2014 Pre-Conference Trainings – International Society for Disease Surveillance


The pre-conference trainings are community-generated professional development opportunities that address the needs of the biosurveillance workforce, and take place in coordination with the annual ISDS conference. in 2014, 4 trainings were held on December 9, 2014 in Philadelphia, PA, USA. 

Pre-Conference Agenda (pdf)

Track 1: Biosurveillance for Beginners

Target Audience: The target audience of this training is healthcare and public health professionals new to biosurveillance practice, as well as graduate students and researchers interested in obtaining a better understanding of biosurveillance.


  • Julie Pavlin, Armed Forces Surveillance Center
  • David Atrubin, Florida Department of Health and Human Services
  • Lana Deyneka, NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Nicole Schlaefli, Tulsa City County Health Department
  • Anikah Salim, Baltimore Department of Health 
  • Amy Ising, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
  • Erin Austin, Virginia Department of Public Health
  • Teresa Hamby, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

Description: This training will provide exposure to key topics central to biosurveillance and serve to orient those who are new to the field. The objective of Track 1 is to “bridge the knowledge gap” to enable participants to better understand and apply public health data for informed and meaningful decision-making and to communicate outcomes or results. It includes an overview of biosurveillance, as well as demonstrations of the integration of novel data sources (emergency department chief complaints, emergency medical services, school absenteeism, and poison control center calls) with syndromic surveillance systems and their application in daily biosurveillance practice. Track 1 is being developed based on feedback from participants who attended the 2013 ISDS Pre-Conference Workshops; therefore, it is sure to be a high quality training opportunity relevant to the practical needs of those who are new to biosurveillance.

Track 2: Biosurveillance and Policy Issues for Experts

Target Audience: The target audience of this training is healthcare and public health professionals with experience in biosurveillance practice.


  • Laurel Boyd, State of Oregon
  • Teresa Hamby, New Jersey Department of Health 
  • Julia Gunn, Boston Public Health Commission
  • Daniel Chaput, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
  • John Berezowski, Monitoring and Surveillance Systems of Switzerland
  • Judy Akkina, USDA, APHIS, VS
  • Leslie Bulaga, USDA, APHIS Veterinary Services
  • Mario Libel, Skoll Global Health Fund
  • Fernanda Dórea, National Veterinary Institute of Sweden
  • Vivek Singh, Public Health Foundation of India 
  • Flavie Vial, Veterinary Public Health Institute, University of Bern
  • Adam Crawley, Skoll Global Health Fund
  • Victor Del Rio Vilas, PAHO

Description: This training will provide experienced biosurveillance professionals with a forum for learning about and discussing current topics and policies essential to biosurveillance, as well as an opportunity to collaborate with other experts in the field to develop practical products and tools. It will include panel discussions on natural disaster surveillance and One Health Surveillance (OHS), as well as a plenary roundtable session on the “Meaningful Use”* of electronic health data. In addition, the track will feature roundtable discussions that will focus on identifying key capacity-building activites for supporting and advancing OHS approaches. Ultimately, this training is intended to leverage the collective expertise of the group to advance participants’ understanding and practice and to allow for a high-quality and seamless translation of the knowledge gained in the workshop within the participants’ organizations. *”Meaningful Use” refers to the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Records (EHRs) Incentive Programs, a major component of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act within the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) legislation. Learn more about Meaningful Use.

Track 3: Introduction to R for Biosurveillance

Target Audience: The target audience of this training is healthcare providers, public health practitioners, graduate students, and researchers.


  • Jarad Niemi, Iowa State University
  • Yevgeniy Elbert, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Eric Lau, University of Hong Kong

Description: The public health workforce (public health practitioners, healthcare providers, and academicians in research settings) require data, as well as analysis and visualization of that data, to enable and provide informed decision-making, whether clinically-based or policy-based. Continued budgetary restrictions and funding cuts have somewhat hindered the ability to purchase commercial products and applications; therefore, public health has a strong need for exposure to and training with open-source products and tools for data collection, analysis, and visualization. R is a language and environment for statistical computing and graphics (http://www.r-project.org/). It provides a variety of statistical and graphical techniques and is extensible. As an open-source product, R is freely available, making it optimal for use in a variety of settings. This training is a hands-on introduction to R for epidemiology, biosurveillance, and high-quality data visualizations.

Track 4: Mapping and Biosurveillance: Using ArcGIS

Target Audience: The target audience of this training is public health practitioners, graduate students, and researchers.


  • Natalie Jung, Esri Inc. 
  • Jarad Shoultz, Esri Inc.

Description: Advances in geographical information systems (GIS) and mapping technologies have created exciting new opportunities for public health professionals to collect, analyze, display, and share multiple types of data and information. Biosurveillance has benefited greatly from these tools and continues to be enhanced as more individuals learn the nuances of GIS. ArcGIS, the mapping software developed by ESRI, has become the industry standard and is used in most public health departments in the U.S. This session will provide an introduction and focused examples of how the ArcGIS platform can be used for biosurveillance. Topics covered include: introduction to ArcGIS Online; introduction to Esri Maps for Office and integration of Esri Maps for Office and ArcGIS Online; and introduction to Community Analyst/Business Analyst. There will be a didactic session for each topic, followed by a hands-on session to apply the skills learned. Typical geocoded tabular health data will be provided for the hands-on sessions.