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Career In Epidemiology Part-2

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The west is relatively disease-free due to work of epidemiologists. As an example, Shailee Tanna, a Canadian medical student, informs, “In Canada along with a lot of research, resources and money have been invested in studying and developing prevention and control programs for diseases such as the West Nile disease and the SARS. Due to this, SARS has been effectively controlled since after the epidemic in 2003, and Canada now experiences around 1 case of West Nile virus annually.”
What also needs to be told is that epidemiological research has profound influence on ‘routine’ clinical practice of doctors. It acts as the primary fodder needed to validate those treatments or practices, and even conceptualize new ones.
Focus India
In India, there is a general shortage of trained manpower – particularly field trained epidemiologists, at various levels of the public health system. It is estimated that the country requires minimum of 1000 trained epidemiologists (one per district). Ms. Shruti Priya, faculty at Institute of Science, Mumbai, observes, “In India, epidemiology is in a developing stage. It will need efforts from all ends to get ahead in terms of control of diseases and ailments.”
However, with the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project being implemented in the country, the demand for trained epidemiologists is increasing.
Career scope and training
Dr. Manoj Murhekar, Dy. Director, National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) states, “Medical students, during their undergraduate years are taught about epidemiology (as a part of Preventive and Social Medicine or Community Medicine). There are very few courses in the country that teaches epidemiology exclusively. Most of the MBBS graduates who want to take career in Epidemiology do MD in Preventive and Social Medicine or Community Medicine. For interested candidates, career options are aplenty as a researcher, or in state/central public health sectors as well as in NGO’s” Internationally, one could look forward to working in organizations like WHO and UNICEF, or even in many health centers and research universities. Employment of epidemiologists is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2008.
Some training institutes
  • National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE)
  • IndiaClen
  • Dr.M.G.R. Medical University, Chennai
  • National Institute of Communicable Diseases 
Epidemiologists may specialise in:
  • Clinical Health Industry (Clinical Epidemiology)
  • Infectious Diseases (e.g., HIV, Tuberculosis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases),
  • Chronic Diseases (e.g., Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes)
  • Occupational/Environmental
  • Diseases
  • School Health
An epidemiologist should be a believer in logic and of analytic nature. He must be ready to work in rural areas and capable of taking up extensive travel.
Not all are too enthusiastic as far as epidemiology is concerned. Rahul Unnikrishnan, a medical student at Jubilee Mission Medical College in Trichur, Kerela, says, “As a student, I am not particularly interested in epidemiology.” He is quick to add though, “As a health professional, I feel it is important to learn diseases on a wider pattern. The epidemiological aspect gives an idea to a doctor of what he should expect in a patient with a certain set of symptoms.”
Despite knowing the vitality of epidemiology, what is it that stops the young lot from pursuing epidemiology? Primarily, it is the lack of awareness, general non-interest, and even non-availability of recognized courses and training. Dr. Khan quips, “I know one thing that if the doctors get an idea that they can earn more through epidemiology, they will surely join this field of health.”
The final word
Dr. Vivek Gupta, MD, is a Senior Resident in Centre for Community Medicine at AIIMS, New Delhi. In attempt to reduce the lackluster attitude towards epidemiology, he says, “The most important message, I would like to pass on is that there is an urgent need to improve the level of exposure our graduates have to epidemiology. Further it should be understood that the science of epidemiology does not need the knowledge of medicine. There are numerous fields such as Nutritional epidemiology, Environmental epidemiology, Social epidemiology, etc. that are open to students from diverse fields such as sociology, dietics, statistics, microbiology etc. With the growing gap in the availability of health services versus their requirement, the focus is now shifting towards prevention of disease and that is where the core strength of epidemiology lies. I see it as an up and coming field and as a good career path for our younger generation.” Epidemiology is a vast topic and there is more to it that can be put on paper. In a nutshell, global initiatives to improve public health ensure that epidemiologists are here to stay. Careers in Epidemiology Part-1


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