Victor Del Rio Vilas – International Society for Disease Surveillance


How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you? I first appreciated the importance of disease surveillance during the devastating 2001 foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the UK. I was a field veterinarian at the time and received instructions from HQ about what premises we should visit first based on priority tracings and proximity to infected-premises. I wanted to know more about that “science” that led our efforts on the field and months later I started an MSc in Epidemiology.

What do you do? I am Veterinary Public Health Advisor with PAHO based in Rio de Janeiro where I work on regional zoonoses such as rabies, pest, leishmaniasis, and others. 

What do you enjoy most about your job? The feeling that what we do makes a difference. Especially to the less fortunate groups in society.

What excites you in the work you do? I would not go as far as call it “excitement” but I enjoy improving surveillance processes. I enjoy the identification of applications from other fields to my surveillance problem.

Who or what inspires you professionally? My peers. I admire knowledge and humility in equal parts. I have been privileged to spend time with some amazing people with these two unbeatable treats that, in my opinion, support the scientific pursuit. I also find inspiring the bunch of professionals from so many disciplines that contribute to the mastering of surveillance systems.  

What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)? I cannot isolate a precise moment or outcome. I have got good memories of projects delivered in time and up to expectations when I led research. I have also got fond memories of my involvement in outbreaks of infectious diseases during my time at the Ministry of Agriculture in the UK. I led the preparation and delivery, as per regulations, of two outbreak epidemiological reports and I like to think that the systematization that the compilation of the report required, helped with the disease control efforts.

How long have you been involved with ISDS? I attended my first conference in Boston in 2004. Since then, I probably failed to attend to a couple of conferences. Otherwise, I was always there. I became a member of the Outreach Committee some years ago too and, through a number of experiences, had the chance to use some of the pool of knowledge and expertise within the ISDS community to organize, for example, the scientific writing workshop in Uzbekistan or the translation of the SS101 webinar into Russian. I look forward to continue this productive relationship in the future.

Why are you an ISDS member? These days I guess the familiarity with some of the faces and names within the ISDS community. I have been around long enough to feel part of it. The society should do more to speed up this sense of membership/community for all new comers.  I also like the good progression in recent years in terms of internationalization of the society; and I would like to see more efforts on international activities.

What do you value most about your ISDS membership? The availability of a huge pool of disease surveillance expertise. Also, the reputation of the society and its reliability. I have experienced the commitment and flexibility of the ISDS community and staff during the planning and development of some joint activities such as the organization of workshops.

What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)? I can think of a few now. However, I would like to focus on the policy side of the process. I believe that there is a need to match up the refinement in surveillance mechanisms with similar processes for the handling of information at the decision making level. Also, I would like to see more on standards relating to comprehensive evaluation of surveillance systems from the technical and user-based standpoints.

Finish this sentence: In 10 years, I will have…the same appetite and rush for learning; the same inquisitive mind; the same ability to be amazed by new ideas and developments, and the ability to recognize them.