My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Edward Weiss, MD
Dr. Edward Weiss jokes that a pharmaceutical company sponsored workshop on choosing the right medical career helped him decide on a career in public health. Having always had a strong interest in community service, he decided a career in medicine would allow him to combine his interest in community work and his aptitude for math and science.
He attended the University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a bachelor's degree in biology. He received his medical degree from Texas A &M University in College Station, Texas. During medical school, Dr. Weiss was the president of his first year class, and was concerned about the number of students who were not passing their first year of medical school. Dr. Weiss worked with the medical school administration, his classmates and teachers to ensure that all students had the support necessary to succeed in their first year. For the first time in the history of the school, every member of the class passed their first year of medical school, and most of have gone on to have very successful medical careers, impacting the lives of countless patients.
The career workshop Dr. Weiss attended during medical school provided physician ratings of their careers in areas that could impact job satisfaction. Dr. Weiss used an analytic approach to weight the factors most important to him in a career, and added up the numbers to see what would rise to the top. The results suggested that Dr. Weiss would be happy with the options of pediatric psychiatry, dermatology, and preventive medicine. "After reading the description of preventive medicine, I realized that this was exactly what I wanted to do, but I had difficulty finding people at my medical school with more information about the field."
Dr. Weiss did a fourth year medical student elective rotation with the General Preventive Medicine Residency at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. He decided that he would first pursue an internal medicine residency, to provide a strong foundation in clinical medicine on which to build his public health career. He completed his internal medicine residency at the Banner Good Samaritan/ Phoenix VA Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona. During his residency, he had the opportunity to work with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, and grew a lot from working with his mentor, Dr. Doug Campos-Outcalt, who was Director of Clinical Health Services.
"I really wanted to have a job similar to Dr. Campos-Outcalt where I would be doing some direct patient care and would also have the opportunity to work closely with the community. Working at the Maricpoa County Department of Public Health was a great experience and reaffirmed my desire to work in public health."
While at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, Dr. Weiss had the opportunity to work with many different aspects of the health department including homeless population outreach, and sexually transmitted disease prevention. "We were going to the places where a lot of public health issues arise and were directly interfacing with the community, and I found that to be very worthwhile." He also had the opportunity to assist with a tuberculosis outbreak investigation, and to conduct a study of gastrointestinal parasites affecting the refugee population, resulting in a policy change in the screening practices by the health department.
Following his internal medicine residency, Dr. Weiss pursued an additional residency in general preventive medicine and public health at the University of Massachusetts. During his preventive medicine residency, Dr. Weiss was exposed to the work of Tom Wolff and the Healthy Communities Movement, which focused on addressing public health issues from the bottom up rather than from the top down. Dr. Weiss shared his belief that the most valuable public health programs are developed through community coalition building.
After his preventive medicine residency, Dr. Weiss applied and was accepted to the CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) two year fellowship in applied epidemiology. When CDC is called upon to provide epidemiologic assistance both domestically and internationally, it is usually an EIS officer who is the first one sent out into the field. EIS officers are frequently called upon to lead field response teams, epidemiologic studies, disease surveillance, statistical analyses, scientific writing, and other public health practice activities. EIS alumni go on to fill key leadership positions in federal, state, and local public health agencies. "I thought EIS aligned nicely with my desire use my background in medicine and public health to positively impact communities."
During his EIS fellowship, Dr. Weiss focused on chronic disease nutrition on worked on preventing obesity in communities. "As an internist, I saw the end result of chronic diseases in individual patients. I really wanted to focus my experience on preventing chronic disease on a population level by working with communities." During his EIS fellowship, he also had the opportunity to be part of the first group of EIS officers deployed to set up surveillance for injury and illness at emergency treatment facilities in and around New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina. He enjoyed being part of this large emergency response effort, where he was out in the field responding to urgent public health issues.
When Dr. Weiss came to CDC, he also joined the U.S Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, an elite team of highly qualified public health professionals, and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Commissioned Corps officers fill essential public health leadership and clinical service roles within federal government agencies to rapidly and effectively respond to public health needs and advance public health science. "One of the things that I enjoy most about being an officer in the Commissioned Corps is that I am part of a group that is ready to deploy with other early responders to public health emergencies. It adds a lot of diversity to the job, and widens the scope of public service that I can provide."
He continued working for the CDC through the end of his EIS fellowship and has been there ever since. Currently, Dr. Weiss is supervisor of EIS officers who are stationed at state and local health departments throughout the country. He enjoys mentoring the officers on their career paths and helping them make the most out of their 2-year fellowship.
Although Dr. Weiss admits that his job keeps him busy, he is thankful for the work/life balance that his career has afforded him. He enjoys spending time with his wife and two children aged two and four years.