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Episode #195 Doughnuts and Data, Interview with Sitara Weerakoon, MPH & Mee-A Keeton, MPH


On This Episode Of The Public Health Epidemiology Conversations (PHEC) Podcast


The guests featured on this podcast often find creative and fun ways to introduce their community to the world of epidemiology, and this episode's guests are no different. Under the moniker Doughnuts and Data on Instagram, Mee-A Keeton and Sitara Weerakoon encourage their community to explore this field as a viable career option and develop a solid understanding of what can be accomplished through data analysis. In this episode, you’ll meet Sitara and Mee-A and find out how they combined two things that they love into a movement that is helping others learn and love the world of epidemiology, one bite at a time!


Meet Sitara & Mee-A


Sitara is a PhD candidate in the Department of Epidemiology with a minor in biostatistics and a concentration in maternal and child health. Her research focuses on substance use impact on health in the child and adolescent population with a lifecourse approach. She completed a Master of Public Health in epidemiology and prior to that, a Bachelor of Arts in public health. She is skilled in research design, data analysis, data visualization, survey development, GIS mapping, health communication, and academic writing.


Mee-A Keeton is an epidemiologist at her local county health department. In this role, she works alongside a team of epidemiologists, public health nurses, and contact tracers to aid in the COVID-19 outbreak response for one of the largest counties in Texas. In addition to the COVID-19 response, she also works on community outreach and education for various communicable diseases, including high consequence infectious diseases.


Key Takeaways From This Episode


  • An introduction to Sitara Weerakoon as she shares a bit more about herself and her research.

  • Learn about the life course approach that she is taking in her research.

  • The skills she picked up by doing her undergraduate degree, master’s, and PhD back-to-back.

  • Why Sitara believes that GIS mapping is a critical component of epidemiology.

  • Find out when she first became interested in public health as a career.

  • How the work she did as an undergraduate has informed her research as a PhD candidate.

  • Hear about Doughnuts and Data and why Sitara felt that epidemiology needed better representation on social media.

  • Making the very broad fields of epidemiology and public health more accessible.

  • A brief introduction to Mee-A Keeton, her work as an epidemiologist, and her hobbies.

  • Hear more about Mee-A’s undergraduate studies in mathematics and her transition into public health and epidemiology.

  • How her previous position as a math teacher and her studies prepared her for her current role.

  • Mee-A shares her advice for current students: take this time to find out what interests you.

  • The numerous ways that you can apply your public health skills in the real world.


Listen To The Podcast Episode



Sitara & Mee-A's Career Advice to Public Health Students


  1. Always keep your resume/CV updated throughout your program--don't leave it for the last minute when you're applying for jobs

  2. Make connections with professors and express your career interests to them/talk with them about it

  3. Develop good relationships with your internship/practicum supervisors

  4. Get involved in your organization

  5. Join interest groups

  6. Make sure your practicum is reflective of your future interests.


Sitara & Mee-A's Career Advice to Graduates and Professionals


  1. Attend job search workshops

  2. Reach out to friends/colleagues in the workforce

  3. Tailor and perfect your resume

  4. Identify where you could hone a certain skill and work on that

  5. Connect with people. I reached out to employees that currently worked for the companies I was interested in working at.


Connect with Sitara & Mee-A


Mee-A Keeton on LinkedIn


Sitara Weerakoon on LinkedIn


Doughnuts and Data on Instagram


Links Mentioned in This Episode


Public Health Consulting & Entrepreneurship EXPO



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