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, Aaron Kite-Powell, was on the 2014 ISDS Board of Directors.
How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you?
I first learned about disease surveillance in graduate school, but it wasn’t until I began my fellowship with the Florida Epidemic Intelligence Service that I really knew this was an area of interest to me. I think certain books like the Hot Zone also influenced my career choice.
What do you do?
I’ve been an epidemiologist focused primarily on acute disease surveillance at the local and state levels, in a research and development setting, and currently as a contractor with CNTS supporting the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, Division of Integrated Biosurveillance, Innovation and Evaluation section.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy working with the data, and collaborating with others to find better ways to operationalize the data we collect, and along the way reducing the administrative and technical barriers that epidemiologists often face when trying to access data within an organization. Unfortunately public health tends to still work in silos, particularly when it comes to data and the systems that manage the data, and so finding avenues for integration is interesting to me.
What excites you in the work you do?
The collection of disease surveillance data should inform public health action. I still get excited when a specific analysis, a new data source, or a data system I’ve helped implement, can improve on current practice and help to inform public health action.
Who or what inspires you professionally?
I’ve had the opportunity to work with a great group of people throughout my career in public health, and they continue to be a source of inspiration.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)?
I’d have to say leading the implementation of ESSENCE-FL and seeing its use become part of everyday practice. I learned a lot from my colleagues at the FL-DOH and at JHU/APL during that process, and that continues today.
How long have you been involved with ISDS?
I’ve been involved with ISDS since 2005.
Why are you an ISDS member?
Well, originally I became a member because it was part of the registration process for the annual conference, but since then I’ve made great professional connections and have learned a lot from those I’ve met through ISDS.
What do you value most about your ISDS membership?
I think it has to be access to a knowledgeable and engaged community of practice that spans practice and academia. I’m always impressed by the amount of work that members put into ISDS committees and workgroups.
What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)?
There’s an ever increasing amount of electronic (clinical, laboratory, social media, etc) data being made available, and figuring out how public health practice can best use these data continues to be a challenge.
If you could meet anyone living or deceased, who would it be?
That’s tough, perhaps Mark Twain.