Emergency Operations Center ( EOC ). Under more routine circumstances , fellows may deploy on a Lab-Aid
, on behalf of their host labs or to provide laboratory support for an Epi-Aid
Additionally , LLS fellows are trained in situational leadership and challenged to lead by example and action while participating in cross-cutting agency projects , laboratory initiatives or emergency responses — a rarity in other programs . An LLS fellow has ample opportunity to engage and learn from senior leadership , whether at CDC , in a field site or on a deployment .
LLS has a community of practice with LLS fellows and alumni and is a sister program to CDC ’ s Epidemic Intelligence Service
( EIS ). The ability to train and collaborate with EIS officers provides LLS fellows with experience in epidemiology theory and practice in the context of modern-day public health threats . This unrivaled experience enhances a fellow ’ s perspective of public health laboratory science and its integration in field . LLS fellows are known as CDC ’ s disease detectives , just like EIS officers .
Have LLS fellows been assisting with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic ?
LLS fellows have supported CDC ’ s COVID-19 response since the first teams deployed in mid-February 2020 . By April 2020 , LLS pivoted from normal operations to full support of the agency ’ s response . All LLS fellows have deployed to either the field or the EOC . The class of 2020 onboarded in early July and began deploying later that month . As of October 2020 , LLS fellows have contributed more than 1,000 days to the response . These data may underestimate remote rotations in the EOC and do not capture a fellow ’ s response activities through their host laboratory ’ s support of the response . The breadth of leadership and professional experience these fellows are gaining could likely not be gained from any other experience .
Has partnering LLS and EIS cohort members in field work operations improved the outcome of those investigations ?
The value of LLS and EIS partnership was clear within the first years of LLS and has been a collective win for everyone . There are instances where an LLS fellow ’ s laboratory expertise has been critical to the success and efficiency of an investigation , such as developing protocols for norovirus water sampling , building laboratory surveillance systems , or tracking the spread of rabies in the mongoose population of the US Virgin Islands . LLS fellows are frequently requested to pair with EIS officers on COVID-19 response teams because of their expertise in specimen collection and handling , shipping and laboratory logistics . LLS fellows and EIS officers value one another ’ s skill sets , and they welcome opportunities to collaborate . Beyond the outcome of any specific outbreak investigation , their collaboration builds fundamental relationships and garners respect that improves the overall culture of the public health workforce and helps to further bridge the laboratory and epidemiology arms of public health .
Looking towards a post-pandemic future , how do you see the LLS program and its candidate criteria evolving over the next 3-5 years ?
LLS has evolved greatly in the context of COVID-19 . The demand for LLS fellows during CDC ’ s pandemic response exceeded capacity , and fellows repeatedly demonstrate their skilled expertise while making innumerable contributions . The increasing demand for LLS fellows is an indicator of the program ’ s value , and we look forward to expanding cohort numbers should resources become available .
These unprecedented times and the global pandemic response underscore the inherent value of field work and hands-on experience for professional development . Moving forward , we hope to enrich LLS by cultivating similarly remarkable and challenging experiences . Though LLS will continue being rooted in servicedriven experiential learning , it will aim to deliver more innovative and timely opportunities that maximize service and field experiences . We can accomplish this in part by strengthening our engagement and partnership with state and local public health laboratories to offer more immersive trainings , for example .
Many LLS fellows have an interest in board certification . We are evaluating the LLS curriculum and considering ways to help interested fellows leverage their fellowship experience to help meet those requirements .
In terms of candidate selection criteria , the selection process has become more competitive with growing awareness of the unique training and experience offered by LLS . Since the program ’ s inception , selected candidates have brought advanced technical experience , dynamic personalities , creative determination and commitment — a high bar has been set . Host site laboratories and partners have come to rely on and expect this high standard of performance and excellence in the elite cohorts of LLS fellows .
How can APHL amplify and promote the critical importance of LLS ?
APHL has been a champion and invaluable supporter of LLS since its inception . But a key limitation in becoming a legacy program like EIS is awareness . LLS needs to boost recruitment activities by routinely connecting with and better leveraging our partners , like APHL , to share information , capitalize on promotional opportunities and amplify the program at meaningful times in relevant ways . We need to increase the awareness among quality candidates and host site laboratories to continue to grow the program . APHL can help promote LLS to PhD scientists interested in elevating their public health training and to encourage laboratory directors to become LLS host site laboratories . APHL can also assist in facilitating critical partnerships with state and local laboratories . We appreciate APHL ’ s support with messaging the benefit of Lab-Aids and other field experiences that have allowed LLS to serve and collaborate with state and local laboratories . We look forward to opportunities for continued collaboration with APHL on training , laboratory informatics and leadership . n
DIGITAL EXTRA : Read a CDC Responder story
about one LLS fellow ’ s contributions to the COVID-19 response .