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Mr Epidemiology

No, I'm not a skin doctor

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Interviews

Featured Interview with the Queen’s University School of Graduate Studies

Friend of the blog Sharday Mosurinjohn recently interviewed me for a profile on the Queen’s University School of Graduate Studies website. The first paragraph of her (very flattering) interview is below, and follow the link provided for the whole thing.

Atif Kukaswadia – AKA Mr. Epidemiology – is here to help you understand the science that’s important to your life. As a PhD candidate in Queen’s Department of Public Health Sciences and a science writer for the Public Library of Science (PLOS) blogs network, Kukaswadia is immersed in creating and reporting on scientific knowledge of direct relevance to the public, and he wants to share the wealth.

Kukaswadia moved to Canada in 2002 with his family from the UK. He started his undergraduate degree in Biology at Carleton University, where he focused on ecology and studied caterpillars, butterflies and mud shrimp. The thing Kukaswadia most enjoyed about ecology was how “everything was interconnected – you never study one squirrel in isolation. You study the whole environment and how elements of the environment interact.”

While he enjoyed Ecology, he realized that studying butterflies and caterpillars wasn’t for him. So he started a second degree in Health Psychology. Using his background in ecology, he began looking at humans the same way he had been trained to look at non-human animals and, specifically, at how the environment affects humans. This combination of interests led him to Queen’s, and the Department of Public Health Sciences.

Click here to continue reading!

Interview with Margriet Den Boer about Leishmaniasis: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about MSF’s Scientific Day (to be held this Friday, May 25th 2012). Today, I’m welcoming Margriet Den Boer, MSc, PharmD, MPH, to the blog to talk about her experiences in Bangladesh dealing with Leishmaniasis. Margriet completed her PharmD in the Netherlands and obtained a Masters Degree in Public Health in Developing Countries at the London School of Tropical Medicine. The last 10 years Margriet worked with MSF and WHO, in a combination of activities related to leishmaniasis and pharmaceutical matters, including access to drugs. Her focus is to draw more attention to leishmaniasis, and lift it out of its status of neglected disease.

For those who want to learn more about leishmaniasis, @EpiDoctor (Michael Walsh) has a great post on his blog Infection Landscapes.

Remember: You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

How did you end up with Medecins sans Frontieres? Was this always part of “the plan”?

Yes, I was always hoping to work in humanitarian aid, and especially for Medecins sans Frontieres, even though with my background in pharmacy and pharmacology there are not that many possibilities. I was very lucky as MSF Holland opened up a pharmacist position after I finished my studies. At that time I was the only pharmacist in MSF – now there is a whole network of them.

Continue reading “Interview with Margriet Den Boer about Leishmaniasis: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Interview with Petros Isaakidis about HPV and HIV: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

So on Monday I spoke a little bit about MSF’s Scientific Day (to be held this Friday, May 25th 2012). Today, I’m welcoming Petros Isaakidis, MD, PhD, to the blog to talk about his experiences in India with HPV. Petros is a medical epidemiologist. He has worked as a clinician for the National Health System in various parts of Greece and as an epidemiologist for the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, in Athens. He was a biological disasters planner during the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, and in-charge of infectious diseases surveillance and outbreak investigations. He has been volunteering and working for humanitarian organizations, mainly Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Zimbabwe, Gaza Strip & West Bank, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, Lesotho and India. During this period he coordinated medical projects, especially large scale HIV and TB projects and supported evidence generation through field-based operational research projects.

Remember: You can follow along online on the MSF Facebook page, Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

Hi Petros! Welcome to Mr Epidemiology! Why don’t we start with you telling your audience who you are and where you work?

Hi! Thanks for the hospitality! I’m a Medical Epidemiologist (which is only slightly different from a skin doctor…) and I am currently with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Mumbai, India working as Operational Research Focal Person.

Continue reading “Interview with Petros Isaakidis about HPV and HIV: MSF Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

MSF Scientific Day 2012 Trailer from MSF on Vimeo.

I was recently contacted by Becky Roby, an intern with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in the UK. The guys over at MSF hold an annual Scientific Day, where public health professionals working for MSF and other organizations come together to discuss their research. There’s an agenda available online for you to check out. Their speakers are in the thick of the action, helping people at the grassroots level.

What piqued my interest though is that they are fully embracing social media for their conference. While I have discussed how you can use Twitter at a conference (along with SciCurious), MSF will be livetweeting the conference. They are streaming it online, and you can ask questions on Twitter that the researcher can address in the post-presentation Q&A period.

You can follow along online on their Facebook page, on Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

I’m hoping to have a few interviews up this week with people involved with the Scientific Day, so make sure to check back! Today, I’m welcoming Becky Roby to the blog, who is helping organize the Scientific Day.

Continue reading “Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Mr Epidemiology in the news!

This was one of the interviews that I did! (Picture courtesy Rachel L.)

Recently I had a paper of mine published in the journal Obesity Facts. I was thrilled – this was one of the papers from my MSc and it had finally found a home for itself, after being rejected from three separate journals. Friend of the blog Dr Arya Sharma heard about the study, and covered it in his blog.

And that’s where things got crazy.

Queen’s put out a press release that got picked up by the media, and so I spent the better part of last week doing interviews. Among the news outlets that I talked to were the CBC, Global News, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, Canada.com, the Kingston Whig Standard and Yahoo News.

I also did radio interviews with several stations including The Motts (interview starts @ 23 minutes), The Scott Thompson Show on CHML Hamilton (Jan 24th 2012) and The Richard Brown Show on CKOM 650.

I just want to thank all the wonderful reporters who I talked to. They were really helpful and very insightful in what they asked. It was a new experience for me, and their patience was absolutely incredible. I’ll be posting some reflections next week on my dealings with the media – while it was an absolutely phenomenal experience and a huge honour, it was also terrifying and a little surreal.

Jan 30/12, 2PM EST: CDC Chat about Cervical Cancer

I’ve made no efforts to hide my love for the CDC’s outreach efforts. Their YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages are a great resource for Epidemiologists and lay people alike, and their innovative methods of engaging the public have been absolutely spectacular (see their Zombie Preparedness Guide for example). They’ve been incredible at embracing social media and are really pioneers in this area, including making a toolkit for those interested in using social media in their own organizations (link is a pdf).

As part of their outreach, the CDC does Twitter chats. This month the CDC has decided to focus on cervical cancer, and has uploaded a podcast about the disease, as well as a short fact sheet to prepare readers.

On Monday, January 30th at 2pm EST, the CDC will be using the #CDCChat hashtag on Twitter to host a conversation with Dr Tom Frieden, the CDC Director and MPH graduate from Columbia

Following the discussion last week about Twitter and how it can be used by researchers, this is a great opportunity for those interested but not sure to try Twitter out. Think about it: How many times in your life will you get a chance to ask the Director of the CDC about cervical cancer? Or his views on decreasing screening rates for cervical cancer? Or whether he thinks Epidemiologists are most like Sherlock Holmes, Batman or Nancy Drew/The Hardy Boys?

Let me know if you take part!

Blog Roundtable: Final Words of Wisdom and Advice from Graduate Students

This blog roundtable is part of a series about graduate school – why do it, what is it like, and what to do afterwards. I encourage you to give your own opinions in the comments section, and if you disagree with a point made by the panel, voice your opinion! This is something a lot of my readers can relate to, so I’m hoping to hear from all of you. Note that these are the opinions of those involved, and do not reflect our institutions or departments in any way. For a full list of the questions, read the first post.

Mr Miyagi would have had something wise to say to you. But he's not here, so the panellists will have to step in

So we come to the end of our merry adventure. We tackled a lot of very specific issues, but I wanted to give the panel an open mic – if there was anything else they would like to add, and anything they wished the could go back in time and tell their undergrad selves when they were applying, this is the place to do it.

But before we get to that, let me first thank all the readers who have commented and read this series. Your feedback has been great, and I’ve really enjoyed putting this series together. If you do have any other feedback for me as to the format, ways I can make this more interesting next time, suggested ideas for next time etc, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

Also, let me thank the panel for volunteering their time (although if I meet up with them, I owe them *at least* a coffee). They’ve been really supportive through this, and their answers have provided multiple perspectives which has been enlightening.

So, moving on to the last prompt given to the panel: What does it take to be a successful graduate student? Are there any last minute tips/advice/inspirational words you have for budding graduate students?

Continue reading “Blog Roundtable: Final Words of Wisdom and Advice from Graduate Students”

Blog Roundtable: What has surprised you so far about the grad school experience?

This blog roundtable is part of a series about graduate school – why do it, what is it like, and what to do afterwards. I encourage you to give your own opinions in the comments section, and if you disagree with a point made by the panel, voice your opinion! This is something a lot of my readers can relate to, so I’m hoping to hear from all of you. Note that these are the opinions of those involved, and do not reflect our institutions or departments in any way. For a full list of the questions, read the first post.

How Grad School is just like Kindergarten (click to embiggen) (courtesy phdcomics.com)

We’ve talked a lot so far about the grad school experience – ranging from how to pick a school/supervisor, to some thoughts on how to deal with criticism, and even dealing with impostor syndrome. To round off the series, I thought I’d spend the last two posts talking about some general thoughts and comments.

When it comes to grad school, people have very different experiences – some good, some bad, some horrific. However, there is no denying that graduate school is a very different experience to undergrad; the thinking is more sophisticated, there is more independence, and the challenges you will face are tougher and more nuanced.

To try and give those considering graduate school an understanding of what to expect beyond the academic experience, the panel was given the following prompt: what has surprised you so far about the grad school experience? In which cases did it meet your expectations and when did it fail to do so? (i.e. How is graduate school life different to undergraduate life?)

So, without further ado, lets hear from the panel!

Continue reading “Blog Roundtable: What has surprised you so far about the grad school experience?”

Blog Roundtable: Is doing a Masters and PhD at the same school frowned upon?

This blog roundtable is part of a series about graduate school – why do it, what is it like, and what to do afterwards. I encourage you to give your own opinions in the comments section, and if you disagree with a point made by the panel, voice your opinion! This is something a lot of my readers can relate to, so I’m hoping to hear from all of you. Note that these are the opinions of those involved, and do not reflect our institutions or departments in any way. For a full list of the questions, read the first post.

One advantage of staying at one place: Your degrees all match.

One issue that people face when deciding whether or not to go to Graduate School, after picking potential supervisors, is whether or not to stay at their current university or not. There are advantages to staying: along with comfort, you probably know more about the program and the supervisors (maybe even having them as lecturers in Undergrad) than another university. There are disadvantages as well: staying in one place reduces your exposure and the varied experiences you get from working with different people.

Of all the questions, this is the one that had the most variability within the panel. While for other questions there were common themes, but with this one, there was very little agreement.

Lets hear from the panel!

Continue reading “Blog Roundtable: Is doing a Masters and PhD at the same school frowned upon?”

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