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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

• Analyzing data – Data analysis may be qualitative or quantitative using specialized computer software. It’s a great joy when you reach this stage.

• Writing reports of program evaluations for stakeholders (i.e., health departments, Ministry of Health, US Agency for International Development) – The San Francisco STD clinic implemented some of the recommendations we made based on our intervention evaluation.

• Writing manuscripts of research results for publication – I am currently writing an article for the CDC’s publication, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, on the status and importance of screening for Chlamydia by clinicians.

• Presenting research findings at conferences – I recently gave a presentation on one of my areas of expertise, HIV treatment optimism and its effects on risk behaviors, at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok.

What I like best/least about my work…

What I like best about my work is working with different populations and learning about their culture, whether these populations are in the U.S. or in other countries. Some of these populations include injection drug users in Baltimore, gay/bi-sexual men in San Francisco, communities affected by West Nile Virus in Mississippi, Burmese migrant workers and refugees in Thailand, and healthcare providers in Russia.

One of the greatest rewards of my job is having an impact on public health programs and policies. I enjoy that, ultimately, my work will help to improve public health. For example, after evaluating the program in San Francisco, it was extremely rewarding to see my recommendations being implemented to improve their program to control syphilis.

What I like least about my work as a public health representative is that I must always communicate in a way that educates, informs, and is sensitive to the needs of the public. This is always a challenge for me, particularly in a field that deals with sexual behaviors.

My career goal is…

My career goal is to continue doing applied epidemiology (i.e., solving real-world problems in the real-world setting, rather than conducting research studies). Soon I will be transitioning into another area of public health. However, I will continue to use my skills in epidemiology. I will be working with the Evaluation, Surveillance & Research group at Family Health International (FHI). This will involve monitoring and evaluating FHI’s HIV programs overseas. I will be based in their Arlington, VA office and spend about 25-40% traveling. I am looking forward to this work because it will allow me to do applied epidemiology. This is an especially exciting time to do evaluations of HIV programs. There is much interest in expanding these programs in Africa to ensure that more HIV-infected people have access to treatments.

My interest is to continue working to improve the health of under-served populations, whether they are inner-city kids in Baltimore or HIV-infected adults in Africa. Some day, I hope to have the opportunity to work in Burma with the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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