Work towards solving medical mysteries as an epidemiologistSeptember 26, 2014
Epidemiology is a specialty within public health that deals with researching how and why illnesses and diseases occur. Epidemiologists are specialists who work towards solving medical mysteries that baffle us all. Their research forms the basis of public health policies and disease management strategies around the world. By finding out the causes and consequences of various diseases and illnesses, these professionals help prevent their spread and recurrence.
Detailed job description
As an epidemiologist, you would focus on studying the relationship between different medical conditions and their causes. As part of your job you would study the way contagious life-threatening diseases originate, develop and spread and also analyse medical conditions that occur from exposure to contaminants such as food borne ailments.
Some of the areas you could choose to work in include:
- Infectious diseases
- Chronic diseases
- Occupational health
- Maternal and child health
- Oral health
- Substance abuse
- Environmental health
- Bioterrorism/emergency response
Typical duties would include:
- Organising and supervising studies of serious public health problems
- Finding methods to prevent them and to treat different diseases
- Collecting and performing analysis of the collected public health data
- Communicating findings on public health problems to health practitioners, public health officials and the general public
- Providing appropriate strategies for public health programs, monitoring their progress, analysing data, and devising ways to improve existing programs
Most epidemiologists work for government agencies, whether at the local, state or national level. Some may work for private research facilities, universities, pharmaceutical companies or hospitals. In most of the settings, you would work regular business hours and would only be required to work on weekends and holidays if there is a public health emergency.
Education & training
Most organisations require at least a master’s degree from an accredited institution in the area of public health, preferably with an emphasis in epidemiology. This course of study would have included coursework in health services research, toxicology, biostatistics, behavioural studies, immunology, and administration.
Positions within research or clinical epidemiology almost always require a medical degree or PhD.
In most cases, training occurs on the job and the duration depends upon the position and previous experience.
Certification programs and continuing education are necessary for career advancement.
Excellent listening and critical thinking skills are two of the most important attributes for anyone considering a career as an epidemiologist. This is because one of the major parts of your job will involve conducting fact-finding interviews with the local community as part of your research. The other major part of your job will involve analysing your findings and also recognising emergency situations when they arrive, for which you need to be a critical thinker.
Being mathematically astute is another necessary skill in this specialty, as you will need to be proficient with statistical analysis and data presentation software programs.
Good writing skills will help you convey your conclusions and recommendations to medical authorities and to the general public.