Health Care Epidemiology: "There's Always Something New to Learn"
In U.S. hospitals alone, health care-associated infections account for an estimated 2 million infections, 90,000 deaths, and $4.5 billion in excess health care costs annually. ID specialists working in health care epidemiology, such as Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, are dedicated to improving the quality of patient care and the safety of health care workers.
Arjun Srinivasan, MD
Medical Epidemiologist, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Arjun Srinivasan, MD, was drawn to the field of infectious diseases by its problem-solving nature, but hesitated to select just one pathogen to focus his energies on. Instead, he wanted to take more of a generalist’s approach to ID, constantly learning about new challenges presented by a broad array of microbial threats. This penchant for broad brushstrokes made a career in health care epidemiology the ideal choice for Dr. Srinivasan.
“I liked all aspects of infectious diseases,” he recalls. “I had a hard time picking one pathogen or one area that was really the most interesting to me. I wanted a career that would allow me to continue to delve into and work with a variety of different pathogens. Health care epidemiology was a great choice for that. We deal with issues that involve bacteria, funguses, viruses—a variety of pathogens. I didn’t have to choose a specific pathogen. I could continue to work with and learn about all of them.”
Dr. Srinivasan graduated from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and completed his internal medicine residency and ID fellowship at Johns Hopkins. He is currently a medical epidemiologist in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and adjunct assistant professor of medicine at Emory University Medical Center. He also holds the title of lieutenant commander and serves in the U.S. Public Health Service’s Commissioned Corps.
At CDC, Dr. Srinivasan’s primary responsibilities include investigation of outbreaks that occur in health care facilities and policy and research work aimed at preventing such outbreaks. “My job entails a lot of what we call rapid response,” he explains. “I’m on the team that helps investigate outbreaks of infections that occur in hospitals and other health care settings. The rest of my time is spent trying to address the causes of the outbreaks and implementing changes that will prevent them from happening again. Not surprisingly, there’s always something new to learn. That’s the great challenge of my job, but it’s also what makes it both rewarding and exciting.”