The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Part 1: Life of an Infectious Disease Epidemiologist

Erkeda DeRouen talks to Dr. Carolee Estelle, an infectious disease specialist and part of the large Infection Prevention team at Parkland Health & Hospital Systems, Dallas. She also serves as the Associate Chief of Hospital Epidemiology to help reduce healthcare-associated infections. They talk about the benefits of pursuing internal medicine, careers in infectious diseases, and finding your passion in medicine.

  • [00:34] Getting to Know Dr. Carolee Estelle
  • [01:57] Why Dr. Estelle Chose Internal Medicine
  • [04:19] Pursuing a Career in Infectious Diseases
  • [07:45] Tips on Choosing a Medical Subspecialties
  • [09:30] How to Become an Epidemiologist
  • [13:45] What is your Passion in Medicine?

Why Dr. Estelle Chose Internal Medicine

Most students go into medicine for the sole purpose of helping people. However, the one predicament most students deal with is the type of doctor they would want to become. The fact that there is an array of choices for residency training after medical school makes choosing even harder. According to Dr. Estelle, the one specialty that’s often overlooked is internal medicine. Internal medicine practitioners focus on adult medicine and primarily deal with the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. Adult diseases encompass a broad range of subspecialties, which means internists can choose from several medical specialties depending on their career aspirations.

For Dr. Estelle, an excellent medical subspecialty sparks curiosity, lifelong learning, and meaningful relationships with patients, colleagues, and family. She settled on internal medicine after a thorough elimination process and analyzed the practicality of her choices.

Pursuing a Career in Infectious Diseases

Medics working in infectious diseases (ID) investigate, diagnose and treat infections caused by microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. This means that ID specialists practically cover all aspects of patient care, from cardiology to pediatrics. Further, working in ID demands expertise in clinical and laboratory settings to make diagnoses and provide effective treatment. Unfortunately, infectious disease is a little-known subspeciality that was only brought to the limelight when the pandemic hit.

Dr. Estelle admits that she never knew the existence of ID until the later stages of her residency. She was drawn to infectious diseases because they captured several of her medical interests, such as dealing with complex pathogens, interacting with patients, and managing outbreaks. Moreover, some of the infectious diseases specialists she knew are some of the most intelligent people she’s ever met. Hence, it was her ultimate ambition to be associated with them.

How to Become an Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists typically study disease outbreaks, transmissions, and effective treatment at a community level. Subsequently, the data collected is analyzed and used to develop research undertakings and improve prevention. So, for the students interested in pursuing a career in epidemiology, understand that epidemiology encompasses several subspecialties. Thus, it would be best to look at each of them and choose the ones that align with your goals.

Dr. Estelle explains that every workweek is different, and students who crave routines will probably struggle. Furthermore, identifying the causes of disease is exciting, making every new day interesting packed with many varied experiences and opportunities.

Erkeda DeRouen

Dr. Erkeda DeRouen is a graduate of Hampton University with a B.S. in Biological Sciences, followed by completing medical school at the Boston University School of Medicine. She then completed residency at The University of Maryland Family and Community Medicine Program. After that, she worked at an underserved community health center, and currently is an Associate Medical Director of a telemedicine company. She recently became one of the first 1,000 lifestyle medicine certified physicians in the world! Her areas of interest include: health equity and eliminating health disparities, service of underserved populations, HIV management, transgender care, mentorship, and lifestyle medicine.

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