As a discipline, epidemiology is considered the cornerstone of public health research, and is one MPH concentration offered through the Colorado School of Public Health. MPH graduates from this concentration receive the experience necessary to expand public understanding of health risks, and provide evidence for preventive approaches through surveillance, data collection, exposure assessment, implementation and evaluation of intervention programs. A 2011 ColoradoSPH graduate, Ashely Wier has dedicated her professional career to this area.

Following graduation, Ashley accepted a position as an infection preventionist at Banner Health. In this position, she worked in epidemiology and disease prevention at the hospital level. When reflecting on skills gained from the MPH program, Ashely said, “The main skills I learned were to determine how disease affects a population, understand the potential causes and prevent further spread. It seems very simplistic, but it is the basis of epidemiology.”

More recently, she transitioned to a new position as a regional epidemiologist with the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. In this role, Ashely conducts disease investigations for publicly reportable diseases in an attempt to mitigate the spread of a given transmissible disease. Emergency preparedness is also a component of this work. She prepares for infectious disease incidents that would involve dispensing of medical countermeasures. Ashley’s strong epidemiological foundation facilitated a smooth transition to her new role as a regional epidemiologist. “The beautiful thing about epidemiology is that you can apply it to so many things, whether its equine rabies, healthcare associated MRSA, or foodborne outbreaks”

Ashley completed her practicum/capstone projects with the USDA Center for Epidemiology and Animal Health. Her project surrounded equine rabies and looking at terrestrial rabies reservoirs to determine a link between reservoirs and how horses in the region were contracting rabies. When asked about how her MPH and practice-based learning prepared her for the workforce, Ashely said, “My MPH gave the background knowledge to perform the necessary tasks of my job. I always try to remind new grads to showcase the skills that they obtained through the MPH program to prove they can be successful when looking for a job right out of school. Challenge yourself to work outside your comfort zone every once in a while, you’ll learn a ton.”