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Small and square and vital

Posted By Renata Howland, Friday, September 5, 2014

What’s small and square and given to everyone when they’re born? A blanket is an obvious answer, but after two years with the New York City Bureau of Vital Statistics, I think of a birth certificate. Before joining the New York City Health Department as a CSTE/CDC Applied Epidemiology fellow in August 2012, I had never really spent much time thinking about birth certificates—but over the course of two years I learned a great deal about vital event registration in New York City and how it relates to epidemiologists’ work.

As part of the Fellowship requirements, my first project was evaluating the New York City birth registration system as a surveillance system. As I interviewed stakeholders, observed procedures, and analyzed data to assess the usefulness, timeliness, simplicity, quality, and representativeness of the system, these attributes—which at first seemed abstract and academic—became increasingly concrete. I witnessed firsthand the enormous effort of the Bureau’s staff to process certificates quickly, maintain complex electronic systems, clean and improve data, publish annual vital event summaries, and provide data to local maternal and child health programs, researchers, and national organizations. This evaluation spurred on other projects, including assisting in the development and evaluation of a new training program for birth registrars and studying the reliability of tobacco use questions for new moms. It was exciting to see how this research directly affected the collection, quality, and interpretation of birth data.

Altogether, these experiences gave me a new perspective on my work as an applied epidemiologist, someone truly engaged with the people, processes, and consequences surrounding data. Of course, I also learned that the work was messier, more complicated, and slower moving than anything I had done in school, but ultimately I also found it to be much more rewarding.
Four months ago, I transitioned to a job in the Bureau of Maternal, Infant, and Reproductive Health. I’m now a research analyst for new grant funded project on severe maternal morbidities, using none other than birth certificate data linked with inpatient hospital discharge records. So far it’s been an amazing opportunity to apply what I learned as a Fellow to a project about which I feel passionate, and I’m grateful to my mentors in New York City who helped to make this possible.
Renata Howland, MPH is the Severe Maternal Morbidity Data Analyst at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She was in Class X of the CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellowship program, graduating in 2014. Ms. Howland was awarded the Hillary B. Foulkes Memorial Award in recognition of her outstanding work as a Fellow.
The other Applied Epidemiology Fellowship
Class X graduates are:
The Applied Public Health Informatics Fellowship
graduates are:
Robert Arciuolo, MPH—Infectious Diseases
Darlene Bhavnani, PhD—Infectious Diseases, Quarantine
Sarah Blackwell, MPH—Maternal and Child Health
Megan Christenson, MS, MPH—Environmental Health
MyDzung Chu, MSPH—Occupational Health
Kathleen Creppage, MPH, CPH—Substance Abuse
Kathryn DeYoung, MS—Infectious Diseases
Sarah File, MPH—Infectious Diseases, HAI
Mark Gallivan, MPH—Infectious Diseases
Rachel Gicquelais, MPH—Infectious Diseases
Michelle Housey, MPH—Chronic Diseases
Rebecca Jackson, MPH—Environmental and Occupational Health
Nicholas Kalas, MPH—Infectious Diseases
Jillian Knorr, MPH—Infectious Diseases
Tess Konen, MPH—Chronic Diseases
Jennifer Kret, MPH—Chronic Diseases
Kristine Lynch, PhD—Infectious Diseases, Food Safety
Michelle March, MPH—Infectious Diseases, HAI
Michelle Marchese, PhD, MPH—Environmental Health
Ellyn Marder, MPH—Infectious Diseases, Food Safety
Jason Mehr, MPH—Infectious Diseases, HAI
Catharine Prussing, MHS—Infectious Diseases, HAI
Olivia Sappenfield, MPH—Maternal and Child Health
Nathaniel Schafrick, MPH, MS—Environmental Health
Kacie Seil, MPH—Injury
Victoria Tsai, MPH—Infectious Diseases
Joshua Van Otterloo, MSPH—Infectious Diseases
Andrew Wiese, MPH—Infectious Disease, HAI
Bonnie Young, PhD, MPH—Infectious Diseases, Quarantine
Crystal Boston-Clay, MS
Bethany Bradshaw, MPH
Kailah Davis, PhD
Harold Gil, MSPH
Hannah Mandel, MS
Brittani Harmon, DrPH, MHA
Sandhya Swarnavel, BDS, MS
Lauren Snyder, MPH
Melinda Thomas, MPH

Tags:  fellowship  vital records  workforce development 

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