University alum Aley Joseph spoke to Public Health students Friday about epidemiology as part of the school’s alumni speaker series.

Sponsored by the school’s Career Development Office, the talk also gave students with career advice, and used an interactive format to engage students. Joseph, who graduated in 2011 with a master’s degree from the School of Public Health, answered questions regarding the study of epidemiology in Native American reservations and discussed students’ individual career ambitions.

Shelagh Saenz, director of career services at the Public Health School, said the alumni speaker series seeks to expose current students to different sectors of the public health field by providing stories of different career paths and unique experiences.

Joseph, who works at the California Tribal Epidemiology Center, discussed the role of such centers in the United States from her own perspective — one that doesn’t necessarily represent that of the organization. Most centers are part of the Indian Health Service and assist American Indian and Alaska Native tribes by advocating for tribal health, working to prevent diseases and building public health initiatives within their respective communities.

“The idea is actually to give tribal people control of their health care services … it was really meant to be in the direction of more sovereignty,” Joseph said of TECs.

He also discussed several problems that TECs and the IHS face, which range from underfunding to issues with data gathering and interpretation. Surveys often underrepresent populations and race misclassification is an often occurrence. TECs use linkage studies to try to correct for this error.

“Thinking about the day in the life of the TEC epidemiologists, it’s all really about data access, availability and interpretation,” she said.

When she spoke to the students about their post-University plans, she gave them suggestions as to how to best ensure that those plans become reality.

“You want to think what skills you have, what skills you want to develop and you want to think what you can do now given these two things,” Joseph told the students.

She said it is important to lay out a long-term plan based on a student’s individual interests and to then structure class schedules that allow them to develop skills for success in that particular occupation. She also added that work experiences such as internships are very important in her field, both in terms of gaining skills and as a gateway to further employment opportunities.

“The reality is, from the perspective of a hiring committee, what they are looking for is somebody who can hit the ground running, needs minimal training,” Joseph said.

Twelve Public Health students attended the lecture, consisting of both first- and second-year master’s students.

“I came for the career advice,” said Public Health student Karin Dove. “I thought it was interesting to hear how she approached taking classes here or what classes she thought were important or what skills were important to learn.”

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