Editor’s note: In spring 2017, CSTE awarded the second student scholarship to Carrie Clippinger, MPH of Pennsylvania. Carrie is a recent Penn State College of Medicine graduate looking to begin her career in epidemiology with a focus on substance use, mental health and suicide prevention. Carrie has written a blog on her experience as the 2017 CSTE Student Scholar.
I am honored to have been chosen as the 2017 recipient of the CSTE Student Scholarship. Attendance at the 2017 Annual Conference was especially exciting, as it was the largest gathering of applied epidemiologists in U.S. history. It was my first time visiting the host city Boise, Idaho, and I enjoyed exploring the friendly mountain desert city, known for its scenic trails and Basque culture.
Participating in such a large event has given me valuable perspective into the work of public health professionals. As a recent graduate, it was refreshing to see real world and cutting-edge application of epidemiological principles. Although insightful work was presented in every track, I was most drawn to discussions of mental health and substance use, which align with my professional work. The topic of the hour was opioids, and it was fascinating to learn how government epidemiologists across the nation – with vastly different authority and resources at their disposal – are tracking this epidemic with the tools available. Despite huge differences in how each agency tackled this problem, most presenters agreed that strong community cooperation was an integral component of their opioid epi work.
I was also particularly interested in discussions of suicide surveillance, a topic which I am heavily involved in rural Pennsylvania. Again, I was struck by the diverse range in epidemiologists’ ability to monitor suicides, the variance in relationships with community partners and coroners or medical examiners, and the creativity with which public health professionals across the nation are collecting and analyzing data on suicides and suicidality. There was a particular emphasis on the sensitive nature of the research, the need for flexibility to address localized concerns, and ethical considerations.
Idaho’s public health efforts were well-represented during a standout plenary on the state’s work with its refugee populations – the largest per capita of any state in the nation. I also enjoyed attending breakout sessions on public health law – a timely and impactful topic that inspired reflection on epidemiology’s role in protecting public health. Engaging presentations on climate change, tickborne disease, water supply infrastructure, and maternal and child health were also eye opening. On the whole, successful projects at the conference included novel research methods such as geomapping, the use of real-time data gathered through new technologies, and the use of syndromic data – demonstrating that epidemiology is not a static discipline. Across the board, projects showcased the power of epidemiology to adapt and innovate.
Networking with CSTE fellows and attendees was truly invaluable. Seeing and learning from the practical, meaningful work of epidemiologists from a wide diversity of career paths was a unique opportunity that holds great importance for me as a recent graduate. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the scholarship for making my attendance at the CSTE Annual Conference possible. The Student Scholarship will undoubtedly continue to be an influential experience for future recipients.
To donate to the CSTE Student Scholarship, visit http://bit.ly/1YUbvp8.