Dr Lucy Breakwell studied MSc Public Health in 2011. She has recently been accepted onto the 2013 Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) programme at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, USA.
“This July I will start a two year training post at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, USA. I am one of 82 officers selected for the 2013 Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) cohort. EIS provides on-the-job training in epidemiology both within the USA, and internationally. It is predominantly aimed at US citizens but accepts approximately ten internationals (from around 250 foreign applicants) each year. The scheme provides an amazing opportunity to become experienced in both participating and leading many different types of epi investigations.
I discovered EIS during my MSc Public Health 2010-11 at LSHTM. After an ECCD session, I’d managed to persuade Prof Paul Fine to discuss career options with me on the walk back to Keppel St. He recommended EIS as an alternative to EPIET, another training scheme in Europe, which I couldn’t apply for as I wasn’t fluent in a second language.
I originally trained as a PhD virologist at Edinburgh University and continued along this vein for a year and a half as a post-doc at The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego. I knew that I wanted my work to have more of a direct impact so started looking towards Public Health. I transitioned slowly, firstly by working for the influenza laboratory at the former Health Protection Agency (HPA) for two years, and secondly, by investing in an MSc Public Health at the LSHTM. My MSc not only expanded my epidemiology and statistics skills, it started to change my way of thinking about my work. Originally, my approach was detailed and focused, developed from years of laboratory research. Now I’ve learned to consider the hugely varied factors that can affect Public Health issues from a population level perspective. After my MSc, I worked for the Chlamydia epidemiology team at the former HPA to cement some of what I’d learnt at LSHTM before applying to EIS.
The last week of April 2013 was the EIS conference, an annual event where current EIS officers showcase their work and incoming officers are recruited to specific departments. I’d interviewed with nine groups ranging from mycotics to vaccine research. Each of these offered international work, outbreak experience and further analytical training, which were what I wanted out of my EIS experience.
On the last day of the conference, each incoming officer is handed a white envelope containing the name of the department that they’ve been matched to for the next two years. I, along with 81 other tired and anxious recruits, held my fate in my hands, while the EIS Director Doug Hamilton led a ceremonial countdown to open our envelopes. On the count of ‘zero!’, we all did, and written next to my name was the Meningitis & Vaccine Preventable Disease branch, a pairing that I’m very happy with. I’m excited to take the next step in my career in Public Health with the CDC, and look forward to welcoming you to the EIS family should you decide to apply!”