Ian Painter – October 2014 – International Society for Disease Surveillance


ISDS created the Member Highlight series as a way to highlight member achievements, interests, and inspirations in an effort to showcase successful and highly active ISDS members.¬†This month’s highlighted member, Ian Painter, is 2014 ISDS Scientific Program Committee Co-Chair.

How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?  I first became interested in disease surveillance after I started working on a project developing a now defunct surveillance system, implementing outbreak detecting algorithms. What I found interesting about the area was the need to make decisions based on the data that was available, even when the only available data was of relatively low quality.

What do you do? I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Services at the University of Washington. I do some teaching in the Community Oriented Public Health Practice MPH program, but the bulk of my time is spent on research in the areas of public health practice and disease surveillance.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy the variety of projects that I get to work on.

What excites you in the work you do? I am excited by projects that require some amount of creativity to solve, such as finding a way to conduct a randomized trial in a public health practice setting. I also enjoy any project where I am learning new things, rather than just applying knowledge I already have.

Who or what inspires you professionally? I am inspired by the students I get to work with, most of whom come into the MPH program with extensive public health work experience, both domestically and globally. I find I learn perhaps as much from our students as they learn from me.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)? I would say my involvement with the Distribute surveillance program and work that I have done around analyzing and characterizing data quality problems.

How long have you been involved with ISDS? Since the 2004 ISDS conference in Boston, but more actively since the inception of the Distribute project.

Why are you an ISDS member? Initially I became a member as a result of attending the annual conferences, though I have come to realize that the benefits of being a member extend well past just attending the annual conference.

What do you value most about your ISDS membership? I find activities that the ISDS organizes (annual conference, webinars, community of practice) very valuable. As a researcher I find great value in the connections with both other researchers and with public health practitioners that the ISDS provides.

What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)? As a researcher I do not feel that I am qualified to hold an opinion about what the biggest issue is, as the most important issues are practice based. One issue that I am particularly interested in from a research angle is the need for connections between researchers and public health practitioners. This has traditionally happened both from the point of view of disseminating research findings to the practice community, but I believe there is an equal need for researchers to listen to the practice community to find out where research is actually needed.

If you were not a professor, what would you be? Probably a photographer, specifically nature and landscape photography.