Stopping Outbreaks At Their Source: The Vital Work of Epidemic Intelligence Disease Detectives
By Diana Robelotto
Ever wondered who are the first people sent out to investigate when a disease outbreak occurs? Enter the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) officers.
EIS officers are boots-on-the-ground “disease detectives” who investigate outbreaks and work on a variety of essential long-term and emergency response health challenges here in the United States and across the globe. Their detective work has protected and saved lives domestically and internationally for more than 65 years.
The 68th annual EIS conference was recently held in Atlanta. At the conference, EIS officers, CDC staff and others have the opportunity to present their research, discuss the findings and take part in professional networking. With more than 1,000 attendees each year, current and prospective future EIS officers come to learn and network with others in their field as well as recruit new officers.
Once their EIS service is complete, former EIS officers continue to play a critical role in protecting the public’s health through their service in a variety of organizations, ranging from the federal government to state, local and territorial health public departments, academic institutions, philanthropies, non-governmental organizations or business.
These incredible individuals put their lives on the line to ensure that all of us are protected. Just this month, Sarah Luna, PhD (EIS class of 2016 member), tragically died while serving with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a nonprofit organization focused on the unique health needs of Alaska Native and American Indian people. Dr. Luna died when the float plane carrying her to a remote village in Alaska crashed.
In Dr. Luna’s honor, the TED-style sessions at the EIS conference will going forward be named the Sarah Luna Memorial TED-style Sessions to honor her spirit and commitment to public health. In 2018, Dr. Luna delivered an inspirational TED-style talk at the 67th annual EIS conference. Today, our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Dr. Luna, including her colleagues in EIS.
The CDC Foundation manages the Epidemic Intelligence Service Alumni Association (EISAA), whose mission is to foster and sustain a sense of collegiality among its members and to promote the welfare of the EIS Program. In recent years, the EISAA has revitalized to strengthen its membership base, enhance networking and alumni communications and support the EIS program’s role as the premier public health training program in the world.
We are proud to support these disease detectives and their lifesaving work, and we encourage you to learn more about them on CDC’s website.
Diana Robelotto is the director of alumni affairs for the CDC Foundation.
Photo top: EIS officers are called upon to respond to health threats in the United States and across the globe. (David Snyder/CDC Foundation)