what you’ve been doing recently. If you have nothing to work on, make sure your boss knows it. You can also try reaching out to your colleagues and asking if they need help on any projects they may be working on. If you still find yourself with nothing to do, use that time to teach yourself something new, like new SAS code, or read up on the field you’re working in. Showing this kind of initiative is sure to benefit you in the long run!
  3. Reflect on your experience. Chances are you pick up some new skills to add on your resume during your APE. Taking the time to think about what you’ve learned, maybe by listing out your skills or journaling about your daily activities, will help you in the future when you need to articulate what you did in a cover letter or are asked to explain in a job interview. Keeping notes like these throughout your APE experience can be helpful as well in order to keep track of what you’ve accomplished and what you still need to work on.

Whether you’re almost finished with your APE already or are still looking for your practicum experience these tips are useful to keep in mind. Your APE is a great way to dip your toes into what your future job as an epidemiologist could look like. Love it or hate, you’re learning something that you didn’t know before.

Featured Image by Saulo Mohana on Unsplash

This post was originally published in June 2022.

Upcoming Events

  • The Summer Institute in Statistics and Modeling in Infectious Diseases (SISMID) July 15, 2024 – July 31, 2024 Conference / Symposium Event Type: Conference / SymposiumSeries: The Summer Institute in Statistics and Modeling in Infectious Diseases (SISMID)Speaker: Leaders in the FieldContact Name: Pia ValerianoContact Email: pvaleri@emory.eduLink: Summer Institute in Statistics and Modeling in Infectious Diseases (SISMID) is designed to introduce infectious disease researchers to modern methods of statistical analysis and mathematical modeling.
  • Functional Biomarkers for Early Detection and Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy August 5, 2024 at 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Zoom Online Location: ZoomSeries: EGDRC Seminar SeriesSpeaker: Dr. Machelle PardueContact Name: Wendy GillContact Email: wggill@emory.eduLink: Pardue’s lab is focused on clinically relevant treatments for retinal disease that can make a difference in the quality of life of patients. She is developing novel screening and treatment strategies for early-stage diabetic retinopathy and elucidating the retinoscleral mechanisms…
  • The Second Annual RSPH Staff and Post-Doctoral Ice Cream Social August 14, 2024 at 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Networking and Special Event Event Type: Networking,Special EventContact Name: Staff CouncilContact Email: rsphstaffcouncil@emory.eduRoom Location: RRR_Terrace 2nd FloorRSPH staff and post-docs are invited to join us for ice cream and delightful conversation. This event is hosted by the RSPH Staff Council.

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