Victoria Hall, DVM, MS, a first-year officer in the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, sat at a table in the hallway of a downtown Atlanta convention center and admitted that she felt a little nervous. Current and past EIS officers mingled nearby, filling the corridor with a clamor.
Hall was about an hour away from presenting for the first time at the EIS conference, a yearly forum that highlights the program’s health-related investigations from the past year. She was tasked with presenting the results of an investigation into deaths associated with opioid use in Minnesota.
“I think with a crowd as distinguished as those who come to the EIS conference, it is a little nerve-wracking,” Hall, who is embedded with the Minnesota Department of Health, told Infectious Disease News in an interview.
She is not alone in feeling this way. According to interviews with more than a dozen current and past EIS officers, presenting at the conference can be a daunting experience. Part of what makes it so challenging, officers told Infectious Disease News, is that an equal amount of time is allotted for questions, and EIS alumni have a reputation for trying to stump presenters.
“It’s a known thing that you get trained for over and over again,” Neil Gupta, MD, MPH, team leader of the International Infection Control Program in the CDC’s Division of Healthcare Quality and Promotion and a former EIS officer, said.
Upon completing the program, EIS officers often remain in public health, including many who fill influential positions in state and federal health agencies. Several past EIS officers have gone on to become CDC directors.
Many alumni return to the annual conference. This year, at least one member from the inaugural EIS class of 1951 showed up, according to a board inside the convention center that tallied the year of each attendee. And a current EIS officer said a member of the class of 1964 asked a question after one presentation.
Sharon V. Tsay
Sharon V. Tsay, MD, a first-year EIS officer in the CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch, said preparation can take some of the pressure off when presenting results. A day earlier, Tsay presented for the first time, apprising attendees on an investigation into the first Candida auris cases in New York state.
“I was so prepared by the time I got up there that I was like, ‘Bring it on!’ ” she exclaimed.
Jesse Bonwitt, BVSc, MSc, a first-year EIS officer embedded with the Washington State Department of Health, is seen presenting the results of an award-winning investigation.
Presenting on an obscure topic can help, too, according to Jesse Bonwitt, BVSc, MSc, a first-year EIS officer embedded with the Washington State Department of Health. Bonwitt’s presentation about a man who was infected with Wohlfahrtiimonas bacteremia from a previously undescribed vector — the green bottle fly — was well-received.
Bonwitt won the Donald C. Mackel Memorial Award, which recognizes the investigation that best exemplifies collaboration between epidemiology and laboratory science.
“I was a bit nervous,” he said, “but I had the advantage of presenting something that very few people know about.” – by Gerard Gallagher
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