FEATURE confident in their skills and knowledge is rewarding . It ’ s nice to be a part of that .”
In Virginia , Christian Alcorta , MS , is a second-year fellow of newborn screening data analytics and bioinformatics , under Cote ’ s mentorship . A biology major and math minor with an interest in coding , Alcorta completed a master ’ s degree in bioinformatics in August 2020 . His primary fellowship project is to revamp the laboratory ’ s secondtier assay for cystic fibrosis . He hopes to stay in the Virginia laboratory after his fellowship ends next summer .
“ I really , really love the people that I work with and the environment that I work in ,” he said . “ As long as I continue feeling like I ’ m learning new things , I plan on staying because it ’ s a very good work environment , and everyone is extremely supportive .”
The fellowship is Alcorta ’ s first experience working in public health , but likely not his last . “ I knew next to nothing about public health . … It was not really something that I had thought much about , and now being in that environment , it definitely is something that I care about and feel strongly about .”
He likes that his work has a real-world impact on people ; in this case , screening newborns for diseases . “ It has made me feel more strongly about public health and made me feel more inclined to stay in public health ,” he said .
Providing a Path to a DrPH
As people rise through the ranks in laboratories , there is one requirement that can stop them in their tracks . Without a doctoral degree , they often cannot become a high-complexity laboratory director because they do not meet the requirements for board certification or to oversee the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments ( CLIA ) regulations .
In California , Lopez would likely have hit that career ceiling . With a family dependent upon her income ,
Coming from being a fellow , I can relate to what they ’ re going through , and I can build strong relationships with them .”
Victoria Stone , PhD
APHL Strategic Initiative Group ( SIG ): Workforce Recruitment and Retention
The APHL Board of Directors convened the Recruitment and Retention Strategic Initiative ( R & R ) with the charge to address 2021 – 2023 Strategic Map
objectives B1 “ Support member recruitment and retention efforts ” and B3 “ Explore partnerships with academia .” SIG members include APHL representatives from the Workforce Development Committee , state and local public health laboratories , academia and APHL staff . They identified specific tasks , as well as collected resources and data from APHL members and the association to explore :
• Why people select or not select careers in public health laboratories : The SIG is examining APHL ’ s workforce data and identifying data gaps , which will lead to evidence-based recruiting and retention practices .
• Information campaigns targeting college students to make them aware of careers and experiential learning in public health laboratories . Successfully used recruitment materials have been collected .
• Tools and pilot projects for public health laboratories to partner with academia . Tools assembled to date include model MOUs with academic institutions . In addition , a comprehensive list of online certificate programs related to laboratory practice is being collated , and support for local academic partners to attend APHL Annual Conference and other conferences is being developed .
• Assisting members in addressing the compensation gap between public health and other employers in the laboratory community . Recognizing the “ elephant in the room ,” SIG members are finding examples of public health laboratory leaders who have successfully improved salary scales for laboratory staff . These will be collected and made accessible . A guide to navigate federal student loan forgiveness for public health laboratory professionals is also being explored .
• Increasing opportunities for professional development and a mechanism to manage a personal portfolio of professional development activities for public health laboratory employees .