- Why did you choose a career in infection prevention and control?
My career path towards infection prevention and control began when I was volunteering at a hospital while studying biology in college. Before that experience, my training in infectious diseases had focused only on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of microbial pathogenesis. As a hospital volunteer, I witnessed firsthand how lapses in infection prevention practices contributed to the transmission of debilitating infections. My experiences reinforced to me that becoming a leader in the fight against infectious diseases required training that extended far beyond the biology lab, so I decided to pursue a multidisciplinary career that integrated microbiology, epidemiology, health policy, and management to steward the field and save patients’ lives.
I now enjoy balancing a dual career of managing a public health consulting company dedicated to integrating genome sequencing technology into mainstream pathogen surveillance and outbreak response, with military service as a public health officer dedicated to preventing diseases and non-battle injuries among the fighting force of the United States Army.
- What advice would you give someone who is interested in an infection prevention and control career?
Watch, listen, and learn. Infection prevention and control is a highly diverse and complex field that cannot be “mastered” from one point of view; we need input from everyone in the communities we serve. The most successful public health professionals are the ones who get out of the offices and board rooms to interact with the patients, residents, clinical staff, custodians, food service providers, and, in my career specifically, clients and junior enlisted soldiers. They are experts in their field who can teach us so much – if we are willing to listen. Once we get to know them, then we can serve them more effectively in our mission to stop the spread of infections.
- What does being a CIC® mean to you?
The CIC® credential is far more than a certificate or line on a resumé – it is a mark of responsibility to steward the profession as servant leaders. By earning this credential, we have demonstrated our proficiency in the fundamentals of infection prevention and defined ourselves as leaders in a field that is growing ever more essential in modern society. We have an obligation to integrate our skills throughout our workplaces to protect the health and safety of those around us.
- What was the best studying method for you when preparing for the initial certification examination?
I spent roughly eight weeks preparing for the exam. Once I set my exam date, I chose several dates at regular intervals to take timed, full-length practice exams, grade myself, and see which concepts in which my proficiency was weakest. I then took a diagnostic practice exam to gauge my knowledge and test-taking ability and crafted a study plan that focused most heavily on my weakest topics based on my results. After each practice exam, I adjusted the focus of my review topics based on my performance.
To study those topics, I used the APIC Textbook and other reputable resources in infectious disease epidemiology to hand-write flash cards, which I reviewed multiple times per week. Huge thanks to my wife for helping me review with those flash cards – after all the time she took to help me study, I’m pretty sure she could have passed the exam as well!
- What advice would you give someone pursuing certification?
Take the exam seriously. There is simply too much material across the entire multidisciplinary field of infection prevention and control for even a seasoned professional to successfully “wing it.” Gather good review resources, make a robust plan, and commit to that plan.
Look several months ahead to find the time to dedicate to studying, and then plan your application to certify and subsequent exam date accordingly.
- How do you stay up-to-date on infection prevention and control practices?
Juggling multiple professional and personal responsibilities can sap a lot of motivation to proactively find resources to continue to learn and grow in this field. So I let the information come to me. I subscribe to several mailing lists from reputable resources to stay on top of the latest news in public health, microbiology, and infection control. I also set push notifications on social media accounts to be alerted to posts of new studies, news stories, or official guidance.
I also invested in an APIC membership to connect with my peers in the field. The daily digest emails of their online forums are a great way to learn from the advice and opinions of experts in the field, and my subscription to the American Journal of Infection Control has helped me stay up-to-date on impactful translational research in the field.
- Are you part of an APIC or IPAC Canada chapter? If so, would you recommend it to others?
I recently joined my local APIC chapter and was welcomed very warmly. The chapter meetings help bring local professionals together to facilitate the exchange of ideas and keep us up-to-date on the most pressing issues in the field.
8. How has the CIC® helped you grow professionally and in your career?
Earning the CIC® was one of my professional goals for several years before I passed the exam, so it motivated me to pursue careers that would align with the prerequisites for credentialing. The positions I have held opened many doors and connected me with dedicated and supportive colleagues who either had earned the CIC® themselves or were planning to earn the credential. By serving as a unifying characteristic for us, the credential (and the path to earn it) fostered somewhat of a kinship with the epidemiologists and infection preventionists with whom I worked during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studying for the CIC® exam expanded my knowledge in the field by exposing me to topics I had not yet covered in my professional career. That new knowledge has broadened my perspective and enabled me to contribute more successfully to infection prevention initiatives and outbreak investigations in my military career.
Now that I have earned it, the CIC® reinforces to leaders in healthcare, public health, and the military that I have the knowledge and experience to provide robust guidance and program management in infection prevention. The ethos of the credential has influenced senior military leaders weighing the utility of disease prevention initiatives and helps to establish common ground with the clients I serve as a public health consultant.
- Are there any CIC® stories that keep you up at night? This can be related to the examination or a specific patient story that stands out.
While working as an epidemiologist in local government during the COVID-19 pandemic, I supported many nursing homes, homeless shelters, and low-income housing buildings that were hit particularly hard with COVID outbreaks. Some of these outbreaks had case-fatality ratios of more than 40%. I often reflect on these outbreaks – in which many people succumbed to the disease – because they exhibit the worst-case scenarios of what can happen to close-knit communities that lacked in-house infection prevention proficiency at the level that the CIC® demonstrates.
They also showcase why I am optimistic about the a-IPC® and upcoming LTC-CIP® credentials that CBIC have developed. By making infection prevention credentialing more accessible and tailoring credentialing to different settings that need it, CBIC is playing its part to prepare for the next inevitable pandemic.