Public Health Career Paths: EIS — The Physician

Public Health Career Paths: EIS — The Physician


We are here today with Dr. Ann
Schuchat who is a Rear Admiral in the United States
Public Health service. Dr. Schuchat you joined the
epidemic intelligence service program when you first
started out at CDC. This is also known
as the EIS program. What made you do that instead
of going to clinical practice? You know I was doing an
internal medicine residency and chief residency year in
New York City at the peak of the AIDS epidemic that
was emerging in the 1980s. And I loved taking
care of patients. I loved the excitement
of the hospital. I really didn’t know
what to do next. But I remembered during
medical school hearing about the EIS program
and it sounded like it might be something
exciting and different that I could do before going
back into clinical work, so it was really just maybe I’ll
try that for a little while. Well, when you came to CDC, what
program did you end up working with as an EIS officer? I was in infectious
diseases and I was assigned in what was then
called the meningitis and special pathogens branch
and we worked on a variety of bacteria that cause
meningitis like Listeria, Group B strep, pneumococcus,
meningococcus as well as unusual pathogen things that could cause toxic shock
syndrome, for instance. It sounds like a pretty
exciting area to land in. Looking back what do you
think the most interesting or exciting things you worked
on as an EIS officer was? Well the two really exciting
things that I got to do as an EIS officer were
work on projects that led to national policy change. One of them was studying
Listeriosis, which we now think of as a foodborne disease. In the late 1980s we knew it
could sometimes cause outbreaks that were foodborne, but
we really didn’t know about sporadic disease and
we did a study that proved that sporadic Listeriosis
was foodborne and that led to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture making a new policy that ready-to-eat
meats were not allowed to have Listeria in them. They had a new zero-tolerance
policy because of a project
that we did. So it was pretty exciting to see
national policy change and then about a 30% reduction
in disease follow from the work that
we were doing. That is pretty amazing. I think that’s one of the
interesting things about working as an EIS officer is, is that
you can sometimes do real change in addition to just
solving the outbreak. You can actually make
a big difference. So, as an EIS officer
you worked on it sounds like domestic or
national issues. But you’re more well
known now for working on global health issues. How is the EIS program important
to the global community? You know EIS officers get really
terrific training in the basics of epidemiology, and we try
to capitalize on the passion, and enthusiasm, intelligence,
and their willingness to try almost anything. So we know as an EIS officer
I get to go to Costa Rica on an outbreak and really
help solve a mystery in a Children’s Hospital. But these days EIS officers are
critical in the Ebola response, and in many other
global emergencies. What words of advice
would you have for someone who’s
considering going into the EIS program
for their career? The EIS program is going to be
the best two years of your life. If you come to join EIS
key things to think of are to be positive, be an optimist. In public health are
always problems out there and what you’ll get to
do is help solve them. So having a good attitude
that’s upbeat will keep you and your colleagues going. Also have an open
mind and be curious. Follow that passion and
enthusiasm because EIS is really about learning the chance to
serve, but it’s also a chance for you to learn what
really excites you in the whole universe
of public health. Well, those are great words
to live by not only for EIS, but probably life as well. So, thank you so much
for joining us today. It’s been a real pleasure
and privilege to talk to you. Thank you.

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