Journal Article

Commentary: What Contributes to a Successful Career in Epidemiology in the United States?

Ross C. Brownson, Jonathan M. Samet and Stephen B. Thacker

in American Journal of Epidemiology

Published on behalf of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Volume 156, issue 1, pages 60-67
Published in print July 2002 | ISSN: 0002-9262
Published online July 2002 | e-ISSN: 1476-6256 | DOI:
Commentary: What Contributes to a Successful Career in Epidemiology in the United States?

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The authors conducted a study examining perceived enabling factors and barriers to a successful career in epidemiology, the role of mentoring in facilitating one’s career, where graduates are most often being employed, and key competencies for future epidemiologic training. During June to August 2001, they surveyed senior epidemiologists across the United States (n = 248) in four sectors: state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and schools of public health. The top enabling factors were dedication to hard work and having an intrinsic curiosity and a sense of discovery. The most frequently cited barrier was balancing career and family life, except among minority respondents, for whom an unsupportive supervisor was the leading obstacle. Influential characteristics of a mentor were high integrity and the provision of inspiration and encouragement. The top competencies anticipated for the next 10 years were skills working in multidisciplinary teams and in using modern information technologies. Important competencies varied somewhat according to work sector. These findings may be useful in training and career planning among aspiring epidemiologists and for educational policy development among organizations promoting training and mentoring.

Keywords: career choice; epidemiology; mentors; public health; research support; training support; Abbreviations: CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; EIS, Epidemic Intelligence Service; NCI, National Cancer Institute; NIH, National Institutes of Health.

Journal Article.  3971 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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