The Value of a Global Network of Field Epidemiology Training Programs: HPC Fellow, Stephen Kim, The Task Force for Global Health

Stephen Kim is a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow working with The Task Force for Global Health. At The Task Force for Global Health, Stephen had the opportunity to support the development of new learning strategies and initiatives for the global Field Epidemiology Training Program. Read on to learn about his placement as a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow.

Late 2002 into early 2003, I was a boy living in Shanghai, China in close proximity to a new public health threat, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which began in the Guangdong province of southern China.

In 2020, a new Coronavirus labeled 2019-nCoV is an emerging public health threat that is receiving global attention.

As a Hilton Prize Coalition Fellow, I had the opportunity to work for The Task Force for Global Health, an organization that supports Field Epidemiology Training Programs (FETPs). FETPs educate field epidemiologists, also known as disease detectives, giving them the skills to conduct disease surveillance, outbreak investigations, and biostatistics. Some examples of their work include airport quarantine, surveillance, case investigation, contact tracing, clinical management and infection control guidance.

It is times like these that we come to understand the value of field epidemiologists. Consequently, training field epidemiologists is an effective tool in building local, state, and national public health capacity in order to respond to the needs of their respective populations. As I write this blog, many FETPs are working to prepare and fight this new public health threat.

Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network (TEPHINET) is one of the networks under The Task Force for Global Health. TEPHINET is a secretariat and global network of FETPs. TEPHINET supports FETPs by providing quality improvement through accreditation programs, professional development opportunities such as scientific conferences, and management and training to FETPs and FETP graduates through funded projects.

Whether it be a manual, strategy, academic program, policy, or standard procedure, materials have to be revised to remain current and relevant. Likewise, FETPs require new learning strategies, “to support and ensure a well-trained global professional field epidemiology workforce prepared to address evolving public health priorities.” As a Fellow, I had the opportunity to support the development of a new learning strategy for the global FETP community by working closely with the TEPHINET Secretariat and FETP Learning Advisory Council (FLAC).

My fellowship started when the program was at its busiest. TEPHINET was hosting their 10th Global Scientific Conference in less than a month. Thus, I began my fellowship with a virtual meeting with the Learning Advisory Council that consisted of subject matter learning experts across the world dialing in from different time zones. The 10th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference was our first opportunity to present the newly formed FLAC and its learning initiatives to the FETP community. FLAC members served as facilitators, while attendees formed small groups for discussions around insights, and successes and challenges of FETPs. I participated in a small group as a note taker while participants shared their experiences. I gathered group responses to identify common themes from the session. The discussion validated our plans for strategic direction.

I was also involved with coordinating the formation of functional sub-working groups and the external and internal mapping of learning initiatives. Working groups are ad-hoc groups tasked with developing criteria and action plans for key components of the learning strategy consisting of FETP staff, faculty, and alumni.

As I reflect on my time at The Task Force, I am inspired by many of the field epidemiology fellows, faculty, and professionals that support the FETPs. Mentorship, collaboration and partnership are at the heart of the widely successful growth of FETPs across the world. There are currently 71 FETPs programs training epidemiologist in more than 100 countries with over 12,000 FETP graduates around the world. Such growth would not have been possible without the partnerships and commitment from neighboring FETPs, regional FETP networks, TEPHINET and key organizations. This global conference serves as a glance at the collaborative culture that exists within and across programs and countries. Within FETPS, many of the mentors are alumni of programs that contribute and invest their time to FETP trainees on their own time. The cycle continues when trainees that have benefited from their mentors, learn to be valuable members of their community.

In the same way, many individuals that are willing to volunteer their time for working groups to developing a global learning strategy are also those that have been supporting the development in several countries near and far. As I continue my journey as an individual and a public health professional, I want to carry on the culture of mentorship, collaboration and partnership wherever I go.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Hilton Prize Coalition and The Task Force for Global Health for this opportunity and the support I received. In the process, I was able to learn and grow tremendously as a professional. I appreciate their involvement in supporting continuous learning in public health and working in a humanitarian context.

About the Hilton Prize Coalition

The  Hilton Prize Coalition  is an independent alliance of the winners of the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, working together to achieve collective impact. Through three signature programs—the  Fellows Program, the  Collaborative Models Program  and the  Storytelling Program—the Coalition leverages the resources, talents and expertise of each of its members to innovate and establish best practices that can be shared with the global NGO and donor communities. Working in more than 170 countries, the Coalition is governed by a board comprised of the leaders of the Prize-winning organizations led by an Executive Committee and a Secretariat,  Global Impact.

To learn more about the Hilton Prize Coalition, visit  prizecoalition.charity.org, or contactprizecoalition@charity.org. Follow  the Hilton Prize Coalition on  Twitter and LinkedIn, and “Like” us on Facebook.

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