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The Epi Scholars Program is a national program offering a 10 week summer internships in applied epidemiology research to highly qualified public health masters and doctoral level students. The Epi Scholars Program provides internships at Public Health – Seattle & King County (PHSKC) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The NYC DOHMH serves as the lead agency. The program draws students from fifteen universities with schools of public health or epidemiology:

  • Columbia University
  • Emory University
  • George Washington University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Oregon Health and Science University
  • San Diego State University
  • Stanford University
  • Tulane University
  • University North Carolina - Chapel Hill
  • University of California - Berkeley
  • University of California - Los Angeles
  • University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Washington
  • Yale University

Eligibility

In order to be eligible, students must be enrolled in an MPH or PhD program currently and in the Fall of 2017.

Applicants should have:

  • Graduate level epidemiology and biostatistics coursework and experience analyzing data
  • Excellent record of academic achievement
  • Commitment and/or demonstrated interest in applied public health research
  • Potential for future leadership in the public health sector

Application materials may be found at the national Epi Scholars website.

Important dates for the 2017 program

  • 1/15/2017: Applications opens
  • 2/15/2017: Applications close
  • Mid-June to mid-August 2017: Epi-Scholar program session

Students in the Epi Scholars Program take on substantive applied epidemiology projects and are mentored by experienced public health epidemiologists. Students complete a quantitative data analysis and write a report of the findings. Students also complete a series of supplementary workshops on applied epidemiology topics. At the end of the internship students present their findings at a PHSKC meeting attended by all of the PHSKC Epi Scholars and their mentors.

Scholars will be paid a competitive hourly wage to defray living expenses.

Workshops

  • Overview of surveillance activities at Public Health – Seattle & King County
  • Introduction to GIS
  • Database management for outbreak investigations
  • Program evaluation
  • Social epidemiology
  • Needle exchange presentation & tour
  • Jail tour & overview of the Jail Health Program
  • Health Care Reform and the practicing Public Health Epidemiologist
  • Public health emergency risk communication
  • Grant writing
  • Use of Incident Command System in a disease outbreak
  • Strategies for engaging community stakeholders in public health issues

Current and past projects

  • Analysis of the first-ever survey about the health and wellbeing of King County, WA children and families
    • Preceptor/Mentor: Kristin Moore
      Assessment, Policy Development & Evaluation (APDE), Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC)


      Here in King County, Washington, there are strong existing health data sources on King County children around the time of birth, then in middle and high school. Information from around the time of birth come from the confidential, deidentified data gathered from birth certificates and the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), which is a survey of mothers when the infant is between 2 to 6 months of age. Data for youth in middle and high school come from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, which is conducted in even-numbered years. However, there are no existing population-level local data sources for King County toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-aged children. Therefore, we designed and deployed the Best Starts for Kids Health Survey (BSKHS) to assess the health and wellbeing of children 5th grade and younger in King County.

      The Epi Scholar will work with the BSK Data and Evaluation Team to conduct analyses using the BSKHS dataset, present findings to relevant community stakeholders, and develop a short report. A peer-reviewed journal article may also be developed if the scholar would like to pursue a publication and the project is suitable. Analyses may include descriptive, multivariable, and spatial statistical analyses depending on the selected research question(s).

  • A comparison of medical costs between residents of the Yesler Terrace redevelopment and other public housing units
    • Preceptor/Mentor: Alastair Matheson
      APDE, PHSKC


      Where we live and the quality of our housing and neighborhoods determines many things, including our sense of safety, whether we are securely employed, our children's access to education, and our overall health and well-being. For example, local data show that public housing residents compared to low income individuals not living in public housing are more likely to receive food and financial assistance, have more chronic illness, are treated for more injuries, have higher rates of mental illness and substance abuse, and are less likely to work and have lower earnings.

      Yesler Terrace (YT) is a 30-acre publicly subsidized housing community owned and operated by Seattle Housing Authority (SHA). It is Seattle’s only remaining large public housing development. The epi scholar's work will sit within a larger study examining whether redevelopment is associated with a change in health and well-being among a cohort of low-income and diverse public housing residents at Yesler Terrace (YT).

      The overall project is a longitudinal study that follows a cohort of residents in order to evaluate whether redevelopment strategies at YT improve several outcomes-including general health status, safety, education, income and employment. One outstanding question is whether or not community redevelopment initiatives built around concentrated public housing can create healthier and more equitable neighborhoods while reducing medical costs. . The epi scholar will focus in particular on the implications of community redevelopment on medical costs.

      Experience cleaning and managing large data sets is a plus. Intermediate proficiency with R and STATA.

  • 2017 Needle Exchange Client Survey
    • Preceptor/Mentor: Sara Glick
      HIV/STD Program, PHSKC


      Syringe exchange is an important component of HIV, viral hepatitis, and opioid overdose prevention and control programs. King County has one of the largest syringe exchange programs in the country, with approximately 7 million syringes distributed in 2016. Every other year we conduct a 2-week survey of syringe exchange clients at Public Health sites for purposes of program planning and evaluation.

      Analysis of survey data from syringe exchange clients will inform our assessment of service utilization by people who inject drugs in King County as well as identify needs, assets, trends and issues that characterize people who use drugs by injection throughout King County. Information gathered in the survey will be used to justify resource allocation and expansion, contraction, or creation of specific program elements. Data will also be used to shape policies and approaches that address social and individual consequences and burdens of drug use in this highly marginalized population.

      The Epi Scholar will be responsible for assisting with data collection, cleaning and transforming data from all participating
      sites in the 2017 database, analyzing client-level data, producing tables, graphs and maps, and writing a report describing results, including trends over time within King County based on data from earlier surveys. Ideally, the student will be interested in developing and submitting a peer-reviewed manuscript.

      Intermediate level skill with at least one statistical software package is required (SAS, SPSS, or STATA) is required. It would be an advantage for the student to have some knowledge of health issues related to drug use, including HIV and hepatitis C infection, and overdose.

  • Analysis of four decades of female homicides in King County Washington
    • Preceptor/Mentor: Amy Laurent and Richard Harruff MD PhD Chief Medical Examiner
      Prevention Division, King County Medical Examiner's Office, PHSKC


      Assuming acknowledgement that violence is a public health problem, the data show that female homicides are manifestations of the general problem of violence. The potential public health importance of this project is to further understand the relationship of societal trends to violence against women, especially in reference to domestic violence, sexual assault, and availability of firearms. The specific goal of the research project is to provide an historical accounting of female homicide victims with respect to victimology, assailant profile, circumstances, injury modality, and motivation.

      For this project, the Epi Scholar will complete an analysis of approximately 800 female homicides victims investigated by the King County Medical Examiner's Office (KCMEO) over a period starting around 1978. Data has been entered into a Microsoft Access database up to 2012. The scholar will complete the database up to the end of 2016.

      After the database is complete, the scholar will analyze the data with respect to victim demographics, assailant(s), circumstances and location of assault, cause of death and injury method (e.g. blunt force injury, sharp force injury, firearm injury, strangulation),
      motivation (e.g. sexual assault, domestic violence, drug-related violence, robbery, serial killing), homicide/suicide, and intoxication.

      Our hypothesis are: 1) female homicides differ quantitatively and qualitatively from male homicides; 2) patterns of female homicides vary with time; 3) changing patterns of female homicides can be related to social trends; and 3) domestic violence resulting in death is associated with firearm availability. We hope these results will guide social policies directed at reducing violence in general and violence against women specifically.

  • King County Firearm Violence Data Updates and Data Dashboard
    • Preceptor/ Mentor: Lin Song, Epidemiologist
      APDE, PHSKC


      Firearm hospitalizations and firearm deaths are considered preventable. Increasingly, there is public interest in a public
      health approach to understand the burden in particular communities, and specific modifiable risk factors.

      The specific purpose of the project is to evaluate whether firearm injuries and deaths are declining, increasing or remaining the same, as well as variation among populations and geographic units, and to identify risk and protective factors where
      possible. Our hypotheses is that firearm deaths and injuries across all populations have remained the same or are increasing, and that firearm storage remains an unsafe practice in King County among a majority of firearm-owning households.

      Our questions include: (1) What are the rates of firearm homicide, suicide and unintentional deaths, and firearm injuries in King County, Washington?; (2) How do these compare with state and national rates? (3) What are rates specific to sub-populations, including by gender, race/ethnicity, and geographic area? (4) What are the modifiable risk factors? (5) What are the safe v. unsafe self-reported firearm storage rates? (5) What are rates of firearms going into our schools?

      The Epi Scholar will analyze multiple data sources which may include: BRFSS, Healthy Youth Survey, Office of
      Superintendent of Public Instruction, Department of Licensing, Child Death Review, and reports from the King
      County Sheriffs and Police Chiefs offices.
  • Seattle's Yesler Terrace Redevelopment: Assessing the Impact of Multi-Sector Strategies on Redevelopment Plans and Community Health
    • Preceptor/Mentor: Mike Smyser, PhD
      Assessment, Policy Development & Evaluation (APDE), Public Health — Seattle & King County (PHSKC)


      Where we live and the quality of our housing and neighborhoods affects our lives in many ways – including our sense of safety, secure employment, our children’s access to education, and overall health and well-being. This project will examine whether urban redevelopment is associated with a change in health and well-being among a cohort of low-income and diverse public housing residents at Yesler Terrace (YT), a 30-acre housing community owned by Seattle Housing Authority. The Epi Scholar will analyze crime and 911 emergency call data for the YT neighborhood to determine whether there are changes in crimes before and during the redevelopment process. Crime and 911 emergency call data will provide objective measures of neighborhood safety in addition to the perceived safety expressed by respondents of the resident survey. Prior to conducting analyses the Epi Scholar will review how other projects have analyzed similar data and accounted for limitations of the data. Experience with statistical (e.g., Stata, R, SAS, or SPSS) and geospatial software (e.g., ArcGIS) will be helpful. The project results may be used to refine the SHA’s redevelopment strategies, and could inform programs and funding decisions that ultimately reduce the impact of chronic disease and injury. More generally this project will assess critical concerns about equity, redevelopment, and the treatment of vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in an urban area experiencing rapid population growth. Epi Scholar products will include a presentation to the program staff and a draft of a peer-reviewed article.

  • Children’s Health Profile
    • Preceptor/ Mentor: Eva Wong, PhD
      APDE, PHSKC


      Best Starts for Kids (BSK) is a new voter-approved initiative to improve the health and well-being of King County by investing in prevention and early intervention for child, youth, families, and communities. It is a comprehensive approach starting with prenatal support, sustaining the gain through teenage and early adult years, and investing in healthy, safe communities that reinforce progress. The literature supports prevention and early intervention as a cost-effective strategy to reduce adverse health outcomes. BSK is using a results-based accountability framework that uses population health data to inform and evaluate the work.

      The Epi Scholar will work to produce a health profile of the youth and children of King County. Data sources will include vital records, Healthy Youth Survey, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and claims data. An equally important component is communicating these data in clear, non-technical formats. The results from this project will directly inform the activities of this new initiative and help make a direct and meaningful impact for King County families and children. Epi Scholars products will include a report appealing to non-technical audiences.

  • Population Impact of School-based Healthy Eating Policies, Systems and Environment Change Strategies
    • Preceptor/ Mentor: Myduc Ta, PhD
      APDE, PHSKC


      Transforming the health of South Seattle and South King County was a collaborative effort to change systems so all King County, residents have the opportunity to be physically active, have access to healthy foods and drinks and live in tobacco-free environments. The two-year initiative (October 2012 – September 2014), funded by the Community Transformation Grant (CTG) Small Communities Program, built upon prior place-based initiatives with a focus on strategies which address policies, systems, and environment (PSE) change across sectors. These initiatives aim to build healthy communities, especially in communities where residents do not have an equal opportunity to make healthy choices easily.

      The Epi Scholar will analyze 2004-2014 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey data to assess population-level trends in youth healthy eating, active living indicators (e.g., physical activity, sugar sweetened beverage consumption, fruit and vegetable consumption), comparing areas with and without PSE activities. Prior experience with statistical software (e.g., Stata or SAS) and interest in survey weighted data analysis will be helpful. This project complements our on-going analysis of youth obesity prevalence while providing the scholar familiarity with approaches to evaluation of place-based initiatives addressing systems change. Expected products include presentations to program staff and a high quality, clearly written report.

  • Health Service Utilization Patterns among School-Based Health Centers in Seattle and King County
    • Preceptor/ Mentor: Aley Joseph Pallickaparambil
      APDE, PHSKC


      School Based Health Centers (SBHCs) provide on-site medical, mental health, and/or oral health services to school-aged children and adolescents, while working hand-in-hand with school communities to provide these services in a safe, age-appropriate, and culturally competent manner. They are particularly successful in delivering care to young people who may have trouble accessing care elsewhere. PHSKC has a large amount of data on the services provided at SBHCs and the students that they serve. However with limited capacity for in-depth analyses, it is underutilized.

      This incredibly rich trove of data, once analyzed could help the SBHC program better describe their services, improve care and offer opportunities to share successes and challenges with colleagues to improve the growing field of school-based health. This project focuses on understanding utilization patterns for mental health services in this population. Using an approach guided by current scientific literature, the Epi Scholar will determine how mental health outcomes and service utilization vary by student and SBHC characteristics. Activities include literature review, data cleaning, quality checks, developing diagnosis categorizations, conducting statistical tests, and developing a profile report.

      Intermediate Stata proficiency is required. Advanced Stata and intermediate R proficiency would help.

  • Vaccine storage and handling compliance
    • Preceptors/ Mentors: Libby Page, MPH and Darren Robertson
      Prevention Division, PHSKC


      Vaccine storage and handling compliance site visits take up a considerable amount of staff time and funding for Public Health’s Immunization Program and for participating health care provider offices. How effective are these compliance visits? Do they improve the quality of vaccine handling practices and immunization services for the clinics enrolled in the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program? No published research currently exists to answer these questions.

      This project is intended to summarize and analyze data from King County VFC Program quality assurance site visits completed between 2009 and 2015, using data collected in a MS Access database and the CDC’s Provider Education, Assessment and Reporting (PEAR) system. The site visits are an important connection between Public Health and the health care community at large. As a unique opportunity for Public Health to influence practices in the private health care setting, visits should therefore maximize their impact to the utmost. Analysis will identify the factors, strategies, and clinic characteristics associated with improved performance and program compliance. Resulting information will be used to identify and disseminate strategies to achieve and sustain immunization best practices. Experience using statistical software (e.g., Stata, R, SAS, or SPSS) as well as MS Access, will be helpful. Data are clean and ready for analysis; data linking and matching is needed. Epi Scholar products will include a presentation to the program staff and a draft of a peer-reviewed article.

  • Mortality Trends in Hepatitis C
    • Preceptor/ Mentor: Elizabeth Barash, MPH
      Prevention Division-Communicable Disease and Immunization Section, PHSKC


      The King County Hepatitis C Test and Cure Grant (HCV-TAC) is a CDC funded project which seeks to improve testing, treatment and cure of persons with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. New, highly effective therapies, simplified HCV screening guidelines, use of electronic medical record systems, and increasing numbers of insured persons provide new opportunities for persons with chronic HCV infection to be identified and successfully treated. The purpose of this project is to assess morbidity and mortality among known chronic HCV cases.

      The Epi Scholar will abstract medical records of HCV patients to assess disease progression and treatment, and match cases in our HCV surveillance database with other databases (e.g., HIV and medical examiner databases) in order to identify unreported cases of HCV and gather additional data about co-morbidities and long-term outcomes. Data analysis will focus on describing the morbidity and mortality among HCV patients, and examining the validity of various approaches used in liver fibrosis staging. Experience with SAS is preferred. At the end of the project, the Epi Scholar will be expected to present findings to the program staff and complete a draft article for a peer-reviewed journal.
  • Time to detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis as a predictor of risk of transmission
    This project will examine data from 1) TB case surveillance, 2) TB clinic medical records, and 3) TB contact surveillance to determine if information on time to detection of Mtb can be used to improve prioritization of contact investigations so that those at highest risk of infection can be identified sooner.

  • Needle Exchange client survey
    This project will analyze data from the 2011, 2013 and 2015 surveys of PHSKC needle exchange clients to examine utilization of needle exchange services by people who inject drugs. The findings will help inform resource allocation and expansion, and contraction or creation of specific program elements.

  • Gaps analysis of medical and supportive services accessible to persons living with HIV/AIDS
    This project includes 2 components: 1) An analyses of data from the Medical Monitoring Project (MMP) to assess whether substance use and mental health issues are addressed among people living with HIV/AIDS and 2) A survey of providers to construct a resource inventory of substance use and mental health services by non-Ryan White service providers.

  • King County burden of disease assessment tool
    This project will build upon the substantial experience and resources that IHME developed to produce a burden of disease (BoD) estimates for the Global Burden of Disease Study. The project will include analyses to examine the validity and sensitivity of estimates of mortality and morbidity for KC and sub-county areas based on the BoD assessment tool.

  • Healthy students are better learners: assessment of health and academic achievements in King County, WA
    This project will examine 13 key physical and mental health risk factors from several years of the WA Healthy Youth Survey to explore trends and disparities in academic risk and health among KC students.

  • Identifying geographic clusters of under-immunized children in King County, WA
    This project will explore vaccine uptake among young children who are typically the most at risk for complications and adverse outcomes from diseases such as measles and pertussis. Spatial analysis will be used to locate geographic clusters so that health officials can target efforts to these areas.
  • Provision of Naloxone to Jail Inmates: Impacts for Individuals and Communities
    For this project the student will identify and compare sources of naloxone for prevention of opiate overdose in King County to improve awareness and collaboration between the different providers of naloxone and to inform the newly established jail naloxone provision program for inmates being released.

  • Approaches for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Post-Release Community Interventions among High Utilizers of king County Jails
    For this project the student will use several analytical approaches to analyze archival data to examine the association between participation in community interventions after release from jail and subsequent jail-free time to improve the approaches for evaluating the effectiveness of community interventions.

  • Assessing Low Birth Weight by Detailed Racial/Ethnic Groups in King County, 2008-2012
    For this project the student will analyze data from birth certificates to examine differences in birth weight by racial/ethnic groups. Findings will be presented to community groups and summarized in a Public Health Data Watch Report.

  • Assessing Behavioral Health in King County
    For this project the student will examine data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the Healthy Youth Survey (HYS) to describe the prevalence of mental health disorders and substance use and their potential risk factors. Findings will be summarized in a Public Health Data Watch Report.

  • Monitoring Syndromic Surveillance Data Quality
    For this project the student will compare data from the existing Public Health Communicable Disease Syndromic Surveillance System and "Meaningful Use" data reported under the new federally mandated expanded reporting requirements to examine the quality and completeness of the "Meaningful Use" data.

  • Evaluation of the Completeness of HIV-Related Laboratory Results Reporting
    For this project the student will estimate the completeness of HIV viral load and CD4 laboratory surveillance system, investigate the reasons for missing data and correct errors using data from two supplemental HIV surveillance systems for comparison. The findings will be used to improve the quality of the laboratory surveillance system.
  • Trends in Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, PID, and Ectopic Pregnancy Washington State, 1988-2010
    For this project the student will examine the contribution of gonorrhea and chlamydia incidence on declining rates of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ectopic pregnancy in Washington state, and attempt to determine whether and to what degree declines in these two sexually transmitted infections have contributed to decreased incidence of PID and ectopic pregnancy for the period 1998-2010.

  • Using GIS-Based Analysis for Surveillance of Notifiable Conditions in King County
    For this project the student will assist in developing a system to conduct more in-depth geospatial analyses, including identifying areas of King County with the highest density of reportable diseases; examining the association between disease rates and factors such as poverty, race/ethnicity, and population density; exploring whether increased incidence of disease is associated with reduced access to preventive care, like immunizations; and explore the associations between emergency department care-seeking behaviors and school absenteeism with notifiable conditions.

  • Survey of Seattle-King County Syringe Exchange Clients
    For this project the student will coordinate survey data collection at several needle exchange sites, conduct some interviews, develop an Access database, analyze data, and produce a report of results that includes tables, graphs and maps.

  • HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Summary Report Creation
    For this project the student will review existing local HIV and STD data reports and gather input from key stakeholders to create a draft version of an Epidemiologic Profile of HIV that features epidemiologic profiles of selected groups of persons living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), for example, men of color who have sex with men, newly infected PLWHA, and people receiving sub-optimal medical care.

  • School District Health Profile
    For this project the student will design and produce three pilot School District Heath Profiles, including identifying, prioritizing, and selecting health indicators for the report, developing a report format and template, generating data and producing the reports with input from Public Health and School District officials and other stakeholders.

  • The Relationship between Incarceration History, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse
    For this project the student will analyze linked data from Jail Health Services records and the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention to evaluate the relationship between history of mental illness and substance abuse and the frequency and type(s) of offending behaviors to develop a better understanding of the interaction between mental illness, substance abuse and incarceration.
  • King County Health Disparities Report
    For this project the student will summarize health disparities in King County, particularly trends in disparities and current status of disparities, critically examine existing health disparity measures, and make a recommendation for which one to use in summarizing health disparities in King County.

  • King County City Health Profile Report
    For this project the student will identify, prioritize, and select health indicators using a variety of data sources and develop and produce a King County Community/City Health Profile Report for six cities in King County.

  • Enhancing HIV Surveillance Data through Linkage with Multiple Resources
    For this project the student will link multiple public health HIV data sets to enhance our ability to assure that all newly diagnosed people receive partner services, enter into medical care, and remain engaged in care, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.

  • Socioeconomic and Clinical Risk Factors for Tuberculosis Transmission among Household Contacts in King County
    For this project the student will conduct a case-control analysis to identify under-recognized risk factors, including socioeconomic status, that are associated with higher rates of TB infection among household contacts, which presumably indicates recent TB transmission.

  • Predicting Time of Initiation of HIV Antiretroviral Therapy
    For this project the student will conduct an analysis of data from the Medical Monitoring Project and other HIV surveillance data sources using serial reported HIV viral load results to predict the start date of antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection.

  • Developing a Quarterly Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report
    For this project the student will develop an automated quarterly STD surveillance report that will provide current information on STD morbidity to public health staff, medical providers and other partners in the community and will facilitate timely identification of changes in STD incidence that may require a response from public health.