What Would a Structured Public Health Practitioner Education Look Like?

In the United States, if you want to become a physician, there is a structured way of going about it. You go to college to get an undergrad degree, preferably in some science field. From there, you apply to medical school after taking the MCAT. Once you get into a medical school, you do four years of it and then go into a residency program of some sort and of varying lengths based on what specialization you wish to pursue. At the end of that residency period, you can become board-certified in that specialization and you’re off to the races… Let’s not talk about the cost, though. Sure, there are some people who take a less “traditional” route into becoming a physician and go get a master’s degree before medical school because they didn’t do too well in their undergrad program. Or they go to a medical school outside the United States and then come back and take a series

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The True Size of the Ebola Epidemic in West Africa

One of the best skills I learned from my dad is how to read a map. I can hold it every which way and understand the layout of landmarks in it. When I drove from Texas up to Pennsylvania, before the advent of smartphones and consumer GPS units, I bought a road atlas from Walmart and used it to guide my way. I would use it again to go back and visit my relatives. Even now with Google Maps, I still can grab a map and a compass and get myself out of a jam… Or out of an adventure race. That early interest in maps that dad instilled in me also got me interested in general cartography. I still remember reading all about the different map projections and how they distort the true size and shape of things because you’re trying to project a three-dimensional sphere onto a two-dimensional rectangle. But it wouldn’t be until a website showing the

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Whose Fault Is It That I’m Fat?

We were talking in an epidemiology class the other day about the association between obesity and diabetes. It’s a pretty strong association, with a lot of good evidence that obesity causes diabetes. As the students and the professor talked about this, the other teaching assistant in the course took some pictures of us. I was standing at the podium as he took the pictures. When I saw the pictures… Well, I’d be dishonest if I didn’t admit that I was a little bit disgusted by my appearance.* I’m huge. I had managed to trend downward in my weight all of 2016 and some of 2017. But then the baby girl arrived and with her came very little sleep. That triggered habitual snacking, poor food choices for the main meals, and a total lack of will to go to the gym or head outside. Little by little, I gained back the weight I lost in 2016 and then some. Now, I’ve been

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Is Gun Violence the Symptom or the Disease?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 33,500 firearm deaths each year in the United States. There are also within those about 21,300 suicides by firearm each year in the United States. That’s over 50,000 a lot of people each year whose lives are ended by firearms. (Edit: I corrected the numbers. See the comment by “Brett” — if that’s even his real name — below. Apparently, I can’t read tables at three in the morning while trying to feed my baby. I hope that “Brett” can relate.) Of course, the cynics out there will say that these people would have died by other means if guns were to suddenly disappear from existence. That logic doesn’t hold much water. Yes, people intent on killing someone will find other “tools” to achieve their purpose. So will people intent on ending their own lives. But here’s the thing: guns are very efficient while knives, ropes, rocks and baseball

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Epidemic Curves and Homicide Counts in Baltimore

One of the tools that we use in the investigation of outbreaks is the epidemic curve, or, as we say in the biz, the “epi curve.” An epidemic curve is a simple graphical representation of the number of cases per a unit of time over a span of time. For example, you could graph the number of new cases of diarrhea when you’re investigating an outbreak of cholera. You’d be able to see when the epidemic began, if it has peaked, and in which direction is it heading… Is it ending or continuing. Epi curves are also useful in helping epidemiologists understand what kind of outbreak they’re dealing with. For example, the epidemic curve below is a point source epidemic, where the source of the infection was one single source. The cases had one exposure to the causative agent, and the agent was somehow removed from the environment and did not cause any more cases. As you can see, the epidemic started

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America First by Neglecting the World?

As you may or may not have heard, Brenda Fitzgerald, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), resigned from her post last week. Some point to her investment in tobacco and pharmaceutical companies as the reason why she left. Others don’t care why she left, as long as Anne Schuchat is Acting Director and not someone from the current Administration, and Administration that has promised to cut funding to CDC projects overseas because “America First” and other such nationalist nonsense. Speaking of nonsense, this opinion piece by Betsy McCaughey really scared the crap out of me. It scared the crap out of me because there are a lot of people (millions, probably) who think like her. Or, rather, who don’t think things through, like she seems to have done. Not only is she displaying the thinking of a nationalist and isolationist, she doesn’t seem to think that diseases overseas can come over and kill us. She starts

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