Category Archives: PROspective

Get to ‘Yes’

Category : PROspective

A lot has been written about the importance of saying “no.” The idea is to protect one’s professional time to be sure that it is mostly spent on the work most important to one’s self. Although there is merit in this mindset, taking it to its limit would make for a pretty miserable existence. How would it feel to work in a setting where no one ever agreed to help anyone else?


This weeks’ PROspective article offers suggestions for how to improve the chances a coworker will say “yes” when you ask for help. The first two suggestions are probably most relevant, especially early in a career: ask in person, and offer something in return. These two principles rest on fundamentals of human interactions. People are more likely to agree to help when asked in person, not by text, email, or telephone. In addition, offering something in return shows respect for the other person’s time and effort.


If you click through to one of the article’s links, you will find that humans feel a universal tendency “to repay or reciprocate when given a gift whether it has come in the form of a material object, a kind deed, or an act of generosity.” Its especially true when this interaction takes place in person. Taking too much advantage of this tendency can lead to unwarranted manipulation, so also a pretty miserable existence. Getting right this “dance of reciprocal giving and receiving” is important for all highly successful relationships, including those in the workplace.

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

Category : GLEPI PROspective

Written by Caleb Ebert, GLEPI MPH 2018:

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


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


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


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


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


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

Public Speaking

Category : PROspective

Most of us will not give a State of the Union address, be in the position to give an acceptance speech for an Oscar, or appear live on CNN. But almost all of us will have to speak in front of a group of people even though fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias adults report (fear of spiders, snakes, and heights are most common). The name for the fear of public speaking is glossophobia and a whopping 40% of adults report having it. Mark Twain said, “There are two kinds of speakers.  Those who get nervous and those who are liars.” There are also some very logical methods to get past this fear and become a skilled public speaker. This article in Inc. focuses on five methods for speaking with authority and confidence including my favorite, tell a story.

While I am generally comfortable speaking to large groups, I have had a few memorable moments when I expected to be carried off a speaker’s podium, most notably when I was in graduate school speaking at a large conference in Vancouver. After becoming sweaty and shaky, I decided to take off my uncomfortably high heels behind the podium to feel more stable.  I made it through the talk and was then faced with trying to get my shoes back on during a question. My dissertation advisor was in the audience and commented, “You sure got shorter during the talk.” He may not have been the only one who noticed but I had remained standing, my primary goal.  Today, my first rule of public speaking is to be careful with my shoes.

In general, comfort in speaking to large groups is correlated with an obvious area of preparation; practice and more practice.  I like to script presentations, practice and then record it.  Then I listen to the recording specifically listening for places that do not sound like the way I talk so that I can change them.  Most people do not speak the way they write which is why listening is so helpful.  The other thing you hear if you listen to a recording is number of times you say “um.”  Learning to pause, without filler words, is actually a way to place emphasis on what you are saying. Listening helps you find those moments. The last thing I listen for is a way to simplify what I am saying.  I always cut out sentences and words that look great on paper but are not needed to make a point. This is an iterative process until I have a natural sounding, time-appropriate talk.

The last of the methods described in this article pertains to this Native American Proverb, “Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” The best speakers are really storytellers even if they are talking about science or a mathematical model.  This is what connects to people and will help them remember what you have presented.

Lastly, as you approach the podium (in appropriate footwear!), remember that 40% of your audience fears public speaking, too. Your nervous energy is normal and the practice always pays off. 

Generational Differences

Category : PROspective

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

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


“Nosce te ipsum” – Know Thyself


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

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

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

Voicing Dissent

Category : PROspective

Most public health workplaces involve teamwork, and no team always reaches unanimous consensus on every topic. In fact, one of the strengths of teamwork is the integration of a variety of points of view. On occasion, you might be the only member of the team who sees things differently than the others.

This week’s PROspective offers guidance on whether and how you should speak up. I especially like that the article encourages you to think about whether the group is asking you to compromise your values. If so, speak up!

For example, if the group is taking a shortcut in an analysis that compromises the rigor of the work, and so also the integrity of your part in it, speak up!

But then how do you speak up in a way that maximizes the chances that your view will be influential? Start by showing empathy for the views you don’t hold – that actually opens the group to hearing your views.

Second, separate the topic from the people; your team members need to know you value them, even if you don’t agree with them about the topic.

I encourage you to click through to this short article, which provides strategies for when and how to be the voice of dissent, a valuable skill in the workplace.


Have you struggled to speak up in a professional setting when your opinion was unpopular? Share your stories and ideas in the comments!

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. 


Interviewing: Stories and Relatability are the Key

Category : PROspective

Job interviews are stressful, no matter how perfect the job or how ready you are to sell yourself. There are some classic ways to prepare to ease the stress: research the organization and the person/people you know you will be interviewing with, prepare your elevator speech about “why you”, and be on time (which actually means being early).

This article in Entrepreneur focuses on a few additional keys to a successful interview:  tell stories, relate, and be yourself. I think these go hand in hand when done well and are integral to setting yourself apart in an interview.  If you can tell a story about yourself that is authentic and highlights why you are a great choice for the position, you are revealing who you are in a memorable and relatable way.

Starting a class each semester is much the same as a job interview.  You have a few minutes to catch the students’ attention and convince them that this class will do more than fulfill a requirement. I recently read a tweet on #academictwitter asking how much teachers reveal about themselves in a classroom.  For those of you who have taken a class with me, you know I am quick to share stories about life. I was surprised how the majority of faculty responded to this twitter question with some very big boundaries.  “I share my degree and how long I have taught.”  That’s all?  That’s your resume and students probably already know that.  When I share relevant parts of my life, I am hoping to form a connection that I strongly believe enhances our time together learning about lifetables and study designs.

I contend students want to know us and want to be known by us. The same goes for interviews. And just like the first day of class, you don’t have long to make that connection.  The author of this piece said people fail his interviews right away if they recite their resumes.  My favorite interviews are when I put down my pen and paper and listen because you have captured my attention. 

It is hard to get past the nerves in an interview, but if you tell your story, you will be remembered while giving your interviewer the best insight at knowing if this is the job for you.

First Impressions

Category : PROspective

from Dr. Timothy Lash: 

Everyone feels more or less comfortable talking one-to-one or in small groups, sometimes depending on how well you already know the group. Early in my career, I tended to keep to myself, or to talk with only one or two people already familiar to me. Even today, that’s my comfort zone.

Also early in my career, I had a chance to see two ends of the spectrum. The woman who owned the small company where I worked was always at ease; she could talk with anyone and win them over. A senior colleague in the same company had a much harder time; he came across as aloof and distant. Once I got to know him, I learned that he was warm and funny and knew a lot about a lot, even outside of our work area. All the same, I could see that in most professional settings, where people did not know one another well, she was having much more influence than him.

I realized that I would never be like her, but that I could take advantage of my strengths to be more like her. I prepared. I practiced having conversation starter questions (not weather, sports, or “how are you”), I learned what I could about the people I would meet in advance, and I made an effort to get better.

This article has some of the same themes. The founder of Ritz Carlton says that people make a decision about you in the first nine seconds after they meet you. They may eventually change their mind, but it’s hard to overcome a poor first impression.

You can influence that first impression by being prepared. Smile, say hello, and ask one or two slightly different questions, which you have prepared in advance so they will come easily to you. Most importantly, practice. Put yourself in situations that stretch your comfort zone now, early in your career or as a student, and hone a skill that will be useful throughout your career.

#EpiTwitter: Professional engagement in the 21st century

Category : PROspective

from Dr. Cecile Janssens:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

PROspective: New career blog in the Confounder

Category : PROspective

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

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

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

Thanks for your continued support!

The Confounder Team


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

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