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Qualifications of an epidemiologist

(go to Outline)

Epidemiology, although a valuable scientific discipline, is largely common sense. A little reflection combined with clear thinking can make epidemiologic principles relatively clear. Nonetheless, an epidemiologist charged with organizing and supervising the implementation of a surveillance system, survey, or other data collection and analysis should have had experience in such activities before taking on such a task. Moreover, because data collection almost always involves many different stakeholders, epidemiologists need to have some measure of diplomatic negotiating skills to design and implement data collection which meets the needs of many organizations.

Surveys may be more complicated and require more specialized knowledge and experience than other types of data collection. Ideally, persons responsible for carrying out a survey should be familiar with:

  • The logistical requirements of a survey
  • Selecting and training survey workers
  • Proper techniques for interviewing respondents and collecting biologic specimens
  • Data entry and data cleaning, including setting up the data entry program
  • Data analysis, including techniques necessary for data derived from surveys using complex sampling
  • Presentation of results in a standard fashion
  • Formulation of appropriate conclusions and recommendations
  • Report writing and verbal presentation

It may be difficult to find a person with such broad experience who can stay in the field for the entire duration of the survey, from planning through dissemination of the results. However, visits at strategic points in the process or long-distance technical advice may suffice.