Mr Epidemiology

No, I'm not a skin doctor


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#overlyhonestmethods – Reaching out with humour

For a week and a half, I was a minor internet celebrity!

Science has an awkward relationship with the public. There’s a perception that we exist in an ivory tower, and the common media perception (as is evident by shows like The Big Bang Theory) is that we’re somewhat socially inept, with a lack of people skills and an inability to talk about our work in a way that others can understand.

So I was thrilled when #overlyhonestmethods became a thing. There have been many little science in-jokes floating around the twittersphere; one of my favourite was the hashtag #middleearthpublichealth which came out right before The Hobbit released in theatres. Tweets like “Craving the ‘Precious’: Gollum, a case study of the public health impact of severe ring addiction, Lancet 2010” abounded, and they illustrated public health rather nicely (for more, check out Brett Keller’s blogpost). However, they only catered to a niche audience: public health professionals, and public health professionals who got the Lord of the Rings references.

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Science and Storytelling

A short post today, as I know everyone is busy, and the time you spend reading could be better spent listening to me in the YouTube video above ūüôā

I was fortunate enough to speak at TEDxQueensu last semester. For those of you familiar with the TED format, it’s a short (< 18 minute) talk about an idea or concept. Some famous ones are by Sir Ken Robinson (Schools Kill Creativity), Candy Chang (Before I die, I want to) and this talk by Simon Sinek (How great leaders inspire action). The latter is the one that inspired me to do this talk.

In a nutshell, I think science is awesome. But I also think that science is suffering a public relations crisis at the moment, with people having a hard time understanding what it is we do, and more important why scientific research matters. That idea is what fuelled my TEDx talk above.

For those wondering, TEDxQueens was a great experience. There were a range of people there, including fellow PhD candidate Heidi Penning, who spoke about her experiences raising a child with autism in her talk entitled “Discovering what lies beyond the bend.” I’d definitely recommend attending next year if this is the kind of thing you enjoy – and definitely audition if you have an idea worth spreading!

Thanks again to the TEDxQueensu team for such a great opportunity and for putting on such an awesome event.

This piece was simulblogged on Gradifying

New Post on PLOS Sci Ed: Unintentional Benefits of Open Access: The broader impact of making publications free

The Carleton University Library. I spent many hours here, studying, photocopying, sleeping. Photo via Emilybean

When I was in undergrad, we would photocopy articles down in the basement of¬†MacOdrum library at my alma mater, Carleton University. You’d have to find the call number of the journal, head down into the basement, find the right row, then bookshelf, and finally discover someone had already taken the journal to photocopy it. I learned quickly to check the photocopy room first to see if someone already had the article rather than looking for it first.

But now we’ve moved into a world where everything is done electronically. Through the power of PubMed, Google Scholar and numerous others, you can obtain PDFs of many articles via your institution. And now, many of those articles are available under Open Access rules – so anyone can access them, regardless of academic affiliation.

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New Post on PLOS Public Health: Public Health 2.0: Electric Boogaloo

Session: Public E-Health

I love conferences and seminars. Having someone who is passionate about an issue get up and present is one of the best ways to learn about something new, and can really bring something to life. But what’s perhaps most interesting is not how effectively someone can communicate an issue, but it’s in the break immediately afterwards. Do people leave to discuss the topic that was just presented? Do they leave thinking about what you said?¬†In my mind, that’s one mark of a good presenter: they make you think about the issue so deeply that it dominates the conference lunch immediately afterwards.

I had this experience last week. As part of an introductory epidemiology course, the students were allocated to a side and had to “debate” an issue. One of the topics was “Vaccination campaigns can be helped by social media,” with the two teams arguing accordingly.¬†That got me to thinking: How is social media used by public health professionals? And can it be used effectively?

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Hey Mr Epid! What should I bring to a conference?

It’s conference time! Which means three things: 1) you’re frantically applying to every travel award, scholarship and bursary available to help fund your trip, 2) you’re trying to put together your poster and/or powerpoint at the last minute and 3) if this is your first academic conference, you’re wondering what to bring with you.¬†This post is dedicated to the last point (inspired by Ars¬†and other sites).

I like to pack light at conferences. You spend most of your time shuttling between rooms and the more you have with you, the more you have to worry about. That being said, I like to have the following 7 things with me at every conference:

Here’s my conference loadout. Macbook, iPhone, satchel, USB key, business cards and water bottle ūüôā (item #7 not shown)

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Should Bloggers Publicize Their Own Work?

We’re not as adorable as this kitty, so I don’t know if we can get away with this sort of behaviour.

Science blog royalty SciCurious recently had a post up about whether it was okay for science bloggers to blog about their own work. Travis brought it up on his Science of Blogging site as well, and I started thinking about it.

One of the big issues we struggle with as researchers is getting our research out there, and having people understand not only what we did, but why we did it. While Sci and Travis talked about it in terms of blogging, this isn’t a new issue: Georg Franck wrote about it back in 1999¬†in terms of promoting your research with the media.

We want the public to know that not only is research important, but that it has practical implications, even if those aren’t apparent immediately.¬†The last thing we want is a repeat of the¬†“Squirrel Sex Research” story that came out in 2006. While publishing in reputable scientific journals is rewarded and encouraged, the lag time between submission and publication can range from 3 months to 2 years. So it makes sense to talk about your work so that the public can understand what you’re doing.

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Interesting reads: MSF Scientific Day Edition!

I’m not going to post my usual collection of links this week. Instead, I’m going to encourage all my readers to check out the MSF Scientific Day. It’s looking to be an interesting event, and the Agenda¬†and posters¬†cover a broad range of topics. They’ve been holding interviews on Twitter with the presenters (#MSFSD), and it’s been well received so far.

I’d strongly recommend participating if you can. You don’t have to watch the whole day (I know I won’t due to meetings and work), but if you have some time to kill, stop by their live stream, ask some questions on Twitter or Facebook and expand your horizons.

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

Have a great weekend! And for those of you running in the Ottawa Race Weekend, good luck!!


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.

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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 M√©decins Sans Fronti√®res (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 M√©decins Sans Fronti√®res (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!”

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