Eric Lau, PhD - July 2013
How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide that it was an area of interest for you? One of the first projects during my postdoc was to develop algorithm to signal the start of influenza season in Hong Kong. The varying timing of influenza seasons in the subtropical city is technically challenging and interesting. Since then my interest and appreciation grew with my involvement in other studies on data dissemination, novel data sources, integration of different surveillance data, and their applications in situation awareness for public health response and healthcare resource management.
What do you do? I am a faculty at the School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong. I work closely with colleagues in our infectious disease epidemiology group, using statistical and mathematical models to understand transmission dynamics and explore approach of disease surveillance for various infectious diseases. I also teach biostatistics courses in our MPH program.
What do you enjoy most about your job? The opportunity to work with a variety of people, and with other institutions and health departments in Hong Kong and in Mainland China, with different objectives and expertise but with a common mission to solve real-world problems.
What excites you in the work you do? People come up with creative ideas to solve difficult research questions through collaborative efforts.
Who or what inspires you professionally? Experts at the forefront of the field and how they bring up new perspectives and approaches to move the field forward through interdisciplinary efforts.
How long have you been involved with ISDS? I attended my first ISDS conference in Raleigh in 2008. Since then I attended several annual conferences and joined the social media workgroup and pre-conference workshop planning group recently.
Why are you an ISDS member? I enjoy connecting with the disease surveillance community, learning new things from a variety of people - frontline public health practitioners, academics and keeping up with the latest development in the area of disease surveillance.
What do you value most about your ISDS membership? Sharing of experience and ideas from experts through the regular webinars, updates on policy issues, and the opportunity for collaboration.
What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance (in your opinion)? There is untapped information in the Big Data as a (by)-product of advance in technology – social media, mobile apps, cloud computing which have much potential for surveillance in infectious diseases as well as NCD. It is challenging to demonstrate its practical use in disease prevention and control and motivate community participation while addressing concerns about privacy.
If you were not a Statistical Epidemiologist, what would you be? I would be a teacher of mathematics.