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Episode #41: Interview with Eric Pevzner: CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Program

Updated: Jul 9



This episode is brought to you by the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Epidemiology Section, where I serve as a part of the leadership team. Learn more about the APHA Epidemiology Section.


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Eric Pevzner, PhD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS)

In this episode, I’m happy to share with all of you an interview with Eric Pevzner PhD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS) as we discuss some important and very interesting details about the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service, (EIS) program. There is a great deal of information covered in this episode, which is why the show notes page for this episode is so comprehensive and includes links to find out more about what is discussed in the interview.

CAPT Pevzner is Chief of the Epidemiology Workforce Branch in the Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development, and Chief of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Program. He is also a Captain in the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service.


Learn more about Eric Pevzner, PhD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS).

Highlights from this episode:

The Epidemic Intelligence Service, or EIS program, is CDC’s long-standing, premier fellowship in applied epidemiology.

  • As CDC’s disease detectives, EIS officers are among the agency’s first-line rapid responders. EIS officers help public health officials investigate and control infectious disease outbreaks and respond to natural disasters and other threats to the public’s health.

EIS provides public health service through experiential learning and serves as a natural conduit to future generations of public health responders and leaders.

  • EIS has over 65 years of proven success training EIS officers.

  • EIS has trained over 3,600 disease detectives since 1951.

  • About 85% of EIS graduates enter the public health workforce.

EIS officers serve CDC and its partners by providing rapid, creative, and effective solutions to public health problems. They are ready to go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. EIS officers:

  • Conduct epidemiologic investigations of infectious disease outbreaks

  • Respond to natural disasters or other emerging public health threats

  • Conduct surveillance studies

  • Design, implement, and evaluate surveillance systems

  • Study infectious and chronic diseases, environmental and occupational health threats, injuries, birth defects, and developmental disabilities

EIS officers are on call to protect people. When a disease outbreak occurs or natural disaster strikes, we can mobilize our officers to go anywhere in the world to investigate and assist.

  • EIS has provided rapid response to urgent health threats for more than 65 years—from investigations of possible biological warfare during the Korean war, to the smallpox and polio eradication campaigns, to the discovery of Legionnaires’ disease and Lassa fever, to responses to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, the 2014 Ebola outbreak followed by Zika virus and the 2017 hurricane season, in particular, Hurricane Maria

EIS alumni have gone on to fulfill critical and influential public health positions, such as:

  • CDC directors; leading CDC scientists; acting surgeons general; WHO assistant directors-general, regional directors, and country directors; public health and medical school faculty and deans; city health commissioners; and state epidemiologists. Others are leaders in industry, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and the media.

The EIS program is a 2-year experiential service fellowship. EIS officers learn applied epidemiology and gain practical skills to become future public health leaders.

  • About 10% of the training occurs through a rigorous mix of small and large group classroom instruction, case studies, exercises, and e-learning.

  • About 90% of the training is provided through hands-on assignments under the guidance of seasoned mentors and supervisors (usually EIS alumni).

  • EIS officers

  • deploy as a ready-responder to CDC’s Emergency Operations Center or field site to provide epidemiologic assistance for disease outbreaks and other urgent public health threats

  • collaborate with multidisciplinary experts across CDC and with other public health agencies and partners

  • consult with mentors, supervisors and other seasoned professionals within the EIS network

The application period for EIS opens annually in spring (usually April).

  • Those selected begin the fellowship in July of the following year with a month-long summer course.

  • EIS officers may be assigned to work in areas such as infectious disease, chronic disease, injury prevention, environmental health, or occupational health. Their assignments can be at CDC, another federal agency, or at a state or local health department.

  • Assignments are determined through a matching process among an EIS officer’s interests and those looking to host an EIS officer.

  • In any given year, we have 120-160 active EIS officers across two classes.

  • The pool of active officers deploys more than 200 times each year to support field investigations for urgent public health problems.

The selection of EIS officers is taken very seriously because, as I mentioned earlier, this program helps shape future generations of public health leaders.

  • Each year, only about 60-80 EIS officers are selected among the 400-500 applications received.

  • We look for highly skilled professionals from a variety of disciplines—from nurses, physicians, and veterinarians, to scientists and other professionals interested in applied epidemiology and service.

  • Because of the program’s domestic focus, a very limited number of non-U.S. citizens and non-U.S. permanent residents are selected each year.

  • Detailed eligibility criteria is available at https://www.cdc.gov/eis/application/eligibility.html

  • We work hard to attract, select, and train bright, flexible, and passionate professionals looking for opportunities to make a greater impact and work at CDC to collaborate with state and local health departments and Ministries of Health to investigate and respond to public health challenges.

  • We need people able to deploy on a moment’s notice to work in dynamic and unpredictable environments under challenging conditions.

  • Likewise, we also need people able to function effectively as part of multi-disciplinary teams.

Advice or tips were discussed for people who are interested in participating.

  • The first thing to do is check our website at cdc.gov/eis and learn about the eligibility criteria for applying to the program. Then, people interested in becoming an EIS officer should try to attend our annual EIS conference. There is no cost to register for the conference, which is held each spring in Atlanta, usually during the month of April. By attending the conference, people interested in being a disease detective can attend the scientific presentations of current EIS officers to learn more about the type of training and work they get to do. They can also meet with current and former EIS officers to learn about their experiences and the work they go on to do after EIS. The alumni are the foundation of our program—many serve as supervisors of our current EIS officers, at CDC or at state and local health departments.

  • If you are interested in the EIS program, check your eligibility and make note of the deadlines and information you'll need to prepare when the application period opens in the spring.

  • If you’re eligible and ready now to become a CDC disease detective:

  • Begin preparing your application in a way that you stand out among the highly competitive pool of applicants.

  • If you are interested in applying in future years:

  • Attend our annual conference to meet EIS officers and hear about their work firsthand. This event is free and open to the public.

  • During this event, we offer an interactive session for prospective applicants to learn about the program and network with program staff and officers.

  • Check our website often for the latest news and information, stories, and engagement opportunities.

Additional information:

CDC also offers numerous fellowship and internship opportunities that encompass many other disciplines, such as health economics, informatics, laboratory science, education, and more.

Eric Pevzner, PhD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS)


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