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Epidemic intelligence service officer: What I do and how much I make

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my name is Mathew goers I am 29 I am an epidemic intelligence service officer at the CDC and a lieutenant commander in the United States Public Health Service so the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC works 24/7 to basically protect and promote the health of the country they do this through not only being embedded in state health department's but also working at the national level to address different types of public health threats to the American populace so this could be anything from putting out small little outbreaks like an outbreak of say salmonella or flu in your local community to more national crises such as you're responding to the Hurricanes that have recently hit but also responding to the opioid crisis that's been affecting our country so the CDC has been embedded in a lot of different parts of the United States healthcare system so I'm part of the United States Public Health Service which is the military branch under the Surgeon General and the assistant secretary of health the Public Health Service is embedded in a lot of the different institutions in the United States not only in the CDC but the NIH the Indian Health Services the Federal Bureau of Prisons public health officers have been both active in the responses that FEMA has had to a lot of the hurricanes but also has been involved in other responses internationally like the Ebola response so Public Health Services is one of the non armed services so there's the five armed services everyone thinks of and to non armed services that's ourselves and NOAA epidemiology is the study and analysis of public health health determinants and and distributions basically people who work on the population level to address public health issues whether that be something that's more like an epidemic like the flu or something that's more endemic in a population like obesity or diabetes they try and address these through not only investigating the causes but designing and making recommendations for interventions at the population level I'm part of the epidemic intelligence service our GIS here at the CDC so EIS is sort of like the country's disease detectives it's been around since the 1950s has trained about 3,500 epidemiologists to kind of be on the frontlines to put out different types of public health threats that the that America faces there's an EIS officer for almost every state in the Union but also here at the headquarters and different divisions working on very specific subject matters so for example I'm positioned at the division for global health protection and the Emergency Response and recovery branch and this is the branch that houses the global rapid response team for the CDC the team that was set up after Ebola and they've responded to about 400 public health emergencies abroad basically ever since they were established since I've joined this at the CDC I have been only two to one country so far I've been to Nigeria but I've been working in other projects that are in Iraq and in two weeks I'll be going to Papua New Guinea so my project in Nigeria was an evaluation of a surveillance system that they have in Borno State so Nigeria has been in the continent of conflict with Boko Haram since 2009 and this has led to a lot of displaced people not necessarily fleeing their country but just fleeing in other parts of Nigeria and so there are not really refugees they're internally displaced people and the camps that have been set up for them any refugee situation any internally displaced situation people are in closed quarters less than ideal conditions it can it's less than hygienic and so outbreaks can happen in these areas so they've put in place the the World Health Organization put into place a system called the early warning alert and response system or a Wars to basically disseminate phones out to these areas and where they normally couldn't send up maybe a report to a higher level because the healthcare infrastructure has fallen apart a local provider can just send a text message to their state epidemiologist tell them that we have a case of something like cholera that could cause an outbreak they can then send those epidemiologist to that area to help get that under control rather than becoming a larger scale outbreak so our project was to go there and evaluate how well this is running kind of do a full full audit see the strengths and weaknesses of that system and write up a report on how it can be done better so as a result we trained field epidemiology lab training program fellows to go out in our stay to actually conduct these interviews with hospital providers people who use the phone's community health workers basically volunteers in the community and seeing what they noticed about using these devices went well what they think are areas for improvement are the numbers that they're reporting accurate so this training that we conducted not only you know was helpful for our evaluation but we were also helping to train these epidemiologists who will be after we leave basically helping guide their country's rapid response to future crises in Papua New Guinea well we haven't gone yet so we're working on our protocol we're working on our interview forms we're gonna put those interview forms actually into an electronic database so they can use tablets so that it's more accurate and then getting it obviously translated into local languages so that it can be understood during the interviews so it's constant it's a constant juggling all these projects and kind of what's more immediate and what needs to be worked on and what preparatory work needs to be done you have to be comfortable getting very little sleep at times you know especially when you're traveling abroad that's a lot of jetlag Papua New Guinea is about 15 hours ahead so that's going to be a fun little flip you have to be used to kind of getting back to flexibility getting you know being able to do something last minute so a lot whenever you're on call for the CDC you have to be at the airport with an hour so you have to be ready for those sort of things and I'm sure a lot of people can do it it's just about getting in the right mentality and getting your you're getting yourself set and ready for it you have to be patient you have to realize that there are changing situations at all times you know there might be something abroad that you're really passionate about but that changes on you and so you might have to be able to be okay with doing months and months of groundwork and then just moving on to the next project you have to be flexible with that not only emotionally but I guess just situationally other things that I would say is you have to have you have to have a passion for it people who are passionate people who are compassionate can put more into their work and I think I work with those sorts of people and I can see what that looks like and I think if there's other people who applied to this position who didn't fit that profile I'd warn them against that because you really have to love what you do I would say one of the hardest things about this job is just learning something new I've spent my entire career learning to be a doctor learning to sit down with somebody one-on-one and listen to their story and then prescribe a treatment just to them so I think shifting to a larger scale working with populations is something new it's exciting and I love it but it's something new that takes a lot of this isn't easy work it takes a lot of work it takes a lot of extra hours and it takes a lot of commitment to learn something new whenever I was applying to the epidemic intelligence service you have the option once you get into either remain as a civilian or to join the United States Public Health Service and so I had already looked into that and I knew from just online how much I would be making as a physician my age my you know no dependents coming in so they did know upfront as an active-duty military member I have a base pay of about fifty five thousand dollars and then with some housing stipends and sustenance stipends and as an internal medicine physician I also get a bonus that comes up to about a gross of ninety thousand as for in the future you your base pay increases kind of year by year how long you've been involved if you're promoted to a higher rank so if I go from a lieutenant commander to commander my pay would go up and so I know that as long as I'm progressing in my career my pay will or should continue to increase if you spend about 20 years in service you get a I think it's about 50% of your of your highest amount of base pay the rest of your life you spend 30 years it's 75% and then in addition that you can continue to pay into other types of retirement accounts but I thought that that was something that just resonated with me because my plan was to kind of serve as long as I could at least 20 years at the CDC but at least in the Public Health Service you know and in 20 years I kind of want to be doing what I'm doing now I love this job I like I said I get to do more in just a couple months then I feel like I could have done in years as a doctor just because you reach more people at all at once and especially you get to work with some of the most vulnerable people in the world and you give them a second chance and I think that's incredible
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