“Some might argue that epidemiology is not a science, but others consider it to be the science of public health,” explains Charlotte Gilkison epidemiology analyst at ESR.
“Whatever the case, epidemiology requires the integration of a range of disciplines, including immunology, microbiology, molecular biology and genetics, medicine, maths and statistics. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that people from a diverse range of backgrounds can work in epidemiology and that a career in science can be very flexible.”
Over the past year, Charlotte’s been experiencing just how flexible her role can be.
“As we’re a relatively small team, there’s the opportunity to get involved in a variety of projects, which allows for continual skill and knowledge development,” Charlotte explains. “Since the start of 2020, my role has been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been helping provide intelligence to the Ministry of Health by analysing data onCOVID-19 cases. It’s been fascinating to be involved in setting up surveillance of a novel disease right from the beginning and to be in an incident management team throughout lockdown.”
Charlotte’s job is a combination of fast-paced response work and long-terms projects, including working on journal articles. With a range of notifiable diseases now at play in the New Zealand environment, she has also found herself involved in working on solutions to a range of vaccine-preventable diseases. This work includes monitoring invasive pneumococcal disease and a national measles outbreak. Charlotte has also helped investigate some foodborne outbreaks.
“I have a passion for infectious disease epidemiology that stems from the interconnectedness with the world around us,” Charlotte explains. “I began university thinking I wanted to study medicine and was immediately drawn to health at a population level, particularly in the context of infectious diseases. I decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science majoring in microbiology, and, from there, completed a Masters in Public Health. Now, working for ESR in applied epidemiology, I really love that my job can help solve real-world problems and informing public health actions that will improve lives.”