I am interested in gaining and bridging experiences in the public and private sectors to enhance disease surveillance for and with underserved and structurally oppressed communities in the U.S. My goal is still vague, but I’d love to work toward that mission in whatever position I find and connect with.
I engaged with other epidemiologists in conversation about transmission, outbreaks, and determinants of pandemic intensity; I analyzed national health data to detect unusual levels of illness at a regional level; I conducted research about transmission and illness within subpopulations of the company’s user base; I contributed to discussions on how to improve accessibility of, remove bias from, and optimize data collection with the company’s products.
I had so many opportunities to apply concepts and quantitative methods that I learned in my first year of classes! I also came to recognize the importance of public health insight in any private company tangential to human and population health. Finally, I learned so much from my colleagues, all of whom came from various backgrounds in academia and the public sector — their experiences in departments of health across a variety of states were simultaneously similar and drastically different!
Most rewarding: developing skills and confidence with analytical methods.
Most challenging: asking for help when needed. I often felt like if I spent more time on something, I could eventually figure it out, and simultaneously I felt like my colleagues’ work was more important and they wouldn’t have time for me and my self-titled small issues. But once I started asking, everyone was enthusiastic and helpful, often engaging in the quest for information with me when they didn’t have a solution right away!
Most surprising: I was apprehensive about entering the health tech space, but found that there is important public health work to be done in the private sector, and I felt like my team was integrated both with the consumer-facing side of our company, as well as public agencies such as departments of health.
In my first year of the program, I learned statistical analysis and data visualization with the programming language R, learned how to calculate descriptive statistics and fill in tables about study populations, learned about different types of biases and how to be wary of and account for them, and learned about the heterogeneity across populations that results in different rates of transmission or manifestations of disease. All of these things made me feel comfortable participating in discussions, research, and presentations within the company.
I was pretty daunted when I started, worrying that I wouldn’t know as much as I needed to on the job. But I soon learned that workplaces have their own softwares, processes, and structures, and you’ll learn them as you go. The first week or two was mostly orientation: setting up accounts, learning internal processes, and getting to know my colleagues so I could collaborate with them in the following months. You’ll be fine! They want people who aren’t afraid to share their ideas and ask for help.