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Abby Holt, MPH

What degree program(s) did you complete?C O P H Alumna and Epidemiologist at the Arkansas Department of Health Abby Holt, M P H

MPH/Epidemiology, 2008.

What attracted you to the field of public health?

Public health science, specifically studying disease trends over time and the risk factors associated with them.

 What is your current job title and place of employment?

Epidemiologist, Cancer Registry at the Arkansas Department of Health.

 How would you describe a typical work day?

It’s difficult to describe a typical day, but my responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring trends in cancer incidence and mortality and identifying populations at risk for cancer.
  • As part of a team, investigating public concerns of suspected excesses of cancer due to environmental or other factors using established protocols.
  • Assembling databases and other information, such as epidemiology, biostatistics and public health scientific literature articles, for analyzing health problems.
  • Producing statistical summary reports as needed, and publishing a Cancer Facts and Figures report for public use.
  • Making presentations to public health communities, usually in coordination with the Arkansas Cancer Coalition.
  • Collaborating with other chronic disease epidemiologists on administrative, educational, and scientific activities.

What is your advice for students considering a similar career path?

Develop skills for managing and analyzing large data sets and have some familiarity with mapping data using GIS tools. These skills will translate across different disease concentrations. It helps to gain some practical work experience prior to graduation, if possible, or submit a paper or poster to a professional meeting in order to build a resume. Also, hang on to your epidemiology, statistics, and SAS textbooks. They will serve as reference texts.

What experiences or learning gained at UAMS or elsewhere have you found most beneficial professionally or helped you qualify for what you do?

I had little experience in the public health workforce when I entered the program, so I found the courses to build on each other and provide a good base for working in the field. I continue to learn, but in addition to developing skills, I think I gained a better understanding of how to critically think about solving public health problems, understand study designs, and how to critique the literature. Also, one of the best experiences I had involved participating in study groups. Because of this, I developed lasting friendships and professional working relationships that are maintained today.

What do you find most rewarding about your work in public health?

I value working with colleagues and experts in the field at ADH and UAMS to try and solve health problems. Many of the efforts are used to support strategies for improving health, to further public health research, and support public health policies in the state. It’s rewarding work.