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An Update on CSTE’s 2019-2020 Presidential Priorities

Posted By Sharon Watkins, PhD, CSTE President and Pennsylvania State Epidemiologist, Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Happy New Year to all CSTE members and non-member applied epidemiologists in our community! We have reached the midway point of my tenure as CSTE president, and I’d like to update readers on my Presidential Priorities for the term and offer a progress report on the status of this work. Each year, the CSTE President sets forth a list of Presidential Priorities.

These are key areas impacting the field of applied epidemiology that the organization, Executive Director and Executive Board work to advance during the year. Presidential Priorities change from year to year, and I immediately began working to articulate and implement my priorities in Fall 2019. Working closely with CSTE staff, I identified two Presidential Priorities that align closely with goals in CSTE’s 2018-2020 Strategic Plan.

The identified priorities are:

• Priority B3, Under Strategic Pillar B (Develop, Expand & Diversify the Epidemiology Workforce) – Develop & Foster Leadership

• Priority A2, Under Strategic Pillar A (Establish Leading Edge Public Health Applied Epidemiology) – Co-Develop Infectious & Non-Infectious Disease Surveillance Initiatives

I am pleased to report that work is well underway in the CSTE National Office to implement both priorities. To develop and foster the next generation of epidemiology leaders, I proposed the development of a forum/platform to train mid-level leaders, some of whom are former CSTE fellows, and provide them opportunities for additional mentorship, exposure to advocacy and public policy, and partnership across states, disciplines and outside organizations. The idea is similar to APHL’s Emerging Leader Program.

In response to this priority, the CSTE Workforce Team is currently working to develop an interactive mid-level leadership training opportunity to be launched in 2020. Additional focus upon this priority will offer early career epidemiologists more exposure to the national picture in our field, and I look forward to the new trainings becoming reality.

The second Presidential Priority focuses on the co-development of Infectious Disease and non- Infectious Disease surveillance initiatives, and this is also the basis for the 2020 Presidential Priorities Award via abstract submission. Like years past, applied epidemiologists across the U.S. will have the opportunity to submit their abstract for the Presidential Priorities Award, so long as the abstract exemplifies partnership and participation between ID and non-ID entities on an outbreak or surveillance initiative. Projects demonstrating a use of data that supports cross-disciplinary partnership and a harmonized response with the best use of available tools will better compete for the award.

CSTE’s ongoing Data: Elemental to Health campaign is an example of a cross-disciplinary project that has been successful in the last year, as the effort yielded $50 million in new federal funding to modernize CDC’s data infrastructure. Ongoing national responses to the opioid crisis and the EVALI outbreak are also recent examples of ways that ID and non-ID epidemiologists are partnering on surveillance initiatives that require a harmonized approach.

We have received a number of abstracts already for the 2020 Presidential Priorities award, and I look forward reviewing these projects and determining the potential for a breakout session that will take place at the 2020 Annual Conference to discuss the award-winning project. Overall, it has been a privilege to serve as your president in 2019 and now 2020. I look forward to further implementing these priorities and to all CSTE will achieve in the future.

Dr. Sharon Watkins is CSTE’s Executive Board President for the 2019-2020 term and the Pennsylvania State Epidemiologist.

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