UNTHSC grad chosen for CDC’s ‘top gun’ disease detective service

By Sally Crocker

Precep Web2

For decades, the image of worn-out shoe leather with a prominent hole in the bottom has served as a visual representation of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) disease detectives who travel the world investigating outbreaks that threaten the public’s health.

For 65 years and counting, these officers have been globally recognized as the CDC’s “boots on the ground” – epidemiologists who step in at a moment’s notice to tackle public health threats like polio, smallpox, Ebola, SARS, the Zika virus, Legionnaires’ disease, HIV/AIDS, E. coli and anthrax bioterrorism, all to help save lives and protect people.

Amy Board, DrPH, MSW, MPH, a graduate of the UNT Health Science Center School of Public Health, is one of 66 individuals chosen this year for the highly competitive EIS post-graduate fellowship program.

Only a handful are selected from the hundreds of scientists, healthcare and public health professionals who apply annually for the two-year, hands-on opportunity to work under the mentorship of experienced epidemiologists at the CDC and partnering agencies.

“The EIS program offers a unique combination of on-the-job learning and service. I had the double excitement of first being accepted and then finding out that I would be spending the next two years further developing my epidemiology skills through a subject area I’m particularly interested in learning more about,” she said. “I couldn’t have been more thrilled for this opportunity.”

Dr. Board is assigned to CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Overdose Prevention, Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch. Her home base will be in Atlanta.

EIS officers are often the first on the scene as rapid responders who investigate the cause of sickness and germs and how they are spread. They also respond to natural disasters and emerging public health threats that can happen anywhere, at any time.

CDC EIS officers track down and identify causes and rapidly take action to control disease outbreaks and public health emergencies when they occur, as well as recommend actions for future prevention.

“It is especially noteworthy to be named an EIS officer – selection is highly competitive,” said Dr. Dennis Thombs, Dean of the UNTHSC School of Public Health. “EIS officers serve as the nation’s front line defense against disease outbreaks and major epidemics not just in the U.S., but around the world. Our school is extremely proud of Dr. Board.”

Dr. Board was first drawn to a public health career years ago while working for the Catholic Charities of Fort Worth refugee services program. It was there that she encountered many global health issues in chronic and infectious diseases, sparking a desire to study at a higher level.

“I had heard about UNTHSC’s public health program and thought it sounded really interesting,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of public health as a career option before then, but as soon as I started the MPH program, I knew this was what I wanted to do moving forward.”

“In public health, the community is your ‘patient,’ and I love knowing that the work I do can have a positive impact on a broad scale,” Dr. Board said.

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