Context: Health professionals who can bridge the gap between public health and clinical medicine are needed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemiology Elective Program (EEP) offers a rotation in public health for medical and veterinary students that provides an introduction to public health, preventive medicine, and the principles of applied epidemiology through real-world, hands-on experiential learning.
Objective: To describe EEP, including its role in the integration of medicine and public health, and career paths for those who subsequently have enrolled in the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS).
Design: A review of files of EEP students participating June 1975 to May 2012 and EIS files to determine which EEP participants subsequently enrolled in EIS and their current employment.
Results: During January 1975 to May 2012, a total of 1548 students participated in EEP. Six hundred thirty-eight (41.2%) EEP students participated in field-based epidemic-assistance investigations. Among 187 students completing an exit survey implemented during 2007, a total of 175 (93.6%) indicated an increased understanding or competence in applied epidemiology and public health, and 98 (52.4%) indicated that they would apply to EIS. Among the 165 (10.7%) who enrolled in and completed EIS by July 2012, 106 (64.2%) are currently employed in public health and 65 (39.4%) are board-certified in preventive medicine, board eligible, or currently enrolled in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Preventive Medicine Residency or Fellowship.
Conclusions: The CDC Epidemiology Elective Program offers opportunities for medical and veterinary students to participate in real-world public health learning activities. The Epidemiology Elective Program provides increased understanding and competence in applied epidemiology, provides students with opportunities to learn about population health and health care problems and the tools to help them bridge the gap between clinical medicine and public health, and serves as a source for EIS and other public health-related training and careers.