We recently caught up with Charles Branas, Department Chair and Gelman Endowed Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, who shared his thoughts on the impact the novel coronavirus outbreak is having on the field and the future of epidemiology in general.
Branas says the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly elevated the importance of the field. However, he wishes an appreciation had occurred sooner, particularly for the epidemiological pursuits he feels don’t get the necessary attention, like the prevention and treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
He attributes that to epidemiological successes in public health often going unnoticed, as most of the work occurs behind the scenes with society often unaware. Branas says people typically don’t give thanks for the influenza they didn’t get because they were vaccinated, the heart attack they avoided because of healthier food options available to them, or the safety of their kids because an illegal gun never made it into the wrong hands.
Branas believes the field should be on equal ground with all other branches of science and should be a core requirement in colleges and universities along with chemistry, biology and physics. He says epidemiology, a field projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow 5 percent over the next ten years before the current pandemic, is and should be seen as a world-class science that directly impacts the lives of human beings.
In the future, Branas says epidemiologists will be contributing in greater and more impactful ways to areas including geroscience, infectious diseases, cancer prevention, and the opioid crisis. Regardless, he says their promotion of good health will continue to be a pillar of the field.