Category Archives: PROspective

Organizational Socialization

Category : PROspective

In 2009, I joined the faculty of the Department of Clinical Epidemiology at the University of Aarhus in Denmark. Soon after I started, I noticed that it was common to receive an email from someone in the department saying that they had brought bread to work, and then announcing some good news (birthday, work achievement, pilot’s license, new home—it was a long list). Danes make great bread, so this was always a welcome email, but what was different for me was that the person celebrating was also the person announcing the good news. In the US, when we celebrate with food (more often cake), the cake is usually provided by someone else or by the department in recognition of another person’s good news. Learning this change in who brings the carbohydrates was part of my organizational socialization.

I was reminded of this experience while thinking that so many students in our department will soon be joining another organization, whether as graduates in full-time employment or as students participating in research or practicum experiences. Whenever you join a new organization, there will be a socialization process. According to Wikipedia, “Organizational socialization is the process whereby an employee learns the knowledge and skills necessary to assume his or her organizational role. As newcomers become socialized, they learn about the organization and its history, values, jargon, culture, and procedures.” Some organizations are better than others at helping newcomers with this organizational socialization. Formal orientation sessions are one mechanism and tend to cover the policies and procedures. Learning the culture and unwritten rules is a bit different. In our department, new faculty are assigned a “coach” to help with the process. This is someone that the new faculty member can ask about everything from the department’s policies and procedures to where to find a good lunch. New students are offered a chance to pair with second-year students with the same goal. If you join a new organization and find that it is not well-prepared to help you with socialization, you can take matters into your own hands. Find someone with whom you think you will have a good connection, and ask them to help coach you through it. Most people will be flattered to be asked.

Like so many things, preparation is key to success when you start a new job. Be prepared to make a good impression (I liked this video). And be prepared for the organizational socialization. More reading about organizational socialization here. Your socialization to the organization will happen. To make it easier and quicker, be prepared for this aspect of your new experience. It takes energy and investment of effort, so plan to use some of your starting time towards it. And if you feel that the available programs are leaving you short, seek out help. Everyone you work with has gone through the same and at the same workplace. They may well recognize the need to do better and will be open to helping you with an easier take-off.

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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 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 here!


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. 

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The Struggle of Differentiating a Want from a Need

Category : PROspective

Written By Jordyn Kohn (Check out the original article on the Emory Financial Literacy website!)

I remember getting my first job in undergrad and finally becoming a more financially independent person. It was a very great feeling knowing that I could support my weekly finances such as groceries, apartment utilities, and other essential things. With the freedom of spending my own hard-earned money, I also was now able to fund various other things that were maybe not as essential, such as grabbing a coffee a few times a week, a new book, or even a weekend trip with friends. While I enjoyed the extra flow of money into my bank account every two weeks, I had to quickly learn the importance of differentiating a “want” from a “need”.

Throughout my years in undergrad, I continued working to support myself through most of my expenses. I realized that as I was receiving these biweekly paychecks, I was not paying enough attention as to where my money was going. What percentage of my paycheck was going to groceries? Utilities? Weekly coffee? I sat down and finally organized my finances and laid out a realistic budget for myself. I was honestly shocked to see just how much money was being unintentionally allocated to “wants” and not “needs”. It was time to reevaluate my priorities and differentiate what in my life was a “want” and what was a “need”.

This was definitely a difficult task as a young undergrad student who just got introduced to the concept of personal finances. I struggled with creating boundaries for myself and defining what I spent my money on. There were many times when I would find myself attempting to justify buying three coffees a week and labeling that as a “need,” because the caffeine addiction was real (and still is). After going over all my payments, both necessary and unnecessary, I was able to easily visualize where my money was going, and how much I was allocating to certain aspects of my life. This was no easy feat, and it was definitely a trial-and-error situation, but I came out of this experience with a much better understanding of where I should be spending the money I make.

Here are some tips that I can now share about differentiating a “want” from a “need”:

  • If it’s something that is necessary for you to live a healthy life, it’s a need.
  • If it’s something that you are choosing to buy but can comfortably live without, it’s a want.
  • Ask yourself if an expense will make you happier or healthier in the long term.
  • Don’t try and convince yourself that a want is actually a need, if it’s not a necessity, it’s a want!
  • Control your impulse spending and stay mindful when you’re shopping.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, whether it be a family member, friend, or even an online resource such as CashCourse!

 

Jordyn Kohn is a first-year MPH student concentrating in epidemiology with a focus in genetic and molecular epidemiology. When she’s not in class, she’s working with RSPH’s Enrollment Services, helping to improve the overall student experience. Currently, she’s working on implementing financial education tools for all Rollins students through hosting seminars geared towards topics such as budgeting. Jordyn has really been enjoying her time here at Rollins and in Atlanta so far, and is looking forward to beginning her second year this fall!

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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.

 

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An Accidental Career In Public Health

Category : PROspective

Jumping off from his last article about how to get a job at the CDC, Robert Merritt tells the story of how his own career in public health started. To read his previous article “The Many Roads to Federal Service at CDC” click here!


Written By: Robert Merritt

I always felt public service was my calling and destiny. I believe this was fostered by the community where I grew up in the Washington, DC metropolitan area (Fairfax County, Virginia). My neighborhood and county were replete with civil service and military families that encouraged and valued careers in public service. In fact, my own father was a career military officer. So, what path would I chose? Military or civil service?

So, in 1983, I started my undergraduate studies in Virginia at Washington and Lee University (W&L) as a politics major on the path to law school. At the time, I aspired to be a public prosecutor and even worked as an intern for the Rockbridge County Commonwealth’s Attorney. I really enjoyed the legal research part and the victim-witness engagement. However, the passion for the legal profession itself was absent. After that, switching to a business administration and accounting major seemed like a practical, smart move preparing me for a variety of public service administration opportunities. Although I found aspects of both interesting, I neither saw myself as an attorney nor an administrator. I lacked the interest and passion for these fields and was very unhappy – I checked out mentally, partied, and ultimately landed myself on academic probation. The W&L Dean of Students politely informed me that I must improve my academic record immediately or the university would sever its ties with me. 

To make a long story short, I found my academic home within the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The excellent faculty coupled with a challenging curriculum of theory, research methods, and practical experiences inspired me. I found that strong passion and desire for public service again. I was very eager to help people and make the world a better place for everyone. I really loved the applied nature of both these fields and their relevance to social change. It was important to me that I give back to the community and society at large. Thankfully I developed excellent quantitative and qualitative research, oral and written communication, and fieldwork skills that would pay dividends. In fact, my advisor encouraged me to consider applying to graduate programs in anthropology and sociology. Thankfully, with a lot of hard work and summer school, I graduated on schedule from W&L in 1987 and headed to Emory University’s Laney Graduate School. This was prior to the founding of the Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH) in 1990.

I ultimately chose Medical Sociology and Research Methods & Statistics as my areas of concentration (with a bit of medical anthropology thrown in too). After my first year of graduate school, I was asked to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Emory’s Undergraduate Summer Program at the London School of Economics (focusing on medical sociology and public health). This program was co-directed by Drs. Richard Levinson and Karen Hegtvedt. By the way, this is the very same Richard Levinson that eventually served as the Executive Associate Dean at RSPH. I enthusiastically accepted but was subsequently cut from the program because student enrollment was too low to support a TA. I was disappointed and found myself unemployed for the summer. As luck would have it, Dr. Levinson was on sabbatical from Emory and not making the trip to London either. He was, in fact, working at the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Taking pity on me, he offered me a summer internship. Please keep in mind, I had no clue what CDC was or did at this point. It was just a job.

Upon reporting for work that summer, I was given two analytic projects and was advised it would likely take me the entire summer to complete them. I finished both in 10 days. I quickly became the most popular person in the group and was asked by the staff scientists to assist with their various analytical projects. I imagine it was my SAS, SPSS, and writing skills that attracted them (all practical skills honed at W&L and Emory). By the end of my internship, I must have completed a dozen or more projects and had a few publications. I finally learned what CDC’s mission was and how the agency impacted public health. It was a good fit for my skill set and my passion for public service. At the conclusion of the internship, CDC asked me to stay and compete for a permanent position. I was offered a position as a health scientist and worked in a variety of areas – behavioral epidemiology, cardiovascular health, smoking and health, and reproductive health until August 2000. At that point, I decided to leave the government and accepted a position in the private sector at a not-for-profit hospital system.

In that role, I served as Director of Clinical Research and Research Integrity Officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Children’s) – one of the largest pediatric hospital systems in the United States. I had management oversite for 400+ active research studies and clinical trials; 35+ research support staff; and 75+ hospital-based investigators. As the hospital’s Chief Research Officer, I was responsible for research compliance, human subjects, and research training. I was also actively conducting research in a variety of pediatric sub-specialty areas and public health with collaborators from CDC, State and Local Health Departments, Emory University, and Georgia Tech. I remained at Children’s until 2005 when I returned to CDC.

As a supervisory health scientist, I currently serve as Chief of the Epidemiology & Surveillance Branch in the Division for Heart Disease & Stroke Prevention (DHDSP). I also hold an adjunct faculty appointment at the Rollins School of Public Health and am a Fellow of the American Heart Association. My work tracks trends in cardiovascular risk factors and diseases; engages in epidemiologic and health services research, and supports evidence-based practice and programs.  Through epidemiology and surveillance, research, and science translation, this work helps state and national health agencies implement public health strategies to address the burden of heart disease and stroke.

My own academic and public health research career has spanned over 35 years with the Smithsonian Institution (SI), Emory University, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Inc., and the CDC. Although I landed in public health quite by accident, I am convinced that the education and passion I found at both W&L and Emory directly led to advancement and success in my career.  

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. 

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How to Find a Mentor

Category : PROspective

Whether you’re mentoring someone yourself or have found someone to mentor you, there is so much to gain from the mentor-mentee relationship. In the past, we’ve talked about the benefits of mentoring others, and experiences with being a mentee. But oftentimes it can be difficult to find a mentor. In an ideal world finding a mentor is effortless—your professor takes you under their wing and gives you advice and recommendations, or your boss at work takes the time to really invest in your professional development. Unfortunately, this isn’t always how it plays out in real life, especially if, like me, you’re a little less outgoing. Finding a mentor isn’t only a requirement to complete your thesis. Having someone to pose professional questions to or help you get your foot in the door with certain jobs or activities can sometimes make or break how our lives and careers play out. Here are some of the steps you can take to aid in your search for a mentor:

  1. Figure out what your goals are. If you’re looking for someone to guide you into the world of biostatistics, having a mentor in the global health department might not be what you need. Getting different perspectives can be beneficial, but its up to you to decide what works for you. You’ll never find the mentor you need if you don’t know what that is. Get clear on what your personal and professional goals are, so you can articulate this to others and identify people who can help you get to where you want to be. Beyond setting professional goals, however, you also need to decide the type of mentoring relationship you want.
  2. Find the people who can help. Whether it actually is your boss or professor, or it’s someone you’ve never met, the first step is to identify who has the skills and experience to mentor you in the way you want.
  3. Find the people who want to help. Just because you’ve found the perfect person to mentor you, doesn’t mean they have the time or energy to do so. If they aren’t responsive to your interest in connecting, it might be best to move on to someone who reciprocates your energy. The best mentor is a present one.
  4. Reach out and establish a relationship. Try sending an email explaining who you are, why you’re interested in connecting with them (their research, career background, similar personal backgrounds), and asking if they would be open to a short meeting with you to ask them questions. Make sure you come prepared to this meeting with a handful of questions to keep the conversation going. Check out this article on informational interviewing if you need a refresher on how to do that. After the meeting send a follow-up message thanking them for their time and asking if they would be open to meetings in the future for you to continue to ask them for advice or questions.
  5. Be respectful and responsive. Keep in mind that your mentor has their own life and career. Respect their boundaries. Also do what you can to make mentoring you as easy as possible. Respond to them promptly and keep them in the loop about your life. Make sure to let them know you value their ideas and express gratitude for the time and energy they put into mentoring you. This will help you continue the relationship into the future. Ensuring they feel appreciated will also encourage them to continue helping you whenever they can.

Remember, you deserve a good mentor as much as your mentor deserves a good mentee. Find the people who care about and respect you and do the same for them. Our mentors will likely change throughout our lives and careers, so knowing how to build these connections will be useful both here at Rollins and decades into the future.

 

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4 Skills I’ve Learned at RSPH

Category : PROspective

Written by: Alex Whicker

Now that I’m (finally!) almost done with my MPH, I’ve been reflecting on some of the skills and knowledge I’ve gained since starting the program. When I first got to Rollins a year and a half ago, I had no idea what to expect from this program. I chose public health, and epidemiology, for a reason, but I still didn’t know what concrete skills I would gain that I didn’t already have or couldn’t get from a job. I guess that goes to show that we really don’t know what we don’t know. I was blown away by how much we learned in the first semester alone. I started to recognize just how crucial this knowledge is for a competent public health worker to have. As we begin to start our careers, and perhaps face a bit of imposter syndrome, I thought I’d share some of the most useful skills I’ve learned here at Rollins, as a reminder of how far we’ve come.

  1. How to critically analyze and understand scientific research. Despite studying STEM in undergrad, I could not have told you what a p-value was two years ago. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised at how thoroughly we were taught how to interpret research findings. Regardless of if we conduct our own research studies or not, understanding how to interpret the results of research and what a well-conducted research study consists of are incredibly important for us to make informed decisions regarding the public’s health, or provide relevant advice to the general public.
  2. How to write at an academic level. Contrary to my role of running this blog, I’ve always considered writing to be one of my weakest points. The numerous papers, critiques, and peer reviews we’ve done in our classes have helped me significantly improve my academic writing. I’ve sadly found that despite my intentions of pursuing science to avoid writing, this is a necessary skill I’ll need for almost any career I pursue in the future. If all of the tools you’ve gained from your classes still don’t feel enough, writing a thesis or capstone will definitely make you more confident in your own writing abilities.
  3. How to code in SAS and R. I still need my notes every time I use one of these programs, but this is something I almost certainly could not have taught myself. Even when faced with coding we haven’t learned in our classes, I feel more confident that I will be able to grasp new concepts, having mastered the basics already. I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to keep those EPI 534 notes for life.
  4. How to utilize science to effect social and political change. Learning about some of the logistics of how policy change happens has made it clearer how research can be translated into actual improvements in public health.

There are countless many other things that RSPH has taught me, both hard and soft skills, but these are a handful that make me feel most confident in my abilities. Whether you’re about to start your public health career, preparing for graduate or professional school, or are only just beginning your journey at RSPH, remember that you are here for a reason! Rollins has given us the tools we need to succeed, now it’s up to us to use them!

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The Many Roads to Federal Service at CDC

Category : PROspective

Written By: Robert Merritt

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 (orau.gov)), 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 (usphs.gov)).

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


Mindfulness and Public Health

Category : PROspective

Written by: Alex Whicker

This semester I decided to branch out from my usual Maternal and Child Health and Epi courses to take something a little different: Mindfulness and Public Health (BSHES 583 with Dr. Nilaja Green). While I mainly hoped it would be a fun class filled with meditation and interesting discussions (which it is) I’ve been pleasantly surprised to learn about how closely mindfulness ties into the realm of public health. Mindfulness, I’ve learned, is a tool that can be learned not only to improve my own life, but the lives of my friends, family, and the people I will serve in my public health career as well!

One important teaching in mindfulness is that all living things are connected. This reflects the public health tenet that our health is dependent on the health of the people and environment around us. Just as our individual wellbeing can be affected by a neighbor having the flu or our community suffering from smog, so can our thoughts and emotions be impacted by those around us. This is why it is smart to be intentional about who and what we surround ourselves with. Beyond that, however, it is also important to carefully consider the thoughts and feelings we allow to rule our minds, as they can impact others whether we realize it or not. Similar to how washing our hands is a moral decision to decrease the risk of disease for those around us, practicing mindfulness is an act which can improve the interactions we have with others.

One of the most obvious ways mindfulness has connections to public health is its effective use as a tool for dealing with chronic illnesses, pain, grief, and mental health. One way that mindfulness helps people deal with physical ailments is by teaching us that our minds and bodies are one and the same and reminding us to attend to our bodies beyond just dealing with pain. Mindfulness can help us connect with the present moment through physical cues, such as through breathing, so that we might become more aware of our bodies and emotions. Noticing the physical sensations we’re experiencing can help clue us into what feelings we may be ignoring. A tight chest, for example, may be an indication of stress and anxiety, while feeling hot or antsy could be a sign of frustration or anger. In addition to improving the relationship between our mind and body, mindfulness is often used in dialectical behavioral therapy to help patients balance opposing thoughts. One common example of this which many struggle with is accepting that we may not be the cause of all of our problems but we are still responsible for our lives.

Mindfulness is useful for more than just caring for the patient. As public health professionals, mindfulness can also improve our relationship with ourselves and others. Working in a field that often witnesses suffering and pain can take a toll. Learning how to cope with our own feelings of burnout or powerlessness can help fuel us to continue serving others and responding to larger systemic or societal problems. Mindfulness teaches us to cope with uncomfortable or unpleasant thoughts and situations instead of ignoring or avoiding them. In this way we can be more present and honest with others when we encounter these inevitable experiences in our work. Mindfulness can also help us in our careers so that we may better focus and reach our goals. Learning to ask ourselves “why?” when we set goals can both serve as a reminder of our purpose as well as clarify what our intentions are when we are striving to achieve something.

Mindfulness teaches us not to judge our own thoughts and feelings. This helps us reserve judgement for others as well, so that we may create connections rather than divisions. Throughout this semester I have learned that there are many ways to engage in mindfulness. Whether it be through meditation, yoga, an intentional walk, or simply choosing to ignore the instinct of reaching for your phone in an uncomfortable situation there are numerous opportunities for us to incorporate mindfulness into our lives. If you’re interested in starting your own mindfulness journey, check out this website. This article may also be a great place to learn more about the intersection of mindfulness and public health.

 

Featured Image by processingly on Unsplash


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