Job Title: Epidemiologist
Education: BA in Chemistry, Smith College MPH (Master of Public Health) in Epidemiology, University of Minnesota
Previous Experience: I worked as a bench chemist for three years after college. Then I worked at a children's hospital as a clinical research assistant, helping the doctors do research on patients with cancer. I went back to graduate school, during which I worked as a research assistant running research studies for two professors and for a major medical device company doing research on pain control. After graduate school I went back to working at the children's hospital where I ran their clinical oncology research program, after which I took my current job.
Job Tasks: My company is a non-profit organization that leads collaboration and innovation in health care quality and safety. We receive funding from federal and state government contracts, foundation and corporate grants, and health plans.
There are two parts of my job. The first part is working as a project manager with clients to develop and complete projects focused on significantly improving health care outcomes. This includes meeting with clients, helping them make decisions about and defining what they want to achieve, researching information using the internet, and creating reports.
The second part of my job is actually looking at and analyzing patient-level data, using statistical software. This sometimes includes helping our clients to develop tools or ways to collect data at their organization, which is then given to me to analyze. I take this data and identify interesting trends in healthcare, whether the project achieved the desired outcome, and areas where healthcare might be improved. For example, I help the health plans in our state, look at vaccination/cancer screening/and disease rates and see whether they are improving over time. I create reports and tables, using Excel, to communicate this information back to the client.
I also help write proposals to request new funding from new clients.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is that I get to be a kind of detective who identifies interesting trends in health care. A lot of the time, the data will tell you one thing up front, but when you dig into it, you discover really interesting, new information that no one would know without the analysis I completed. I love taking all of the pieces of data and putting them together into a final report, which tells the story of what I discovered. The worst part of my job is sometimes deadlines all occur at the same time and I need to work long hours in order to get everything completed.
1. Learn statistics and a statistical software program such as SAS.
2. Before you attend graduate school (which you'll need to complete for this career), make sure you have an idea of what you want to do.
3. Don't be afraid to try a lot of positions with different types of companies to find a good fit with your specific skill set.
4. Who you work with (your colleagues) is the most important part of job satisfaction.
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