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Career Profile: Epidemiologist - W. Tun

Career Profile: Epidemiologist - W. Tun

W. Tun, Ph.D., Epidemiologist, Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer, Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, Georgia

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become an epidemiologist because I have always been interested in international development. After graduating from college, I spent a year as a volunteer in India teaching English to Tibetan refugees. This experience influenced my decision to focus on public health problems in developing countries. I was also drawn to the field because of the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southeast Asia, particularly in Burma where I was born and still have strong ties.

Within the field of public health careers, I chose epidemiology because it allows me to combine my strength in math and analysis with my interest in addressing social problems. Epidemiology is fascinating because it examines how the occurrences of diseases are impacted by diverse factors, from microbial and physiological, to environmental and behavioral. I briefly considered a career in clinical medicine. Ultimately, I found public health careers more appealing because of its ability to impact whole communities simultaneously, rather than a single patient at a time. It was a perfect career choice for me.

• Bachelor of Arts, Math, Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania
• Master of Health Sciences, Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland
• Doctor of Philosophy, Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday involves the work I do for the Health Services Research and Evaluation Branch in the Division of Sexually Transmitted Disease Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of my time is devoted to conducting research on the epidemiology of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) along with the quality of patient care, and evaluating STD prevention interventions.

My Duties:

• Writing protocols for research or evaluations – I recently wrote a protocol to evaluate an intervention used at the San Francisco STD clinic to help control the syphilis outbreak in gay/bi-sexual men.

• Developing research instruments, such as surveys, data collection forms, and electronic databases – In one study, I developed a questionnaire to examine the changes in sexual and drug-injection behaviors of illicit drug users.

• Collecting data (conducting interviews or administering surveys) – For the San Francisco project, data collection involved interviewing clinicians and conducting focus groups with gay/bi-sexual men. As you advance in the field, data collection becomes a minimal part of your time.

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