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2008;62;479- J. Epidemiol. Community Health

Juan B Bellido-Blasco

A day in the life of a local epidemiologist (and
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A day in the life of a local
epidemiologist (and endemiologist)
D E Lilienfeld has recently argued in favour of the need to put
new emphasis on the training of general epidemiologists.
In the
past, it was believed that epidemiology was a branch of
In Spain, however, epidemiology as an official
speciality simply does not exist although, curiously enough,
there are epidemiologists and some very good ones.
According to my credentials, I am a doctor who is specialised
in preventive medicine and public health. This is not precise
enough. It is a speciality diluted by itself. Having said that, I
have been working for many years in the epidemiology
department of a local public health centre and, little by little,
I have come to the conclusion that I really am an epidemiologist
or something very like one. I must confess that I have always
liked the idea that I am a (modest) epidemiologist. When I say
this at home, everyone in my family seems happy. My
daughters like it. My Dads an epidemiologist!, they tell their
friends proudly. And what do you do when there are no
epidemics?, they ask me. Well, actually, Im also an
endemiologist, I reply in an effort to avoid this awkward
So, as you can guess, I was very pleased to read the article
quoted above.
The general epidemiologist is becoming more
important! I hope I am one of them. But perhaps there are some
further details to be added.
Traditionally, our work, and that of the regional epidemiol-
has been related exclusively to infectious diseases and
small outbreaks. It is not like that now. A local epidemiologist
has increasingly to attend to a wider range of situations with
special emphasis on environmental questions and clusters of
any kind of illness. Fortunately, in the age of information, an
epidemiologist enjoys instant communication with fellow
professionals all over the world. Perhaps the following features
best characterise the current work of the local epidemiologist: a
doctor with special knowledge of field epidemiology; direct
contact with people; the capacity to respond quickly; a wide
variety of matters to be attended to; the need to resolve many of
these matters with limited resources; local initiative and the
possibilities for research and data collection with initiative and
It may be gathered from the above that one days work may
be very different from another. Even one days work may be
varied, surprising and entertaining. I have the habit of recording
in a diary the most noteworthy incidents of each days work.
Perhaps one day I will be able to tell you about some of the
things I have recorded. I can assure you that there are some
stories worth telling. In the meantime, let us remember the
proper training for the local (peripheral) epidemiologist and not
undervalue his work.
Juan B Bellido-Blasco
Correspondence to: Dr J B Bellido-Blasco, Epidemiology Unit, Centre of Public
Health, Avenida del Mar 12, Castello n, Spain, 12100;
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Charles Stedman who kindly translated
the original Spanish text.
Competing interests: None.
J Epidemiol Community Health 2008;62:479. doi:10.1136/jech.2007.066290
1. Lilienfeld DE. The general epidemiologist: is there a place in todays epidemiology?
Am J Epidemiol 2007;166:14.
2. Tuyns AJ, Sohier R. Principles and definitions in epidemiology. Rev Epidemiol Sante
Publique 1981;29:7583.
3. Lewis DA. The role of the regional epidemiologist. CME Bull Med Microbiol
Speakers corner
Public health past and present
J Epidemiol Community Health June 2008 Vol 62 No 6 479
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