Epidemiologist – The Public Health Professional

When a disease outbreak occurs, epidemiologists look into the cause. When chronic disease has a disproportionate impact on a community, epidemiologists look into the causes. These scientists are public health specialists who research illness trends and causes in communities.

What is an epidemiologist?

What is an epidemiologist
What is an epidemiologist

Epidemiologists, often called “disease detectives”, these scientists work to understand the disease at hand, the risks associated with it, the distribution of the disease in and across communities, and groups of people most affected. They do this using a toolkit of various quantitative methods and well-designed studies. The results of their work are published in news articles and academic journals and inform community interventions and policies.

What do epidemiologists do?

Identify the source of the outbreak

Epidemiologists conducted field research to determine how the new virus emerged. They performed community and health-care facility surveys and collected tissues for lab testing. These studies revealed who was infected, when they fell ill, and where they were immediately before being ill.

Monitor and track the disease

Epidemiologists keep tracking the number of infected cases and collecting the information on the disease from surveillance systems that report different kinds of data, such as new cases, hospitalizations, deaths, demographic information (like age, race/ethnicity), symptoms, and treatments.

Study the disease

These researchers utilize surveillance data, including information from antibody testing and other types of investigations, to learn more about the disease, such as how long someone is contagious, risk factors for severe sickness, and the most effective medical therapies. However, to understand the disease better, epidemiologists need to co-work with many other scientists in other science fields such as biologists, chemists.

Develop guidance for actions

Develop guidance for actions
Develop guidance for actions

Using study findings, case counts, and surveillance, Epidemiologists publish resources to help people in different risk groups (like healthcare workers or older people) stay safe in different settings (like grocery stores, home, or school). This guidance is constantly being updated as new information becomes available.

What skills does an Epidemiologist require?

Epidemiology is a quantitative discipline and, as such, professionals in this field must be skilled in a variety of research methods. This includes understanding how to develop hypotheses, design studies, calculate measures of disease risk, and identify and address sources of biases 

Epidemiologists need strong math skills in order to perform various calculations, and programming skills to be able to run statistical models.

Communication skills are also key for these professionals. Epidemiologists must prepare and write reports based on the findings from the studies, and be able to effectively communicate them and their recommendations to other health professionals, policymakers, and the community.

Job Opportunities

When the COVID-19 pandemic is outbreak and the need of professional medical experts is becoming urgent. 

Epidemiologists can choose to work for national, international, public and private organisations involved in the study of patterns of health and disease in populations. The private sector, especially global pharmaceutical companies, also employs epidemiologists with strong commercial awareness

However, you can choose universities and research institutions that employ lecturers within the field of public health and epidemiology, as well as researchers working on specific projects. Or you can seek more science jobs to join the fight against disease.