Howard Burkom, PhD - April 2013
How did you first learn about disease surveillance and when did you decide it was an area of interest for you? I learned about disease surveillance late in 1999 when my program at Hopkins APL was challenged to apply to bioterrorism monitoring methods of target detection that had been successful in sonar and radar problems. When we collaborated with military surveillance epidemiologists and our early work spawned a large DARPA program, my interest was solidified. It became a passion after attendance at the early Syndromic Surveillance conferences that lead to the formation of ISDS.
What do you do? I direct and participate in development of technical methods for the analysis of disease surveillance data. I am also chairperson of the ISDS Technical Conventions Committee and an active member of the Research Committee.
What do you enjoy most about your job? I enjoy the challenge of the analytical work and also the interaction with members of the national and global disease surveillance communities.
What excites you in the work you do? I am strongly motivated by participation in the advancement of the science of disease surveillance and working with similarly motivated professionals.
Who or what inspires you professionally? The work of dedicated ISDS members and others who do surveillance epidemiology on a day-to-day basis with little financial or other support is a continual inspiration.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment or achievement (related to disease surveillance)? Tough question. There have been proud moments related to technical recognition, but I feel most strongly about the progress of the surveillance research community stimulated in several ways by our Research Committee.
How long have you been involved with ISDS? After attending conferences that led to the formation of ISDS, I was elected to its Board of Directors 3 times covering the first 7 years.
Why are you an ISDS member? The ties have multiplied and have expanded from technical to communal and social. It is a great way to be connected to the surveillance community.
What do you value most about your ISDS membership? I now value most highly the web of relationships to the various stakeholders working for the advancement of our field.
What is the biggest issue in disease surveillance in your opinion? The lack of consistent institutional support continues to hinder progress in tackling a host of issues involving coordination, standardization, and technical development.
If you were not an X, what would you be? I would be a teacher of mathematics.