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Assessing the Training Needs of Epidemiologists

Posted By Jessica Arrazola, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The recent publication “Examining state health agency Epidemiologists and their training needs” describes the applied epidemiology workforce as highly educated, with gaps in relevant skills requiring development.1 These gaps are not in traditional epidemiology “shoe leather,” but in the cross cutting skills of collaboration, change management, and communication. Similar to other assessments of the public health workforce, workers self-report a need for more training in these non-technical skills. As we enter into the era of “Public Health 3.0”—a major upgrade in public health practice to emphasize cross-sectoral policy to address social determinates of health—it will be necessary for epidemiologists to work beyond their silos to successfully implement surveillance and informatics initiatives.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) recognizes this need for training in cross cutting skills and is changing the accreditation criteria of schools and programs of public health.2 These changes aim to shift the delivery of the Master of Public Health (MPH) curriculum from the traditional five areas of public health to foundational knowledge and competencies as well as applied learning experiences beyond the traditional practicum. The 22 MPH competencies are arranged across eight domains: evidence-based approaches to public health, public health and health care systems, planning and management to promote health, policy in public health, leadership, communication, interprofessional practice, and systems thinking.

The change in accreditation criteria will eventually have a downstream effect in preparing the public health workforce, but training in cross cutting skills for the current workforce is needed now. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) aims to provide epidemiologists a forum for discussion, resources, and training for cross cutting skills. One example is the recently developed toolkit of resources to promote scientific writing among applied epidemiologists. Since June 2016, CSTE has identified new leadership for the Epi Methods Subcommittee, reinvigorated the Workforce Subcommittee and added a co-chair, and has initiated an Early Career Professionals Workgroup. While other subcommittees and workgroups are topical in nature, the Epi Methods and Workforce Subcommittees’ activities strive to promote a trained and qualified workforce on cross cutting skills.

CSTE will continue to support activities to foster a prepared workforce. The Epi Methods Subcommittee Chairs, Diana Cervantes of the Texas State Department of Health and Talia Brown of Boulder County Public Health, have led the group to develop a strategic plan for 2016-2017 with two major priority areas: 1) Enhancing awareness and promoting best practices in applied epidemiology methods and 2) Working to build and maintain capacity for the application of epidemiologic methods. The Workforce Subcommittee will also develop a strategic plan to be presented at the 2017 CSTE Annual Conference.

CSTE remains committed to equipping epidemiologists with the diverse skills they need—technical and otherwise—to succeed in an evolving public health landscape. You can help us by joining the Workforce and/or Epi Methods Subcommittees to support our workforce development initiatives.


Jessica Arrazola is CSTE’s Acting Director of Workforce Development. To receive more information about the Early Career Professionals Workgroup or other CSTE workforce development projects, contact Jessica at Jarrazola@cste.org.

1 Chapple-McGruder, T., Leider, J., Beck, A., Castrucci, B., Harper, E., Sellers, K., Arrazola, J., and Engel, J. (2016). Examining state health agency epidemiologists and their training needs, Annals of Epidemiology.
2 Hadler, J. (2014). 2013 Epidemiology Capacity Assessment. Accessed via http://www.cste2.org/2013eca/CSTEEpidemiologyCapacityAssessment2014-final2.pdf
3 Council on Education for Public Health. (2016). 2016 revised criteria. Accessed via http://ceph.org/criteria-revision/

Tags:  Cross Cutting  epidemiology  Fellowship  membership  staff spotlight  Workforce Development 

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Strike a Chord at the 2014 CSTE Annual Conference

Posted By Tim Jones, Thursday, June 19, 2014
Untitled Document
I am excited to welcome ‘y'all' to Nashville, Tennessee! In addition to taking advantage of a full and exciting conference agenda, I hope everyone takes time to enjoy the great setting of this year's meeting and the best of Nashville's attractions.

This year, our conference includes speakers, presentations, and discussions on a huge variety of topics, covering the full range of applied epidemiology under our theme, “Strike a Chord: Epi with Impact.” The CSTE Annual Conference is a unique opportunity to see colleagues and meet new ones from around the country, those within your program area and beyond. I encourage you to take advantage of professional development and learning opportunities outside your own “silos” to explore aspects of our field with which you may be less familiar.
New things going on at the conference this year include:
  • Poster rounds: This pilot program gives attendees a way to engage with poster presentations more actively. Moderators will lead poster round sessions, modeled after IDSA, to guide discussion and engage both attendees and presenters.
    (Infectious disease, Occupational health, and Surveillance/Informatics Monday at 12:30 pm; Chronic disease/MCH/Oral health and Environmental health Tuesday at 12:30 pm)
  • Informatics fellowship graduation: In addition to the Applied Epidemiology Fellowship graduation ceremony at the Connections Reception, our Applied Public Health Informatics Fellows will also graduate this year!
    (Connections reception Sunday at 6 pm; tickets required)
  • Rapid fire sessions: New breakout sessions this year allow for more presentations and accepted abstracts. As the name suggests, these presentations move quickly and give attendees the opportunity to hear a greater breadth of topics.
    (Chronic disease/MCH/Oral health Tuesday at 10:30 am; Infectious disease Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:30 am)
  • Deadly Outbreaks book signing and roundtable: Hear from author Alexandra Levitt and book contributors about the outbreak investigations featured in the book and get your copy autographed.
    (Book signing Sunday at 5:30 pm; Roundtable Monday at 1 pm)
Focus on informatics capacity development:
I’m very enthusiastic about the attention informatics has received recently. Thanks to CSTE’s efforts, including many of you, CDC has embraced the call for increased informatics capacity at CDC and in state and local jurisdictions. The Informatics Training In Place Program (ITIPP), the CDC Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program (PHIFP), and the Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship are all examples of increasing efforts to meet this important need.
The Annual Conference will feature lots of sessions and discussions about informatics, including topics such as increasing data quality, Meaningful Use, ELR, and more.
Thank you to the Planning Committee, the Executive Board, the Bylaws Committee, and National Office staff for your work to drive this year’s conference to be another successful one.
And thank you to all of the attendees, presenters, and moderators for making our conference vibrant!
Don’t forget your name badge, mobile device (so you can download the conference app!), or your dancing shoes for a great conference in Nashville next week. I trust that you will enjoy networking, professional development, and contributing to important initiatives, and all leave feeling enthusiastic about CSTE and the future of applied epidemiology.
Tim Jones, MD
CSTE President

Tags:  Annual Conference  membership 

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CSTE Executive Board election results: And the winners are…

Posted By Jeff Engel, Friday, June 13, 2014
Untitled Document

CSTE held its first ever electronic vote this year for new Executive Board members. Our 2012-2014 Strategic Plan explicitly called for a restructuring of the governance to help strengthen CSTE as the home organization for all applied public health epidemiologists. This restructuring resulted in last year’s by-laws changes, when CSTE voted to open Executive Board elections to not just the one representative from each state or territory but any CSTE active member. With the help of modern technology and our National Office staff, 43% of active members participated in the election.

The new Executive Board members are:
  • Joseph McLaughlin, Alaska: President-Elect
  • Kristy Bradley, Oklahoma: Infectious Disease Steering Committee chair
  • Marci Layton, New York City: Member-at-Large
  • Sarah Park, Hawaii: Secretary/Treasurer
And the winners are… you! If you are a CSTE member, you are represented by these capable and experienced epidemiologists who will advocate for your interests within our professional association and to Congress. The CSTE Executive Board and leadership represents the full voice and power of applied epidemiology in its work to partner with CDC and other agencies, to advocate for better systems and processes, to collaborate with APHL, ASTHO, NACCHO, and other partners, and more. You are the winner in this election, because the Executive Board puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into improving our field that, in turn, improves the public’s health.
Please join me in congratulating the newest members of the CSTE Executive Board.
Jeff Engel is the Executive Director of CSTE and a former State Epidemiologist. For more information on joining CSTE and supporting the Board and CSTE’s efforts to improve applied epidemiology, click here or contact the National Office.

Tags:  membership  staff spotlight 

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Why is it important for local epi’s to join CSTE?

Posted By Laurene Mascola, Thursday, May 29, 2014
Untitled Document

I have had the privilege of being on CSTE’s Executive Board for 5 years—I was the first president elected from a local health department. It is crucial that local health department epidemiologists take an active role in CSTE, as the locals are the footsoldiers of public health. The states can mandate all that they want, but they need to hear from us! Our perspective can shed light on a different reality during decision making. We are all after the same prize—creating a healthier population.

First, some history. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) was founded more or less in 1951 by the CDC’s first Epidemiology Division Director, Alexander Langmuir, who recognized the important role of state and local epidemiologists and tasked them to decide what diseases should be reported nationally. This meeting, held by CSTE in 1951, generated the first fully-documented list of notifiable diseases. CSTE has continued to hold the responsibility for defining and recommending the diseases and conditions that are reportable within states.

Since its beginning, CSTE has grown into a national organization for state, local, tribal, and territorial epidemiologists across disciplines and disease categories, representing their interests with CDC, other national organizational partners, and Congress. CSTE’s work includes infectious disease, maternal and child health, chronic disease and oral health, and injury, environmental health, and occupational health. It recently started a subcommittees for public health law, epidemiology methods, and the integration of public health and primary care. CSTE also keeps up on current and important issues, like substance abuse, MERS-CoV and other outbreaks, and informatics. By joining CSTE, epidemiologists become part of a public health network that delivers up-to-date information on important issues and allows us to benefit from professional development opportunities, and participate in networking events.
But why should you join? You’re like me—a local epi. And as local epi’s, we have a perspective to offer CSTE and its many program areas and subcommittees. We should join CSTE not only for what CSTE can offer us as applied epidemiologists but also for what we can offer CSTE. How do federal policies filter down to local jurisdictions when they’re implemented? What challenges do local jurisdictions face when funding is cut or a major incident occurs? How does what we do differ from that at the state level? What successful programs or challenges do we experience in our day-to-day work that we want others to know about? These are all examples of ways we can help CSTE represent all applied epidemiologists. These are ways we can add our perspective to CSTE’s activities. These are reasons why we as locals should join CSTE.
Click here for more information about CSTE membership.
Laurene Mascola, MD, MPH, FAAP is the chief of the acute communicable disease control program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. She is the Vice President of CSTE.

Tags:  local epidemiology  membership 

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