In our Alumni Career Spotlight series, you will meet some of our alumni and learn about the important work they are doing to create a healthier nation and world.
Employer: Indiana Department of Health
Current position: Field Epidemiologist
Location: Bloomington, IN
Degree(s): BA – IUPUI 2011; MPH – IU Fairbanks 2015
Why did you choose your major/program?
I remember watching a History Channel special on the Black Death when I was eight years old; nothing has ever caught my interest like infectious illnesses. I’m also extremely comfortable discussing difficult personal subjects with strangers, so I was thrilled to find a major where you openly discuss and educate about human disease.
Do you have any research interests?
I research annual Indiana Department of Health data to submit abstracts to annual meetings like APHA and CSTE.
Briefly describe your career path.
I worked at Eli Lilly after receiving my bachelor’s from IUPUI, which let me know I hated working in a lab. I worked in clinical research for IU Health that involved direct patient and physician contact after I left Eli Lilly. I enrolled at IU Fairbanks while working that position and was able to land an interview with ISDH.
Describe what an average day for you might be like.
I don’t have an average day. Field epidemiologists are not disease-specific, like the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the central office, and are closer to the local health departments (LHDs). In the event of an outbreak, we coordinate with the public health nurses and often the patients themselves. For example, I’m currently coordinating patient monitoring for mpox among the LHDs in my district.
What advice would you give your college self about pursuing your current career path or industry?
Take advantage of real-world experience. Join the school clubs or take an internship that connects you with current employees of the organization or area you’re interested in. Most of the time, the job description does not match the day-to-day. Luckily, people are more willing to talk than you may think. Also, networking is incredibly important, even more important than people admit. Finally, be honest. If you don’t know how to do something, ask for help (assumptions will sink you), write it down, and learn.
What is a lesson learned at FSPH that you have been able to apply to your career?
FSPH taught me that if your dream job doesn’t exist, create it. My position has a lot of freedom, and I have utilized it by building relationships in my counties so I can teach the general public about infectious diseases and be a trusted source of information in trying times.
What is the most significant thing that’s happened to you since graduating?
I procreated during the pandemic. I have a four-year-old, two-year-old, and five-month-old. I love them more than anything, but I would never recommend having children and then isolating for 2.5 years. I also worked the longest hardest hours of my life for that entire 2.5 years.
What’s next for you?
After mpox, I’m sure a resurgence of vaccine-preventable illnesses (hello polio!) after that. My job is secure, let’s put it that way.
What is your favorite IUPUI/FSPH memory?
My favorite memory was being lectured during the Infectious Disease 101 class. SMEs from ISDH, including Pam Pontones, taught about their subject matter expertise. I was star-struck, and I was frothing at the mouth thinking of a way to join their ranks.