Fernanda Dorea – January 2015 – 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, Fernanda Dórea, is very active on ISDS’ Research Committee.

How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you? I was in my last year of veterinary school in Brazil. I had decided that I did not want to become a clinician, but I nevertheless needed 400 hours of practice to graduate. My epidemiology professor offered me an internship at Brazil’s Department of Animal Health, which coordinates all surveillance programs in animals in Brazil. I loved the job from the first day and I realized that I could be a veterinarian without being a clinician. 

What do you do?

My principal task at the National Veterinary Institute of Sweden (SVA) was to develop a syndromic surveillance system based on laboratory test submissions. Now that the system is operational, I am primarily occupied with the development of ontologies for syndromic classification of animal health data; and the development, within a European collaboration, of a general surveillance design framework for animal diseases.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The opportunity to bring together my interests in many different fields, from biology to computer sciences. 

What excites you in the work you do?

The opportunity to be doing something new. I always feared doing research that was “more of the same”, but in my work with syndromic surveillance in animal health I really feel that we are doing innovative, groundbreaking work.  

Who or what inspires you professionally?

The learning opportunities! Knowing that the job is never “done,” and we could always learn better ways to do things. This constant learning, and venturing into new fields from economics to computer sciences or even politics inspires me daily.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)?

During my PhD I was tasked with investigating the potential of using laboratory data for surveillance purposes. I had never been exposed to syndromic surveillance before, so I was very proud to only two years later deliver a fully operational syndromic surveillance system for cattle disorders, which continues to be operational in the province of Ontario, in Canada. 

How long have you been involved with ISDS?

Since April 2013, when I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Howard Burkom. We were both participating in the advisory board of the project “Syndromic Surveillance Systems in Europe- Triple S.”

Why are you an ISDS member?

Because I truly believe in the value of networking, building things together, and learning from each other. In my opinion the ISDS creates many opportunities to bring the surveillance community together.

What do you value most about your ISDS membership?

The fact that it’s a very active membership. Webinars, literature reviews, discussions over the phone, help from ISDS to identify and contact specific experts when we need help – there are many opportunities to interact with other professionals through the society.

What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)?

Information. We have come a long way in getting more and better data, but we still lack a lot of information needed to make sound decisions.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to learn about you?

I love the winter in Sweden! I miss a lot of things about Brazil, but the hot weather is not one of them. I love the cold, the snow, and even the dark and rainy days before winter comes.